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Caoilfhionn Gallagher KC

Caoilfhionn Gallagher KC

Barrister, Doughty Street Chambers

Caoilfhionn Gallagher KC is a human rights lawyer. She has acted in many landmark cases before the European Court of Human Rights, United Nations and international tribunals, in the UK and the Privy Council, and she is a Commissioner of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission and Ireland’s Special Rapporteur on Child Protection. She has also given evidence on human rights issues to Parliamentary inquiries in the Council of Europe, UK, Ireland, Canada and Australia, and UNESCO.

Caoilfhionn is an international expert in media freedom and accountability for crimes against journalists. Her caseload includes leading the international legal teams for the bereaved family of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, assassinated in Malta in 2017; for publisher and pro-democracy activist Jimmy Lai, imprisoned in Hong Kong; for over 150 BBC News Persian journalists and journalists at Iran International, targeted extra-territorially by Iran; and (jointly with Amal Clooney) for Maria Ressa, the Nobel Peace Prize winning journalist in the Philippines. Caoilfhionn was an expert witness before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in the case of Jineth Bedoya Lima v. Colombia, on international law standards concerning gender-based violence and risks to female journalists.

Caoilfhionn also acts in many cases involving arbitrary detention: she has acted for, and secured the freedom of, many imprisoned journalists, human rights defenders, lawyers, cartoonists and peaceful protestors in a number of jurisdictions internationally, including Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Kuwait, Russia, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Pakistan and the Philippines.

Much of Caoilfhionn’s work concerns children’s rights and she has acted in cases which have defined the law in this area in Strasbourg and England and Wales, including on: rights of children in police custody; State obligations to victims and survivors of child sexual abuse; State duties to homeless children and children in need; the rights of children to be heard and their interests considered when their parents face imprisonment or extradition; the misuse of restraint against children with learning disabilities; and the impact of welfare cuts on children with disabilities. Internationally her work on children’s rights is wide-ranging, and has included advising the UN on issues concerning child soldiers kidnapped by Boko Haram. Caoilfhionn also acted for women and girls from Northern Ireland, and NGOs supporting them, in landmark legal challenges to the previous near-total ban on abortion in Northern Ireland.

Alongside her legal practice and her public appointments, Caoilfhionn is an Adjunct Full Professor at University College Dublin and sits part-time as a Coroner. In 2017 she was appointed a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts for her “outstanding commitment to enabling the Human Rights Act’s protections” for devising and founding a mass advertising campaign, ‘Act for the Act,’ to tell positive human rights stories. In January 2024 she was awarded the President of Ireland’s Distinguished Service Award for the Irish Abroad.

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