Today marks 100 years since the first women, Frances Kyle and Averil Deverell were called to The Bar of Ireland and subsequently the first women to be called in both Ireland and Britain. Averil Deverell was also the first woman on both islands to practise as a Barrister. Deverell was born in Greystones in 1893 to William Deverell, Clerk for the Crown and Peace in Wicklow, and Ada Kate Statter.
To mark the special Centenary, The Bar of Ireland has put in place a number of initiatives, it has,
- Commissioned the restoration of Deverell’s grave in her native Greystones, County Wicklow
- Unveiled a public graphic installation at the premises at Church Street, Dublin 7 to commemorate the Centenary
- Published a commemorative Bar Review Edition, detailing a range of perspectives and updates highlighting priorities of gender equality and current initiatives are ongoing.
- Launched of campaign to improve the visual representation of female role models, through the commissioning of a portrait, which will hang at the Honorable Society of Kings Inns. This follows the very successful installation in 2020 of a portrait of The Hon. Justice Ms. Mary Laffoy.
Commenting on the centenary, Maura McNally SC, Chair of the Council of The Bar of Ireland said: “One hundred years on from the calling of these women to The Bar and Averil Deverell’s trailblazing legal career, we are reminded more than ever of their invaluable work and contribution to The Bar, as well as the wider justice field.
“Following Deverell’s forty-year career and at the time of her passing in 1979, women still represented only 10 percent of the Bar and only one female Senior Counsel. While progress has been made, this centenary reminds us and prompts us that there is more work to be done in achieving gender balance in the legal more gender balance in the legal profession.
“This diversity will help make the profession a mirror of society – hearing and welcoming voices from all – which will lead to better administration of the legal system, and greater access to justice.
“Today, 37 percent of the Bar are female and 44 percent of new entrants this year are female. Although 67 Senior Counsel members are female, this represents just 17 percent of all Senior Counsel”, she added.
Deverell studied law in Trinity College Dublin and later in the King’s Inns. She was the second woman called to the bar in 1921 after Frances, alongside 18 men, one of whom was her twin brother, Captain William Deverell, and the first woman to practise at The Bar of Ireland.
At the Bar, Averil Deverell became a campaigner for gender equality and worked tirelessly to promote the view that women were equally competent to carry out the same work as men. She remained active in her career, practising for over 40 years, appearing in many cases and giving numerous written opinions on tangled legal subjects.
She later became known as ‘Mother of the Bar’, mentoring a number of women lawyers and continuing to advocate gender equality in the profession.