Messages of congratulations have been pouring in to Westport solicitor Patrick Durcan this week following his nomination by Castlebar Taoiseach Enda Kenny as a district court judge. The former Fine Gael Senator, Mayo County Councillor and party activist who runs a practice in James Street, Westport, was appointed a district judge by announcement of the Taoiseach’s department on Tuesday evening last.
The appointment gives the small town of Westport the unique distinction of having not just one, but two district court judges in its midst. The ratification of the appointment will form one of the last duties of outgoing president Mary McAleese, who is charged with officiating over three new District Court judge appointments by the Taoiseach this week. The three new judges are to fill positions left vacant by three retiring district judges.
Speaking following the news, Mr Durcan told the Mayo Advertiser, “I’m very happy. I never expect anything in life, everything is a surprise, but I look forward to doing the job. I hope I can follow in the excellent shoes of Seamus Hughes, my good and close friend professionally and politically over the last 40 years.”
Reciprocating the sentiments of goodwill, Judge Seamus Hughes said: “I am delighted for Patrick on his elevation to the bench. He has vast experience as a family and criminal law lawyer and those are essential qualities to best peform and function as a judge. Also, knowing Patrick to be a man of compassion, I am delighted for the man and wish him well.”
Soon-to-be Judge Patrick Durcan added he did not know for sure what part of the country he would be assigned to preside over but that he was just concentrating on preparing for the new job. His practice, Patrick J Durcan & Co Solicitor on James Street in Westport will continue to operate. “It was founded by my father in 1930 and will continue under the excellent stewardship of James ward and Bob Mcardle solicitors”, he said.
Patrick Durcan, 60, who graduated from UCD in 1971 and was admitted as a solicitor in 1973, is a former Westport Fine Gael town councillor who served three times as Cathaoirleach between 1980 and 1995 and was also a former Mayo County Councillor between 1979 and 2004.
He served as a Fine Gael Senator appointed by Taoiseach Garret Fitzgerald from 1983-1987. He was also Deputy Chair of the Irish Adoption board from 1996-1999. Mr Durcan also contested four general elections as a running mate to Mr Kenny for Fine Gael in Mayo but was never elected as a TD. He was a previous election agent for junior minister Micheal Ring and in 2003 was appointed by Enda Kenny as a Trustee of Fine Gael.
Mr Seamus Hughes, former Fianna Fail TD and former Mayo State Solicitor, was appointed District Court judge presiding over the Donegal and Letterkenny area in 2009 before being appointed in March this year as permanent replacement of Judge John Neilan in the Athlone/Mullingar District Court.
Some of Judge Hughes’ judgements have since made headlines such as the direction to a public order defendant to climb Croagh Patrick as part of his punishment for a public order offence against a garda officer and his proposal that dole payments be presented as food vouchers to prevent social welfare recipients spending their money on drink and drugs.