Maeve O'Rourke

  • Year of Call 2012



Maeve is a remarkable lawyer and tireless human rights campaigner notably on behalf of Irish women who have suffered at the hands of the Irish state. She also has the unique distinction of having had a junior brief in the UK Supreme Court in her own right during her pupillage and has been the recipient of the prestigious Harvard Law School Global Human Rights Fellowship.

Maeve led the legal side of the ‘Justice for Magdalenes’ campaign between 2010 and 2013. Her advocacy before Irish and United Nations human rights bodies was instrumental in bringing about a State apology and €58m ex gratia redress scheme for women formerly incarcerated and exploited in Ireland’s Magdalene Laundries.

Since 2015, Maeve has worked with the international law firm Hogan Lovells on an evidence-gathering initiative entitled ‘Clann: Ireland’s Unmarried Mothers and their Children: Gathering the Data’. This project aims to record and advocate in respect of the experiences of women and their children who were institutionalised and forcibly separated during the 20th century in Ireland. Maeve also advises and represents individual survivors of institutional abuse in Ireland.

Maeve regularly teaches on human rights-related university courses. Prior to being called to the Bar, she worked for the international women’s rights organisation, Equality Now, and as a researcher at Harvard Law School and the University of Minnesota Law School’s Human Rights Center.

Maeve is not only qualified in England and Wales but has also been called to the New York State Bar (2011) and is registered to practise in the Republic of Ireland pursuant to the Establishment Directive 98/5 EC.



Book chapters and articles

O’Rourke M, ‘O’Keeffe v Hickey’ in Enright M, McCandless J and O’Donoghue A (eds), Northern/Irish Feminist Judgments (Hart 2017)

O’Rourke M, ‘The Justice for Magdalenes Campaign’ in Egan S (ed), Implementing International Human Rights: Perspectives from Ireland (Bloomsbury 2016)

O’Rourke M and Smith J M, ‘Ireland’s Magdalene Laundries: confronting a history not yet in the past’ in Hayes A and Meagher M (eds), A Century of Progress? Irish Women Reflect (Arlen House 2016)

O’Rourke M, ‘Concluding Observations of the UN Committee against Torture on Ireland, 2011’ in Auchmuty R and Rackley E, Women’s Legal Landmarks (Hart/Bloomsbury) forthcoming

O’Rourke M and Williams G, ‘Burial of a Child’s Remains - Resolving Parental Disputes’ (2013) Family Law Week

O’Rourke M, ‘Ireland’s Magdalene Laundries and the State’s Duty to Protect’ (2011) 10 Hibernian Law Journal 200

O’Rourke M, ‘Human Rights and Smart Economics: Mainstreaming Gender in International Trade Policy’ (2009) 9 University College Dublin Law Review 1


O’Rourke M, ‘Justice for Magdalenes Research, NGO Submission to the United Nations Committee Against Torture’ (2017)

O’Rourke M, ‘Justice for Magdalenes Research, NGO Submission to the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women’ (2017)

O’Rourke M, ‘Justice for Magdalenes Research, Follow-up Report to the United Nations Human Rights Committee’ (2015)

O’Rourke M, ‘Justice for Magdalenes Research, Stakeholder Submission to the United Nations Human Rights Council for the Universal Periodic Review of Ireland’ (2015)

O’Rourke M, ‘Justice for Magdalenes Research, Parallel Report to the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights’ (2015)

O’Rourke M, Smith J M, Hill R, McGettrick C and others, ‘Justice for Magdalenes, Follow-Up Report to the United Nations Committee against Torture’ (May 2012)

Smith J M, O’Rourke M, Hill R, McGettrick C and others, ‘Justice for Magdalenes, Principal Submission to the Inter-Departmental Committee to establish the facts of State involvement with Magdalene Laundries’ (2012)

O’Rourke M, ‘Justice for Magdalenes, Submission to the United Nations Committee Against Torture’ (2011)

O’Rourke M, ‘Justice for Magdalenes, Submission to the United Nations Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review’ (2011)


Maeve O’Rourke, ‘There’s a New Generation of ‘Irish Catholics’ in Ireland’ New York Times (20 May 2015)

Maeve O’Rourke, ‘Taoiseach must honour promise to Magdalene survivors’ Irish Independent (24 January 2015)

Maeve O’Rourke, ‘It’s time we learnt the truth about the Magdalene Laundries’ Irish Independent (5 July 2014)

Maeve O’Rourke & James Smith, ‘Magdalene survivors are still waiting for restorative justice’ Irish Times (6 February 2014)

Maeve O’Rourke ‘Take this chance, Taoiseach – apologise to each and every one’ Irish Independent (16 February 2013)

Maeve O’Rourke, ‘Proposed Changes to Judicial Review in the UK’ (Human Rights in Ireland, 3 November 2013)

Maeve O’Rourke, ‘Laundries apology is now needed’ Irish Examiner (6 February 2013)

Maeve O’Rourke, ‘Ireland and UNCAT one year on: Magdalene survivors still denied their right to an apology and redress’ (Human Rights in Ireland, 28 May 2012)

Maeve O’Rourke, ‘Lack of redress for the Magdalene Laundries Abuse – A Continuing Violation of UNCAT’ (Human Rights in Ireland, 3 May 2011)

Maeve O’Rourke, ‘Redress for Survivors of the Magdalene Laundries and Bethany Home’ (Human Rights in Ireland, 4 October 2010)

Maeve O’Rourke, ‘Slavery, Forced Labour and the Magdalene Laundries’ (Human Rights in Ireland, 13 July 2010)

Notable Cases

Notable Cases

In the Matter of A (Children) [2013] UKSC 60

This international child abduction case concerned the question of whether the High Court had jurisdiction to order the ‘return’ of a small child who was born in Pakistan and had never been present in England. Maeve appeared as junior Counsel to Baroness Patricia Scotland QC for The Centre for Family Law and Practice (intervening). Reported here.

The Bodo Community and others v Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria Ltd [2014] EWHC 1973 (TCC)

Maeve worked as an employed barrister with Leigh Day solicitors on this claim by 15,000 residents of the Bodo and Gokona areas of the Niger Delta, seeking damages against Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria for oil spills that occurred in 2008. Reported here.



Birmingham Law School, PhD (2018)
BPP Law School, BPTC (Outstanding, 2012)
Harvard Law School, LLM (2010)
University College Dublin, BCL International (First Class Honours, 2009)
University of Minnesota Law School, Exchange Program (2007/8)

Awards & Prizes

Awards & Prizes

Family Law Pro Bono Lawyer of the Year, 2013
‘Forgotten Irish’ Award, Ireland Fund of Great Britain, 2013
Arthur C Helton Fellow, American Society of International Law, 2012
Lord Mansfield Scholar, Lincoln's Inn, 2011
Global Shaper, World Economic Forum, 2011
Global Human Rights Fellow, Harvard Law School, 2010

Direct Access

Direct Access

Maeve is accredited to accept work under Direct access, also known as Public access, in suitable cases. In order to instruct Maeve on a Direct access basis, contact the clerks on +44 (0) 20 7242 6476 or at