Retired District Court judge John F. Neilan dies

Retired District Court judge John F. Neilan dies

The death has occurred of retired District Judge John F. Neilan.

His family said the former judge died peacefully at his home at Abbey Street, Roscommon town, on Wednesday.

Judge Neilan retired from the District Court bench in 2010. He was appointed a judge of the court in the 1980s and sat mainly in the midlands counties of Longford, Westmeath and Offaly.

He came from a family steeped in the law. His father John was a former State Solicitor for Roscommon as was his grandfather.

His sister Elaine, who predeceased him, was married to former Fianna Fáil Minister and EU Commissioner Ray MacSharry.

Judge Neilan attracted controversy on a number of occasions, including in 2004 when he publicly clashed with then Justice Minister Michael McDowell after threatening to send all drunk drivers who appeared before him to jail for a week.

When the Minster drew the judge’s attention to the constitutional right to bail unless specific grounds for refusing it could be established, the judge threatened to withdraw from hearing drink driving cases for six months in light of what he described as the Minster’s attempts to “intimidate and humiliate” his court.


He was criticised by anti-racism campaigners after questioning the use of public money for the use of interpreters in court for defendants. He also apologised over warning “coloured people” they could be banned from shopping centres if shoplifting didn’t cease.

He attracted the ire of the Courts Service which described as “simply unacceptable” remarks made by him in 2008 describing the service as “a shambles” after he was asked to regularise the sitting hours of his court.

During a family law case in 2009, he was inadvertently hit by a shot from a pellet gun while a solicitor was exhibiting it as evidence.

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