Local Fianna Fail Councillor and apprentice Solicitor Eamon Quinlan was last week conferred with a certificate in Public Legal Education by the Law Society of Ireland for his work with Deis Schools under the Law Societies outreach programme called ‘Streetlaw’. The Streetlaw programme operates from September every year and involves apprentices under the remit of BlackHall Place being sent to schools that qualify for Deis status to teach Transition Year Pupils about legal concepts such as consent, assault, the new intimate images law and what qualifies as defamation when posting on social media outlets like Facebook and Tik Tok.

Speaking at the ceremony Cllr Quinlan said “This is a wonderful programme. It brings together apprentices from all parts of the country and from all backgrounds, who want to give back to communities where a future in the law may not be on their radar. Its important to equip young people with the information and tools to protect themselves when it comes to the world they live in. Things are moving so fast in terms of access to information, sharing items online, how it stays out there forever even if you delete it is so valuable. An important element as well, is that young people, like we all did at their age, have misconceptions about various things, mostly interactions with people of their own age and where the line is in terms of things going to far. For a lot of pupils, they found the series of classes we held with them to be empowering. Girls and boys alike found the information around what protections they enjoy in law intriguing and by the end, when we opened it up to questions, many were about how they could pursue a career in law. I am sure the numbers who could see a viable career for themselves in the law rose during the course of our teaching sessions.”,

The Streetlaw programme began in the United States but has over the years been adopted in countries around the world. It teaches school children legal concepts through games, activities and other interactive means that encourages their engagement outside the normal classroom setting. For those near inner city Dublin, use of the Law Societies mock courtroom was made available to some schools to run mock trials. This allows students to examine legal ideas and obtain a profound understanding of how what would appear to be straightforward laws with straightforward outcomes, can often change once the facts on the ground move. This leads to a greater understanding of the concept of Justice and how our legal system not only does its best to reflect justice but how it constantly updates itself as our own perception of justice changes over time.

“There were so many issues, that when we first asked the young students about, they gave us definitive answers. Then we would throw them real life conflicting scenarios and it was great to see how they would then have to try and balance peoples rights in society, especially where they conflict. This led them to want to customise their responses ultimately leading to a parallel of the legal system itself, that there had to be core rules but it was the just thing to do, to offer lee way in either direction if the circumstances of the situation called for it. For example, when we asked could the Gardai arrest someone if they called to a house for one reason but saw drugs while there, should they be able to arrest those in the house for drug possession. Initially, they said yes. When we asked if they were called due to domestic violence, saw drugs and arrested, would they be concerned this would act as a deterrent for those suffering domestic violence in homes where drugs were kept, from seeking help from the Gardai? They thought it could and so launched into a discussion on how the law should seek to be tough on things like drug dealing but also make allowances for those in need or those caught up in its orbit, in order to avoid an injustice.”, said Cllr Quinlan.

The award was conferred by Judge Barrett in BlackHall Place, the headquarters of the The Law Society of Ireland. All those involved thanked the Law Society for the opportunity to help underprivileged communities and it was hoped the programme will continue to expand over the coming years.