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Departing High Court president is the second longest serving judge in the Irish courts 
Up to 40 judges of the Supreme Court, Court of Appeal and High Court gathered in the yard of the Four Courts on Wednesday to say farewell to High Court president Peter Kelly on his last day in that office. 
Mr Justice Kelly was applauded by his colleagues, who formed a guard of honour around what is known as the judges yard, when he arrived for work about 9.30am. 
He was clearly taken by surprise on seeing the unprecedented gathering but warmly thanked the judges, saying it had been a wonderful experience working with them. 
The gathering included Ms Justice Mary Irvine of the Supreme Court, who was nominated by the Cabinet last week as the next president of the High Court, the third most senior judicial office. 
When a senior judge retires, there is normally a large gathering in court on their last day, including the Attorney General, judicial colleagues, lawyers, Courts Service staff and family members to hear tributes. Because of Covid-19 restrictions, that was not possible and Mr Justice Kelly had also indicated he did not wish to have the traditional gathering. 
Mr Justice Kelly, who was called to the Bar in 1975 and was appointed a judge of the High Court in 1996, is a reluctant retiree but is compelled to retire on Wednesday evening because he turns 70 . 
In a statement, Bar Council chairman Micheál P O’Higgins SC said Mr Justice Kelly “is an advertisement for the Irish Bar and Bench” and a “beacon for the highest standards of competence, rigour, propriety and independence”. 
In a statement, the Minister for Justice & Equality, Charlie Flanagan, on behalf of the Government and on his own behalf, expressed thanks and appreciation to Mr Justice Kelly for his dedicated service as a member of the judiciary. 
The Minister said Mr Justice Kelly has been “a powerful presence” on the bench and, in the course of his service in the High Court and the Court of Appeal, “he has been fearless, erudite and compassionate”. 
“There have been many developments in Ireland, as a society and an economy, since President Kelly was appointed to judicial office. He has been at the forefront of the law during this time, driving and responding to change including some of the most complex cases that arose during this period.” 
The Minister particularly acknowledged the judge’s “special contribution in the areas of wardship and commercial law, where he never lost sight of the human impacts of our legal system”. 
He was delighted Mr Justice Kelly will be continuing his work as Chair of the Review of the Administration of Civil Justice and looked forward to receiving the Review Group’s report in September, as its recommendations “will provide significant guidance as to the next steps in our approach to improving access to civil justice within the State” 
“I wish President Kelly every good wish on this important day and look forward to seeing his future valuable contributions to public life in various capacities,” the Minister concluded. 
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