Is this year’s International Bar Association conference the biggest global gathering of lawyers ever, anywhere? The organisers certainly seem to think so, and, though vast, the premises of the Royal Dublin Society struggled to cope with a cast of thousands at Sunday’s opening ceremony. About 150 latecomers were locked out and had their faces pressed to the window as Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz opined on the state of the global economy.
At the Irish-themed party afterwards, Obiter fell in somewhat incongruously with actors dressed as Molly Malone and James Joyce (an unlikely pairing, surely). Many a stereotype was on display, and a Riverdance-style spectacular only brought to mind comedian Mark Steel’s sceptical observation on that particular art form: ‘Dublin is a vibrant, modern city – it can’t have been built without anyone moving their arms.’
Ireland’s taoiseach Enda Kenny got the party started, as well he might. With overseas lawyers paying for flights, accommodation and hospitality on top of £1,600 in registration fees, this week’s beanfeast will net the cash-strapped local economy north of £8m. For that, much thanks must go to solicitor Michael Greene, a former partner at A&L Goodbody. He proposed that Dublin should host the event five years ago, when the convention centre by the Liffey was but a hole in the ground. The building (pictured) has been likened to a baked bean tin tipped on its edge, a not unfitting description in Obiter’s view.
Kenny has a nice line in dry wit, doubtless a coping mechanism for his spirit-sapping meetings with the troika. He recalled meeting the Queen on her historic visit to Dublin last year, at which he asked her what she thought was England’s biggest contribution to Ireland. The Queen apparently replied: ‘The English language,’ to which Kenny responded: ‘Ah yes, and look what we did with it, Joyce, Shaw, Heaney, Swift…’.