Clonmel solicitor makes history as first High Court Judge from the town

By Eamonn Lacey


By Eamonn Lacey

President Michael D Higgins with newly appointed High Court Judge The Hon Mr Justice  Donald Binchy with his (from left) brother Fred, wife Claire, son Donnacha, daughter Emily, son Ronan and mother- in-law Mary Cusack.
For the first time in the history of the State, a Clonmel solicitor has been sworn in as a High Court judge.

For the first time in the history of the State, a Clonmel solicitor has been sworn in as a High Court judge.

Donald Binchy, of Binchy Solicitors, Clonmel accepted his seal of office last Thursday from President Michael D. Higgins and on Friday before the Supreme Court he was sworn in as a High Court Judge.

The fifty one year old will sit as a High Court judge for the first time next Monday.

Mr Binchy told The Nationalist that the people of Clonmel and South Tipperary and his colleagues had been very kind and really generous in their support since the appointment was made.

Mr Binchy, a former President of the Law Society, like his late father Don, spoke of an immense sense of pride at the appointment and said he was looking forward to the “very interesting challenge” that lay ahead.

“To sit as a judge in the High Court will be the pinnacle of my career. It is a very appealing challenge and a privilege to be put in charge of adjudicating on people’s rights and entitlements” he said.

Becoming a High Court judge never entered his mind until recently when he realised that a good number of appointments were to be made and he decided to avail of the opportunity to apply for the position.

“I realised there was a lot of vacancies and went for it. After twenty seven years practising as a solicitor I had arrived at a crossroads. If I wanted to look at a career change of sorts this was the time to do it,” he said.

Binchy Solicitors was established in 1918 by his grandfather James Binchy operating out of Bruce Villa before the firm moved to its present location, about twenty years ago, at Quay House, Clonmel.

Donald was one of four children of Don and Joan Binchy (both deceased). He has one brother Fred, a solicitor in the business, and two sisters, Mary Rose and Grace. He is married to Claire Cusack and they have three children - Emily, Donnacha and Ronan.

He went to school in SS Peter & Pauls and Clongowes Wood, County Kildare before studying law at University College Dublin.

“There was never any family pressure but it was a family tradition and I decided to follow my father Don’s footsteps and become a solicitor” he said.

He qualified as a solicitor in 1987, joining his father and eldest brother Fred at Binchy Solicitors.

He has been with the family company since with the exception of a two year period in the late eighties when he went to work with a commercial firm in Dublin specialising in funds and re-insurance.

One of the highlights of his career as a solicitor involved the role his father Don, Fred and himself played as a team in securing the future of Kentz in Clonmel.

A bank had appointed a receiver and that would have been the end of the group but for an application made by Binchys to have an examiner appointed which was successful. Donald went to Malaysia with company representatives to help secure an investor and the firm was saved and a model for the company to survive was put in place.

“We delivered as a team and that gave us all enormous satisfaction” he said.

Another highlight of his career was following in his father’s footsteps as the solicitor for South Tipperary County Council.

When his father retired from that position after forty years as solicitor of Clonmel Corporation and twenty years for the County Council, Donald applied and was successful and was appointed to the post in 1995.

As a High Court judge he has to remove himself from the family business but said “it was business as usual” for Binchy Solicitors and the solicitors in the practice including his brother Fred, Claire McCarthy, Aine Ryan and Finbarr Tobin.

“We have always been a firm, it’s not about an individual. It is still business as usual and the clients I have dealt with over the years will still be looked after by the very experienced team in the company.” he said.