Glowing tributes were paid to District Judge Terence Finn on his last sitting at Clonmel District Court on Tuesday of last week.
Judge Finn is retiring from the bench which he was elevated to 30 years ago and he has spent the last sixteen years administering justice in District 21 South Tipperary/West Waterford.
Representatives of court practitioners, gardaí, court staff, Legal Aid Board, Probation Service and Prison Service all associated themselves with the effusive tributes paid to Judge Finn.
Impartial, objective and balanced were characteristics attributed to Judge Finn when the tributes were paid.
Solicitor Kieran Cleary said he knew Judge Finn as a law student back in the early 70s. He wished him and his family all the best in his retirement.
Solicitor Peter Reilly wished Judge Finn a long and enjoyable retirement.
It was hard to think that it was sixteen years ago since Judge Finn was appointed to serve in the area.
He said all in the court had developed a rapport with Judge Finn who always demanded the highest of standards from all who appeared before him and made no distinction between prosecution or defence.
Peter Reilly said Judge Finn deserved enormous credit for keeping the court functioning during the pandemic ensuring there was little or no backlog there for his successor.
Appropriately Peter Reilly selected a song lyric, as was often the want of Judge Finn when dealing with defendants, to encapsulate the occasion.
He concluded his tribute with a lyric from a George Strait song.
“Oh, the last goodbye’s the hardest one to say
“This is where the cowboy rides away.”
Solicitor Fred Binchy praised Judge Finn for his extraordinary service over the years. He said a particular feature of Judge Finn’s work was the manner in which he provided a protective arm and dedication to the needs of those whom he dealt with in the children’s court.
Jackie Lacey, representing the Legal Aid Board, paid tribute to Judge Finn for his dedicated service and thanked him for his assistance to all who served in the court.
Kenny Kerins BL said it was his privilege to be in court to pay tribute to Judge Finn.
“Me or any of my colleagues could not have asked for a fairer hearing of any case,” he told Judge Finn.
Kenny Kerins said Judge Finn was held in high esteem and had the admiration of his colleagues for the high standards he set and for his knowledge and application of the law.
Chief Superintendent Derek Smart, of the Tipperary Garda Division, on behalf of An Garda Siochána, said that Judge Finn ensured that members of An Garda Siochána prosecuting in his court met with the highest standards that Judge Finn expected to see.
Chief Supt Smart said that Judge Finn was thorough in the examination of the facts presented in court.
Judge Finn was thorough throughout his career and had highlighted many issues that were of utmost public importance in particular road safety awareness.
A feature of his service was the considerate manner in which he treated victims of crime.
Inspector Sean Leahy, speaking on behalf of Superintendent William Leahy - who was unable to be present in court - said that the rank and file members attached to Clonmel wanted to be associated with the tributes and to wish Judge Finn the very best on his retirement.
Della Deveraux, Probation Service, thanked Judge Finn for the understanding shown to colleagues concerning the challenges facing the Probation Services. She praised him for affording people an opportunity to redeem themselves.
Martin Breen, Prison Service, thanked Judge Finn for the respect he showed to everybody working in the Prison Services over the years and paid tribute to him for embracing the use of video technology during the pandemic.
Gerard Connolly, court manager, thanked Judge Finn for his years of dedication to the role.
The decisions made in court were very well received and Judge Finn made himself available out-of-hours on a regular basis. Judge Finn would be a huge loss to the administration of justice.
Judge Finn told the court he wondered did he know the person being spoken about.
He described his last sitting at a scheduled district court in Clonmel as a “bitter sweet day” as he knew the end was fast approaching as he signed off for Clonmel.
Judge Finn said his time on the bench had been very fulfilling.
He said he took to working in law like a duck to water and when he was sworn in to the bench in February 1992 he wanted to get into the “real bearpit” of it all and that he did by working in Courts 4 and 6 on Chancery Street.
“It was extraordinarily busy and that is where I learned to apportion my time efficiently,” said Judge Finn.
He enjoyed life on the bench in Dublin and also going around the country before he was appointed to District 21.
Judge Finn said he served in courts that were unfortunately long since closed.
He said he was a firm believer that justice should be administered locally and that courts should be local.
Judge Finn said when he was appointed to District 21 it was a “sea change” for him as he was closer to home.
He thanked the members of the legal profession, the Court Service and the gardaí for their assistance and courtesy .
Judge Finn said that while he was known for his sharp wit and sometimes a short temper he had always tried to work everything out and ensure a fair hearing for all.
That fairness, he said, was applied to both the defendants and the prosecuting members of An Garda Síochána.
Judge Finn said he would also be remembered for having introduced the lyrics of songs in his consideration of a case.
If he was to choose a lyric for his departure he felt it would be Frank Sinatras’ I Did It My Way or for a more modern outlook the Rolling Stones’ It’s All Over Now.
Judge Finn thanked his wife Frances and his children for their encouragement and support over the years and thanked all in court for the accolades given and for the good wishes he had received on the occasion of his final sitting in Clonmel.
Second longest serving judge in the history of the State
Mr Justice Donald Binchy, Judge of the Court of Appeal, also paid tribute to Judge Terence Finn this week.
Justice Binchy said Judge Finn had been the second longest serving judge in the history of the State.
Justice Binchy said he remembered the first visit to Clonmel by Judge Finn when he was a visiting judge and the sitting of the court took place in the band hall in Clonmel.
He also remembered Judge Finn’s first sitting following his appointment to the jurisdiction and he had the great pleasure of appearing before him.
“You have served the State with great distinction and carried out your work fairly, even-handedly and skillfully throughout your tenure,” said Justice Binchy.
He paid tribute to Judge Finn for his judgement and decision making.
The “paltry amount” of appeals made as a result of his decisions was testament to the decisions he made and the judgement he showed when considering cases before him.
“Judge Finn worked incredibly hard, he loved his job, and he would greatly miss his work,” said Justice Binchy.
Justice Binchy said Judge Finn richly deserved his retirement.
Subscribe or register today to discover more from DonegalLive.ie
Buy the e-paper of the Donegal Democrat, Donegal People's Press, Donegal Post and Inish Times here for instant access to Donegal's premier news titles.
Keep up with the latest news from Donegal with our daily newsletter featuring the most important stories of the day delivered to your inbox every evening at 5pm.