IUSA Emerging Leader Awards

Maeve O’Rourke

The following remarks were made by Siobhan Byrne Learat, President of the IUSA at the IUSA 2015 Congress

In selecting the inaugural recipient of this year’s Emerging Leader Award, the committee looked for demonstrated potential for leadership in the candidate’s chosen profession or life’s work, for a demonstrated commitment to promoting Ireland’s special relationship with the United States and an outstanding contribution in service to society, the community or philanthropy. All of those nominated for this year’s award excelled in these areas, but one particular nomination stood out from amongst the others for her sustained commitment and tireless efforts to restore justice to a vulnerable group in the history of Irish society.

Maeve O’Rourke developed expertise in, and a passion for, international human rights law during her exchange year at the University Of Minnesota Law School on a J1 academic program, which she then built upon at University College Dublin and Harvard Law School.

Since 2010, while a student at Harvard, Maeve has provided pro bono legal advice and assistance to ‘Justice for Madgalenes’, a small voluntary advocacy group based in Ireland and the United States. For the past five years, she has worked tirelessly on their behalf – interviewing numerous Magdalene survivors, compiling evidence and arguments for parliamentarians, civil servants and NGOs in Ireland, advocating in the print, broadcast and online media, researching and compiling restorative justice proposals, and arguing the Magdalene Laundries case successfully before the Irish Human Rights Commission and the United Nations Committee against Torture. In February 2013, An Taoiseach delivered a State apology to Magdalene Laundry survivors and in June 2013 the Irish Government established a restorative justice scheme worth an estimated €58 million. Maeve continues to advocate with ‘Justice for Magdalenes’ for effective implementation of this scheme. She has also continued to make human rights submissions to the United Nations Human Rights Committee, the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women.

Katherine O’Donnell, Director of University College Dublin’s Women’s Studies Centre, wrote in nominating Maeve for the award:

Maeve O’Rourke took what was strong and clear and richly elaborated in American cultural and intellectual life: a dynamic discourse of human rights and translated that into an Irish idiom. Maeve’s arguments were found persuasive by Ireland’s Human Rights Commission and also by the United Nations Committee Against Torture (UNCAT).The significant pressure of these two bodies was crucial in achieving an apology from the Irish State and a redress scheme for the Magdalene women. The trail that Maeve has blazed is now being followed by other campaign groups in Ireland who are using international human rights fora provided by the United Nations to argue for attention and redress for human rights violations in this country. Maeve remains a committed member of Justice for Magdalenes Research which seeks to provide academic analysis and educational resources on the issues associated with the Magadalene Institutions.

In addition to her outstanding efforts to right an injustice, Maeve has also continued to excel in her academic studies. After receiving her First Class Honors Degree from University College Dublin and graduating from Harvard Law School with distinction, she is now working towards completing her PhD at Durham Law School after having qualified as a Barrister in England and Wales, and also passing the New York State Bar exams. She excels in her scholarship. She has received numerous awards throughout her academic career for her exceptional academic work and commitment to learning in and out of the classroom. She maintains her excellence while also building her professional career as both a tutor in the Law School and as a barrister, working part-time alongside her studies.

In recognition of her demonstrated leadership in her professional and academic career, her commitment to promoting the U.S. – Irish relationship and her advocacy on behalf of the victims of the Madgalene Laundries, I am delighted to present Ms. Maeve O’Rourke with the Ireland United States Alumni Association/U.S. Embassy Dublin Emerging Leader Award 2015.

Further Information can be found at http://humanrights.ie/tag/maeve-orourke/

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