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Oct 21st
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Home News News Seamus Hughes appointed District Court Judge

Seamus Hughes appointed District Court Judge

Westport man Seamus Hughes has been appointed as a District Court Judge. The former TD is currently the State Solicitor in Mayo. Dispensing justice in Donegal


Aine RyanÁine Ryan


‘GONE FISHING’ is the name of newly-appointed District Court Judge Seamus Hughes’s little craft in which he escapes to Clew Bay for quiet moments of reflection.
Despite the inclement summer weather, he is sure to take every chance in the coming weeks to indulge in his favourite pastime before he formally steps onto the new rung in his meteoric legal career.
Mr Hughes has been appointed to District Court area Number One, which will see him sit at District Courts in Buncrana, Carndonagh, Dungloe, Falcarragh, Glenties, and Letterkenny, which is likely to be his busiest sitting.
Mr Hughes will also have civil jurisdiction at sittings in Donegal Town and again in Letterkenny. The Mayo News caught up with him briefly last week as he rushed off to Dublin for a court sitting.
“Of course, the news is just sinking in but I am looking forward to the challenge of being a District Court judge,” said Seamus Hughes.
 “I hope to be a fair judge and to listen attentively to those who come before me and to always make judicious decisions, “ he continued.
He also added: “But I certainly will not entertain or indulge those who commit acts of gratuitous violence.”
Responding to news of the appointment, Mr Dermot Hewson, fellow solicitor and President of the Mayo Bar Association, said that he was delighted for Seamus.
“Any colleagues I have spoken to have expressed their delight at his appointment as a judge. He has long experience as a solicitor and as a State Solicitor also. I believe he will make an excellent District Court judge,” Mr Hewson said.
Another Mayo native who recently served as judge is the colourful John Garavan, who retired five years ago, in 2003. His last sitting was on the Aran island of Inismór.
Since the news of his appointment broke Seamus has also received many other messages of congratulations from friends and former Council colleagues at town and county level. “I have been overwhelmed by the many messages of goodwill I have received and I hope I can justify the faith people have reposed in me,” he said.
{mospagebreak title=New judge's radical roots}
New judge’s radical roots


FOR THREE generations the Hughes name has been synonymous with the political and commercial life of Westport. A century ago, the late Charles Hughes, and his brother Owen, a Lankill farmer, were among the local leaders in the long struggle for the right to self-rule and self-determination that culminated in the foundation of Saorstát Éireann.
Both born on the cusp of the foundation of the Land League and the United Irish League, they were motivated by an idealistic radicalism that achieved success due to their natural pragmatism. 
Mayo was still remote and impoverished at the turn of the 20th century, with repeated famine, mass emigration and the force of the battering ram still echoed around the town of Westport and its environs.
But Ireland was also on the cusp of the Celtic Dawn, which was suffused by a new cultural and linguistic assuredness that  famine and the repressive rigours of the Penal laws had failed to quash. A century later, Westport is a different place. Even though the embers of the Celtic Tiger have been recently quenched, economic wealth prevails in a society that now espouses democracy and egalitarianism in a manner that was the stuff of dreams and proclamations a century ago.
It is certainly doubtful that when Charles Hughes languished in Frongoch jail in 1916 that he could have imagined that 90 years later his grand-nephew, Seamus Hughes would be appointed a member of the country’s judicial establishment.
Like his grand-uncle Seamus served for several years on Westport Town Council or the Urban Council as it was known in Charles Hughes’ time. One of the councillors to succees Charles Hughes was Cllr Charles Kenny, a former Cathaoirleach and father of sitting town and county councillor Margaret Adams. Cllr Adams was constituency secretary for Seamus Hughes during his time as a TD.
{mospagebreak title=A steady rise to the bench}
A steady rise to the bench


Aine RyanÁine Ryan

BORN in 1952, Seamus Hughes is the son of the late Máire and Pádraig Hughes. He is also a member of Westport’s most prominent business family, among whose enterprises are Hotel Westport, Portwest and Carraig Donn.
 The third eldest in a family of 13 children, he is a twin of Pat. Seamus attended primary school at the Christian Brothers’ School, Westport, and secondary school at St Jarlath’s College, Tuam.
He was awarded a BCL degree at University College Dublin  and later qualified as a solicitor in 1975.
In his youth Seamus was a keen athlete and ran the Dublin City Marathon in 1984 with his seven brothers, which resulted in their entry in the Guinness Book of Records.
Between 1975 and 1978 he worked as an assistant solicitor at Nooney and Dowdell’s of Mullingar, County Westmeath.
In 1978, he returned to his native town of Westport and established his own practise, Seamus F Hughes and Company, now situated on the Castlebar Road.
Over the years his practise has covered such wide legal areas as conveyancing, chancery, commercial, contract and tort as well as criminal work.
In 1980, Seamus Hughes married Maria Gavigan, whom he had met while working in Mullingar. They have four children: Colin (28) is a Bond Trader with Bloxhams Stockbrokers in Dublin; Emmet (26) studying to be a Chartered Financial Analyst; Sarah (21) lives in London: and the youngest, Donal (18) has recently completed his Leaving Certificate.
A longtime member of the Fianna Fáil party, Seamus Hughes’s formal interest in politics emerged when he was co-opted to Westport Urban District Council after the retirement of Councillor Gar Golden in 1984.
Subsequently he stood for election in 1985, and 1991, and retired in 1994. He acted as Cathaoirleach of Westport Urban District Council during 1987-1988.
Seamus was also elected to Mayo County Council in 1985 and retired in 1999.
Elected to the Dáil in 1992, he was  defeated in 1997, a victim of the decision to reduce the number of deputies in Mayo from six to five.
Two years later he resigned his county council seat with the political rumour-mill suggesting that Taoiseach Bertie Ahern’s decision to appoint Frank Chambers to the Seanad as expediting Mr Hughes’s decision.
This is something that Seamus Hughes always denied, citing instead pressure of work in an expanding legal practice. During his time as an elected public representative his views on a whole range of social and political issues were very carefully listened to at town, county and national level. He was regarded by all as an innovative thinker.
In the year 2000, albeit in a different guise, Seamus Hughes returned to a certain public profile after he was appointed State Solicitor for Mayo.
On Monday last, July 27, in a low- key government announcement it was revealed that Seamus Hughes and Brendan Toale were set to be appointed, by the President Mary McAleese, during October next as District Court judges.
The vacancies were created by the death of Judge Derek McVeigh and the retirement of Judge Oliver McGuinness.
Seamus Hughes will preside over District Court sittings in Donegal from October.


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