That Dáil Éireann, noting that the Government agreed on 12th January, 2021, to propose, for the approval of Dáil Éireann, the appointment of Deirdre Malone to be a member of the Legal Services Regulatory Authority, and pursuant to sections 9 and 10 of the Legal Services Regulation Act 2015, approves the appointment of Deirdre Malone, with effect from 1st October, 2020, by the Government to be a member of the Legal Services Regulatory Authority in accordance with that Act, such appointment being for a period not exceeding four years from the date of appointment, as the Government may determine.”
I am speaking on behalf of my colleague, the Minister, Deputy McEntee, who regrets that she cannot be present due to other official commitments. The motion concerns the nomination for appointment of one remaining member of the Legal Services Regulatory Authority, LRSA, for a four-year term. It seeks the approval of the House to appoint Deirdre Malone to that position as the statutory nominee of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission.
As Deputies will recall, the Legal Services Regulatory Authority was established on 1 October 2016 and came into substantial operational mode with the commencement of the relevant professional conduct, public complaints and legal costs provisions on 7 October 2019 under the 2015 Act. Its various reports and other information are available on its official website lsra.ie. The more recent of these reports on legal professional training and education and on the possible unification of the professions of barrister and solicitor were, as is generally the case with the Legal Services Regulatory Authority’s reports under the 2015 Act, laid before the Houses by the Minister, Deputy McEntee, on 19 November 2020.
Members may recall the recent appointment of five other members of the Legal Services Regulatory Authority, also with effect from 1 October 2020. The required motions of approval to appoint them were passed by both Houses on 10 November 2020. Today’s remaining nomination by the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission had not been received at that time, the statutory membership of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission having also recently changed, and so is being dealt with separately under today’s motion.
The approval process for the nomination of members of the Legal Services Regulatory Authority is laid out within Part 2 of the Legal Services Regulation Act 2015. Under this process, resolutions have previously been passed by the Houses to approve new members of the authority in support of its establishment in October 2016, again in September 2019, and more recently, as I mentioned, in November 2020. As is now the practice, the resolutions of approval of appointment by the Houses are proposed so as to have effect from 1 October of the year concerned to maintain continuity of function. It is of note that the inaugural membership of the Legal Services Regulatory Authority had a mix of three and four-year terms under the Act to ensure continuity of expertise and function. The authority comprises a total of 11 members, of whom a majority of six, one of them the chair, are to be laypersons. The members of the authority are put forward by ten prescribed nominating bodies specified by the 2015 Act. Only then are they proposed by the Government for appointment, subject to approval by a motion of both Houses as required by section 9(2)(a) of the Act.
These bodies have been purposely set in the legislation to represent a balance between the interests of lawyers and those of consumers and other stakeholders in our regulation of legal services and costs. In addition to the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission, whose nominee is the subject of today’s motion, the other prescribed nominating bodies are: the King's Inns; the Bar of Ireland; the Law Society of Ireland; the Consumers Association of Ireland; the Citizens Information Board; the Higher Education Authority; the Institute of Legal Costs Accountants; the Legal Aid Board; and the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission. The Law Society of Ireland has two nominees, reflecting the fact that solicitors outnumber barristers being regulated under the 2015 Act by over five to one.
Today’s nomination for the approval of the House was agreed by the Government on 12 January 2021. The nominee, Deirdre Malone, has been put forward by the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission, as a prescribed nominating body under the terms laid out in the Legal Services Regulation Act 2015. Ms Malone is legal manager of the Free Legal Advice Centres' Public Interest Law Alliance.
The key nomination and expertise criteria for membership of the Legal Services Regulatory Authority under the 2015 Act are therefore being met in this regard. This includes section 9(6) of the 2015 Act, which provides that in appointing members of the authority, the Government shall have regard to the objective of there being no fewer than four members who are women and no fewer than four who are men. As there are four serving members of the Legal Services Regulatory Authority who are men, subject to the approval of today’s motion, the Legal Services Regulatory Authority will comprise four men and seven women. I commend the motion to the House.