Judge Bernadette Owens

New Athlone district judge pays emotional tribute to predecessors

The new full-time judge in Athlone District Court paid a heartfelt tribute to some of her predecessors as her appointment to the role was formally welcomed during last week's court sitting.

Judge Bernadette Owens became emotional for a moment when speaking in particular about two former judges who sat in Athlone in years gone by; Michael Reilly, who died in 2016, and Jim O'Sullivan, who died in 2018.

Judge Owens said both men had been personal friends of hers and had "certainly set out the template" for what a judge should be.

"I have very big boots to fill. If I can carry out my duties in half as good a way as they did, I'll be pleased with myself," she said.

"I'm particularly happy to sit where Judge O'Sullivan and Judge Reilly sat. It means a lot," she said, pausing briefly to compose herself.

Judge Owens was appointed as the permanent judge for District No. 9, which takes in the courts in Athlone, Mullingar and Longford, on Wednesday, September 7.

Last Wednesday was her first full court sitting in Athlone since the appointment and, on behalf of the legal profession locally, solicitor Mark Cooney formally extended his congratulations to her.

He pointed out that she had been sitting in Athlone on a regular basis since September 2021, deputising for the late Judge Seamus Hughes, who died in July following a battle with illness.

"We are delighted that you have been appointed. Your sittings in Athlone have been very fair and very pleasant, as court should be."

Mr Cooney said that, under Judge Owens, "everyone will have their cases heard, listened to, and very fair judgements will be given."

Congratulations and best wishes were also extended to Judge Owens by Kieran Madigan, the State Solicitor for Roscommon, and by Sergeant Sandra Keane of Athlone Garda Station.

In a lighter moment, Judge Owens said she was aware that solicitors visiting Athlone from other parts of the country, might well be asking the local solicitors what she is like as a judge.

"I wouldn't mind eavesdropping on some of those conversations, even though I might not be happy with what I'd hear," she smiled.