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Eminent Irish jurist appointed UN’s first female legal chief

Eminent Irish jurist appointed UN’s first female legal chief

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has appointed Patricia O’Brien of Ireland as the new United Nations legal chief, making her the first woman in the Organization’s history to hold that post.

Since 2003, Ms. O’Brien has been serving as Legal Adviser to the Department of Foreign Affairs in Ireland, during which time she provided counsel on legal issues arising in Irish foreign policy, particularly public international law, human rights law and European Union law.

The new Under-Secretary-General for Legal Affairs and UN Legal Counsel brings to the job “an extensive experience of legal and international affairs to integrate the legal dimension in the internal decision-making processes, to promote the rule of law in international relations, and to contribute to the strengthening of the culture of the end of impunity,” UN spokesperson Michele Montas said today, as she announced Ms. O’Brien’s appointment.

The new UN legal chief, who replaces Nicolas Michel of Switzerland, previously served as Senior Legal Adviser to the Irish Attorney General and as Legal Counsellor at the Irish Permanent Representation to the EU in Brussels.

She has also advised the Irish Government in legal proceedings before the International Court of Justice, the European Court of Human Rights and the European Court of Justice, as well as participated in expert legal meetings in the UN, the EU and the Council of Europe.

Ms. O’Brien, 51, holds an LL.B. from the University of Ottawa, Canada, and an M.A. and B.A. from Trinity College, Dublin.