Birmingham Law Society Good Friday Agreement event

On Monday the 5th of June Birmingham Law Society were pleased to host a panel discussion to mark the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement (also known as the Belfast Agreement) whilst also discussing the recent Human Rights case involving the Keane family.

Guest Speakers included:

  • Professor Colin Harvey (Professor of Human Rights Law and Director of the Human Rights Centre in the School of Law at Queen’s University Belfast) (attending online)
  • Caoilfhionn Gallagher KC (Lead Counsel to the Keane family, & Special Rapporteur to the Irish Government on Child Protection)
  • Bez Martin (Margaret Keane’s Daughter & Human Rights Champion)
  • Chair: Caroline Brogan (Senior Associate at Irwin Mitchell LLP: Solicitor to the Keane family)

In attendance from Axiom Ince Limited were Guy Barnett (Regional Head) and Sabina Kauser (Regional Head of Immigration)

Guy Barnett who is a Director of Birmingham Law Society commented:-

“An overwhelming majority voted for the Good Friday Agreement on 22 May 1998. It is not only a legally binding international peace treaty registered at the United Nations, guaranteed by both the British and Irish governments, but it also underpins the political framework in Ireland. The Good Friday Agreement guarantees human rights protections and equality. At the heart of the Agreement are principles of mutual respect for identity and parity of esteem.

After an initial walk through of this Agreement by Professor Colin Harvey the bulk of the discussion centred on the 2021 landmark successful discrimination appeal brought by the family of Margaret Keane, to overturn a decision to refuse an Irish-only inscription of love on a gravestone in Coventry made submissions on the Good Friday Agreement and the importance of respect for identity and equality.

The family were represented by barristers Caoilfhionn Gallagher KC and Mary-Rachel McCabe, of Doughty St Chambers, and solicitor, Caroline Brogan, of Irwin Mitchell, on a free of charge basis. The Arches Court of Canterbury at St Mary-le-Bow, London, held that the original decision of the Chancellor of Coventry was unreasonable under the common law, and in breach of the family’s right not to be discriminated against under the Human Rights Act and Article 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The case was supported in Seanad Éireann and the House of Commons. It continues to receive widespread, significant, global support and has been back in the news recently after Fontaines D.C won International Group of the Year at this year’s Brit Awards, with the first track on their album, “Inár gcroíthe go deo”, a tribute to the case.

Sabina Kauser commented:-

“The panel discussion was both informative and educational. As a member of the Muslim community, I find that the case of the Keane family and the landmark outcome of their appeal is significant not just for the Irish community but also individuals of other ethnic backgrounds and heritage, who continue to face similar difficulties.  The Keane case has also highlighted struggle for people to get access to justice from a funding viewpoint. Even though the matter was conducted by their legal team on a pro-bono basis , the family still had to raise funds to cover the application and Court costs, including the time spent by the Judges involved.

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