barrister embraces family tree
When he's not lecturing in Law at Donegal's only third level
institution, Buncrana man, Sean Quinn, is indulging his
other passion - genealogy.
For researching surnames, his paternal and maternal family
names from all over Inishowen and Ireland, has been a life-long
Im a genealogy nut. My father sowed the seeds
of my interest in genealogy and surnames, and I have been
unable to rid myself of this hereditary affliction,
laughs the father-of-three, who was once a classmate of
An Taoiseach, Bertie Ahearn and university colleague of
Justice Minister, Michael McDowell.
A self-proclaimed perfectionist, Sean Quinn modestly shrugs
off any description of him having enjoyed a distinguished
career, but his CV, by any standards, is enviable.
Since 1977 he has been a Barrister at Law, he has been a
respected lecturer in the subject at Letterkenny Institute
of Technology for the past 22 years, and is the author of
13 books including Criminal Law in Ireland,
on which he is working on a fourth edition. He has also
written books on genealogy and surnames and is an expert
on European Law and occupational pension scheme legislation.
On April 4th, he was elected President of the Irish Association
of Law Teachers, at the organisations 25th anniversary
conference held in Derry. At the conference, he called for
the scrapping of the Offenses Against the State acts in
their entirety. He believes the acts carry over from a repressive
era and do not point the way forward for the law,
in the context of future political development in Ireland.
In the case of the recent troubles, such legislation
prolonged the troubles rather than helped resolve them.
Furthermore, in the context of the Good Friday Agreement,
the provisions of the acts, are anomalous. he states.
Despite a busy schedule, he has also found time to embrace
the internet revolution, and has set up around 12 websites
including www.Irish-law.com; www.IrelandEU.info; www.IrishAncestors.net
As someone so well versed in family trees, he is clearly
proud of his own Inishowen beginnings. He has named two
of his children after his late parents Ena (nee McLaughlin),
from Clonglash, Buncrana, and his late father, Joe, who
came to Buncrana from Carndonagh at the age of 15.
I was born in my mothers home in Clonglash,
as was my sister, Marie. Many summers of my young life,
were spent in Clonglash, with my brothers and sisters, Marie.
Conal, Donal, Patricia and Ethna. My mother was born and
reared in Clonglash, but only my uncle Harry, who is 80
years old, is left at home now.
The McLaughlins/Dohertys, were from that part of Inishowen
as far back as you can go and I am more an ODoherty
than anything else, he said.
My father Joe, came to Buncrana at 15 years of age
from Carn. My grandparents, John Quinn and Ann Murray, were
reared in Derry. My grandfather was a guard on the Lough
Swilly Railway and as he was Adjutant Derry City Batallion
IRA, he moved out of Derry in 1922/1923.
In one famous incident, John Quinn refused to allow British
soldiers travel on the Lough Swilly railway from Derry,
during the War of Independence.
Seans own parents were married in Glasgow, where Ena
worked for a spell, while his father would go on to become
a well known professional boxer. He served his time
as a fitter in the Lough Swilly, but could not get work
near home, he said
Currently, the local lawman divides his time between Letterkenny
and the family home in Bray, Co Wicklow, where his wife,
Longford native, Anne Farrell and the couples three
children, Ena Kathleen (16); Niall Domhnal (14) and Eoghan
Conall (9) live. He married Anne in 1986 and the couple
honeymooned in Turkey.
I lived in Letterkenny most of the time but my wife
an children live in Bray, Co Wicklow. I have spent most
of my lecturing career driving through British Army checkpoints
in my own country.
He is clearly political and has strong views on the current
Fianna Fail/PD coalition, about the peace process and about
what an Irish Republic should be.
I feel that Gerry Adams has done much for the cause
of Ireland and that history will accord him the same standing
as Parnell and OConnell. I wish to see a 32-county
Irish Republic but the current antics of Bertie and Michael
(McDowell) are messing up the peace process.
Nevertheless, he doesnt see much hope for Irish Government
in the main opposition parties either. Im glad
Fine Gael and their friends are not in Government. Bertie
was in my class at school and we had a long argument about
DeValera in 1966. I never doubted where he was going.
Michael McDowell was in my class in UCD and I never doubted
where he was going either! he declares.
Like many young Donegal men and women, the 52-year old lawyer
experienced a slice of life in his early years, touring
around Europe and working in the US.
In 1974, I hitched around Western Europe for six weeks,
it was my grand tour. Before that in 1970 and 1971, I worked
in the States, I did everything from houseman, dishwasher,
busboy, waiter, shortorder cook, porter and janitor. I have
swept the streets of both London and New York for my education.
These days, I find travel exhausting and do not like
airports, he explains. An abiding interest in politics,
however, would set the young Donegal man up for a career
in law, while his hereditary affliction with
genealogy would steadfastly remain.
My interest in law stems from my interest in politics.
I have a strong view on what is right or wrong. I would
like to perfect my book Criminal Law in Ireland
and am currently working on a fourth edition.
Future projects he would like to embark upon, is a book
on pensions law, as well as establishing himself in practice
at the Bar of Ireland, North and South.
On November 17, 2003, I re-entered the Law Library
in the Four Courts, 25 years to the day I left it. I had
intended to return to the bar for some time, but you dont
notice the years passing.
I believe in justice for the ordinary people and I
would like to think I could do something to achieve that.
While he admits to not being an avid reader of fiction or
poetry, he hasnt ruled out writing something fictional
in the field of genealogy in the future.
Meanwhile, he continues to enjoy lecturing at LYIT and -
notwithstanding a no-nonsense, practical and wry teaching
style - many of his students since he began at the then
Regional in 1982, have kept in touch.
I like to teach law. Its a great way to learn
the law. I like to dissect the various statutes and I like
to give out about the useless wasters who have been elected
as our legislators and do not do their job properly. I suppose
I enjoy sounding off in front of the students.
But I hope that I have always been straight with them.
Courtesy of the Donegal Democrat