History of FLAC
The Free Legal Advice Centres were started by a group of law students looking to use their legal knowledge and provide advice and information to those who could not afford the fees involved. David Byrne, Denis McCollough, Vivian Lavan and Ian Candy set up the organisation in April 1969 after attending a conference on legal aid in Trinity College Dublin. The group's ultimate objective was to influence the national government into instituting a more comprehensive plan that afforded civil legal aid for those who needed it. In the interim, the froup started to provide legal representation, advice and information to the public.
Showing the need for access to justice
By 1972, FLAC had taken care of 2,437 files in cases dealing with family, crime, landlord, and tenent law. By their 1974 annual report, the number or files had risen to over 8,000. As FLAC grew in demand, it also grew in size. By 1974 there were sixty law students at eight centres with fifty solicitors and forty barristers all working towards the common cause, and this had increased to 12 centres in Dublin and additional centres in Galway, Bray, Limerick, and had taken three test cases (The State (Healy) vs. Donoghue, The State (Gleeson) vs. Minister for Defence and C. vs. C.).
The Pringle Committee & Report and establishment of the CCLC
In 1974, a government committee was formed to address the issue of legal aid in
No funding: The threat of closure
In early 1980, FLAC was forced to close the majority of its centres due to lack of funding; three centres in
A state scheme of Civil Legal Aid at last?
In 1972, FLAC joined with other organisations to reform the Civil Legal Aid Alliance, which worked towards a legislative basis for the civil legal aid scheme. This met with success three years later with the passing of the Civil Legal Aid Act 1995. However FLAC continued to highlight gaps in provision such that the campaign for an adequate system of civil legal aid supported by reformed legislation continues to the present day. In particular FLAC, has produced a report in 2005, entitled Access to Justice – A Right or a Privilege? which examines the current system of civil legal aid and suggests a blueprint for action.
The present day
Over time FLAC has become involved in a wide range of societal issues, with a particular focus on social wefare, but also on credit and debt law, immigration law and equality. FLAC currently provides legal information and advice through the 30 centres it administers directly as well as an additional 34 centres run through Citizens Information Centres. It has established specialist language centres such as those based in the National Association of Deaf People and Conradh na Gaeilge as well as centres dealing with specialised topics like EUROJUS centre on EU citizens' rights and the Immigration Legal Advice Centre. FLAC's aim is to realise equal access to justice for all. The organisation will continue to campaign on all the issues above and work through advocasy, casework and analysis of legal and social issues to eradicate social and economic exclusion in Irish society.