Gareth Peirce – a lifetime defending the underdog


Gareth Peirce

Gareth Peirce

Gareth Peirce is well known and respected for her legal defence work in cases involving miscarriages of justice in the British legal system. She is best known in Ireland for her indefatigable work in the 70s and 80s in securing the release of Judith Ward, the Guildford Four and the Birmingham Six. The dramatic television pictures of whose releases have become defining images of a broken and perverted justice system. She also campaigned against the detention of striking miners during the 1984 Miners Strike.

In more recent times she has defended the British Muslim community who have been at the receiving end of State injustice.

Gareth is known to many British Muslims simply as “al-Umm” or “Mother”.

Ms Peirce initially worked as a journalist before taking a law degree and joining the legal firm of Benedict Birnberg. She is today the senior partner of Birnberg Peirce & Partners in London.

The legendary commitment to her clients is very evident, her meticulous pursuit of the inconvenient truth and her razor sharp legal analysis has ensured freedom and justice for many people who placed their faith in Gareth Peirce. She has displayed a deep respect for the experiences of ordinary people or people who may be vulnerable and will relentlessly expose a situation where she believes a blind eye has been turned to suspect methods used to obtain unsafe convictions.

The publication “Dispatches from the Dark Side – On Torture and the Death of Justice” is the definitive work on the abuse of power by some State institutions. Utterly fearless and relentless in pursuit of truth and justice and in the defence of civil rights, Gareth continues to detail the experiences of a new suspect community of young British Muslims and point to the similarities of their experiences to those of the Irish community in Britain a few decades ago.

In a series of cogent and perceptive essays from 2008 to 2010 for the London Review of Books she examined the threats to the justice system, which arise from within. Ms Peirce is adamant that where the law is used for political ends, it will lead also to the subversion of justice itself. Arguing that to protect ourselves for the future, we need to know and examine what has occurred in the past resonates with many people who recognise how true that is in the Irish context.

Her good friend Gerry Conlon passed away recently and at his funeral in Belfast on Saturday 28th June last, Gareth Peirce in her funeral oration described him as a “victorious human being who had stated the truth and finally many people woke up to the injustice”. Gareth Peirce’s words about Gerry could be equally applied to her own huge impact on people and why everyone should question legal injustice.

The Cork Mother Jones Committee is honoured that Gareth Peirce will speak at the Spirit of Mother Jones Summer School on Wednesday evening 30th July at 7.15pm at the Firkin Crane Centre.




Day 2 of Festival – “The Legacy”

Today (Wednesday, 30th) is Day 2 of the Spirit of Mother Jones Festival in Cork city.   Proceedings begin at 11.00am at the Firkin Crane theatre, Shandon when lecturer Luke Dineen will tell the story of the Cork Harbour Soviet which occurred during the Irish independence struggle in 1921 when militant striking workers flew the red flag over the city’s harbour authority offices and took control of the port for a period.

At 12.0 Noon, David Joyce, development officer of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions will give a lecture on “Qatar… a World Cup graveyard?” in which he will outline the appalling level of well over 1,000 workers to-date, the use of virtual slave labour and other ill-treatment of workers in the building of stadiums for the 2022 World Cup which is due to be held in Qatar.

That will be followed by lunchtime music at the Maldron Hotel by Cork’s own James P. McCarthy.

In the afternoon at 3.00pm back at the Firkin Crane, Claire McGettrick will speak about the Magdalene laundries and the ongoing campaign for justice for women who lived and worked there under conditions of detention and slave labour.

The major event of the evening, also at the Firkin Crane,  will be solicitor Gareth Peirce‘s speech under the title “Defending the Underdog” (see adjacent article for more details).

At 9.00pm at the Firkin Crane the 2014 Mother Jones Gala Concert will take place with Richard T. Cooke and Friends, featuring the Cork Rokk Choir, Cork Shakespearean Company, Aoife Delaney, Kieran McCarthy, William Hammond and many others.

At 10.30pm, to wrap up a very full day, the Mother Jones Céilí Band will perform at the Maldron Hotel.