Human rights barrister representing Palestinian cause has Mayo roots

Blinne Ní Ghrálaigh, the London-based human rights barrister who recently made headlines for her compelling closing arguments at the International Court of Justice, has strong ties to north Mayo.

Born in Ireland, Ní Ghrálaigh spent her early years in the townland of Glencalry, Glenamoy before the family moved to London.

Her family's homestead provided a backdrop to her upbringing, a period marked by the warmth of Irish culture and the values instilled by her mother, Neasa.

Neasa, who eventually became the deputy head teacher of Tufnell Park Primary School in London, raised both of her daughters, Blinne and her sister, with a focus on strength, determination, and a keen sense of social justice.

The family experienced a typical London-Irish lifestyle, often returning to Ireland during the summers.

Despite living in north London's Holloway later in life, Ní Ghrálaigh's Irish identity remained strong. Her name, a derivative of Bláthnaid, meaning "flower," and her Gaelicised surname, Ní Ghrálaigh (Grealy), reflect her heritage.

Ní Ghrálaigh's fluency in the Irish language, a skill not acquired in her English school curriculum, and her immersion in Irish dancing and music point to a rich cultural upbringing.

Her teenage years spent at a boarding school in France contributed to her bilingual prowess, evident in the flawless French segment of her closing speech at the ICJ.

The family's interest in justice and human rights is deeply embedded in their history. Neasa, who retained her Mayo roots despite being brought up in Dublin, passed away in 2011 and was buried in Glenamoy.

In a poignant testament to their commitment, the family requested that donations to the Palestine Solidarity Campaign be made in lieu of flowers at her funeral.

Ní Ghrálaigh's journey into law began after her experiences working on the Bloody Sunday Inquiry and at a civil action law specialist solicitors’ firm in London.

Joining Matrix, she has since become a prominent figure in the field, specialising in human rights, public international law, criminal law, and public law.

Her recent high-profile case at the ICJ, where she argued South Africa's case against Israeli forces over the Gaza bombardment, has brought her international acclaim.

Despite her successful career and potential for greater financial gain in other legal fields, Ní Ghrálaigh often undertakes pro bono work, demonstrating a deep-seated commitment to justice.

In the eyes of her first cousin, Freda Grealy, Ní Ghrálaigh's achievements make the family immensely proud.

"She makes us proud to be Irish," says Grealy, reflecting on Ní Ghrálaigh's impactful role as a voice for those who often go unheard.