The Women in Law Conference | Vienna | September 12-14, 2024

Maeve O’Rourke

Director of postgraduate Human Rights Law Clinic | ICHR

Maeve O’Rourke

Director of postgraduate Human Rights Law Clinic | ICHR


Maeve O’Rourke, PhD (Birmingham), LLM (Harvard), BCL (University College Dublin) is Lecturer in Human Rights at the Irish Centre for Human Rights (ICHR), School of Law, NUI Galway.

Maeve is Programme Director of the Law (BCL) & Human Rights undergraduate degree programme at the School of Law, and she is the founding and current Director of the postgraduate Human Rights Law Clinic at the ICHR. Maeve has been awarded the NUI Galway President’s Award for Teaching Excellence and the NUI Galway College of Business, Public Policy and Law Award for Teaching Excellence. She has also received a Teaching Hero Award from the National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education in collaboration with the Union of Students in Ireland. She holds a National Forum digital Badge in Community Engaged Learning.

Maeve’s publications to date and research interests concern the following areas, primarily:

  • the development of the rule against torture and ill-treatment,
  • human rights protections in institutional and care contexts,
  • access to justice and redress for systemic and so-called ‚historical‘ institutional, gender-based and family separation abuses,
  • climate and environmental justice, and
  • human rights research and advocacy methods, particularly community-based lawyering and activism.

Having co-authored or co-edited several books to date, Maeve is currently completing a monograph under contract with Oxford University Press: the book focuses on the theme of her PhD which was entitled ‚Older People, Dignity and Human Rights: Towards the Development of the Rule against Torture and Ill-treatment in International Human Rights Law‘. Maeve gained her PhD in Law in 2018 from Birmingham Law School where she was supervised by Professor Fiona de Londras and Professor Rosie Harding. Between 2015 and 2017 Maeve was a Visiting Scholar and Occasional Lecturer at University College Dublin School of Law where she established a Human Rights Clinic for LLM and MSc Human Rights students.

Maeve was appointed by the Northern Ireland Executive in 2021 to work with institutional and family separation abuse survivors as part of a three-person independent Truth Recovery Design Panel. Her co-authored Report with Deirdre Mahon and Phil Scraton, and her Background Research Report were published in October 2021 recommending a detailed framework for a human rights-based truth-telling process.

Since 2010 Maeve has provided pro bono assistance to the voluntary advocacy group ‚Justice for Magdalenes‘ and she is currently a member of the research group ‚Justice for Magdalenes Research‚. This group’s efforts are the subject of her recently published co-authored book, Ireland and the Magdalene Laundries: A Campaign for Justice (Bloomsbury/IB Tauris 2021). The recently published essay collection which she co-edited with Katherine O’Donnell and James M Smith, REDRESS: Ireland’s Institutions and Transitional Justice (UCD Press 2022) also draws on this work and considers how Ireland’s democracy might evolve if so-called ‚historical‘ abuse survivors‘ experiences and expertise were put to the fore.

Maeve is voluntary co-director of the evidence-gathering initiative with Hogan Lovells LLP, ‚Clann: Ireland’s Unmarried Mothers and their Children: Gathering the Data‘. She is also a lead pro bono lawyer in the case of Elizabeth Coppin v Ireland, currently awaiting judgment on the merits by the UN Committee Against Torture following a landmark admissibility decision in December 2019. Maeve’s legal research and advocacy concerning Ireland’s Magdalene Laundries abuse and the forced separation of unmarried families in Ireland during the 20th century has received international and national recognition; awards include UK Family Law Pro Bono Lawyer of the Year (2013), Ireland Fund of Great Britain Forgotten Irish Award (2013), University College Dublin Inaugural Alumni Achievement Award in Law (2014), Ireland/United States Alumni Association Inaugural Emerging Leader Award (2015), Lord Mayor of Dublin Award (2016), PILnet Local Pro Bono Impact Award (2018) and Financial Times Top 10 Most Innovative Lawyers (2019).

Maeve is a barrister at 33 Bedford Row, London, and she is a registered Attorney at Law in New York. She has previously practised in family law, and between 2013 and 2014 she worked with Leigh Day solicitors representing 15,000 claimants from Bodo, Rivers State, Nigeria in their claim against Shell Petroleum Development Company in the Technology and Construction Division of the English High Court. She currently practises occasionally in the broad area of human rights law.

From October 2017 to January 2019 Maeve held the position of Senior Research and Policy Officer at the Irish Council for Civil Liberties where she undertook legal research, policy development and public advocacy in all areas of the ICCL’s work including human rights-based policing, state surveillance and data protection, deprivation of liberty, shrinking civil society space, judicial reform, access to justice for ‚historical‘ systematic human rights abuses, and reproductive rights.

Maeve has previously worked as a Consultant to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture, Professor Nils Melzer; Harvard Law School Global Human Rights Fellow at Equality Now; and researcher at the Harvard Law School Human Rights Program, the University of Minnesota Law School Human Rights Center and Just for Kids Law (UK).