Paschal O’Hare was a father, a husband, a leading defence solicitor, a SLDP councillor, and much more. He gave a voice to those that needed it most and was the source of unity in a polarizing time. He lived an extraordinary life and left a remarkable legacy that still lives on today.
From Belfast to Texas
Paschal O’Hare was born in the Springfield Road area of Belfast in 1932. He went to St Paul’s PE School and Christians Brothers in Barrack Street. He joined James F Fitzpatrick as a clerk in 16 for a period before deciding to go to America.
Almost immediately after landing in America, he was conscripted into the military. He was stationed in Texas as well as West Germany and developed close friendships with many soldiers from different backgrounds. After serving, he worked in a car factory and other places in the United States. He also married his wife Eileen there before deciding to come back to Northern Ireland.
Becoming the “People’s Solicitor”
After returning to Northern Ireland, he accepted an apprenticeship at James F Fitzpatrick, the same firm he clerked for before his time in America. Mr O’Hare qualified in 1969 just as the Troubles began and quickly established himself as a prominent defence solicitor. He opened up Paschal O’Hare Solicitors in Belfast the day after serious rioting around the city. Dozens came to him that day, and he successfully defended many of them.
He developed a reputation for defending republicans, loyalists, and many ordinary people across Northern Ireland. Paschal fought to make sure his clients got the access to justice they deserved. He was affectionately called the “People’s Solicitor” by many people across Northern Ireland, a nickname that was accredited to journalist Gail Sheehy of the New Yorker in 1972.
Founding member of the SDLP
The affection he had for the people of Northern Ireland naturally developed into an interest in local politics. He was a founding member of the SDLP and was elected to Belfast City Council in 1977 and held a seat until 1981. Mr O’Hare was later elected to the Northern Ireland Assembly for Belfast North in 1982. He rose to prominence within the SLDP and won the respect of people in his own party as well as his political opponents.
He worked hard to combat “the atrocious housing conditions and the Thatcher cuts.” Mr O’Hare firmly believed in upholding civil rights and for just solutions to the problems facing Northern Ireland.
Mr O’Hare left politics after disagreeing with his party’s support of the Anglo-Irish Agreement.
Paschal O’Hare’s Legacy
Paschal continued to work as a solicitor until he passed away on 10 July 2013. He left a truly awe-inspiring legacy, helping many people across Northern Ireland receive the justice and compensation that they deserve. Although his firm has expanded over the years, we continue to maintain the same values that were established over 50 years ago.