Independent & Community Law Centres

Independent & Community Law Centres are at the front line of public interest law practice in Ireland, enabling access to justice for marginalised and disadvantaged people in the communities that they serve. PILA's mission is to facilitate and promote the use of law in the public interest, and this means that supporting and promoting law centres is an important part of our work!

PILA recognises that law centres are on the front line of public interest law in Ireland, and offers its support services wherever possible to help law centres increase the impact of their work on the communities that they serve. PILA has a special two-way working relationship with Law Centres through our pro bono referral scheme.

We refer legal advice queries to Law Centres that PILA receives from other organisations.

We help Law Centres get pro bono legal assistance from other solicitors and barristers through the PILA referral scheme, where they require specialised legal advice or require barristers to further their frontline work.

In addition to this, PILA tries to support Law Centres in any other ways it can - for example fundraising assistance, promotion at PILA events, and other collaborative activities.

  • About Law Centres in Ireland

    The concept of the Independent or Community Law Centre (CLC) is well established in several jurisdictions, such as Canada and Australia. There are examples in Ireland, with the Coolock Community Law Centre (now Northside Community Law & Mediation Centre) in existence for over 30 years. Independent law centres are not operated by government or any commercial interest. All independent law centres are non-profit voluntary bodies which are accountable to the community that they seek to serve. Solicitors who operate and are employed in Independent Law Centres in Ireland are regulated by the Solicitors Acts 1954-2002 (Independent Law Centres) Regulations 2006 (SI 103/2006).

    A CLC will usually be based in a disadvantaged community and will provide legal services that reflect the issues affecting people living and working in the area. It will aim to make the law accessible by provide information on legal rights and entitlements and on how the legal system works. Issues affecting local people are discussed in local forums and this in turn leads to local campaigns on relevant areas such as housing, welfare or the environment. FLAC believes that CLCs are a crucial part of the civil legal aid infrastructure.

    CLCs are particularly well suited to engage in policy and law reform work, as they are situated in the community campaigning for change. They engage in community legal education to help people to understand law and the legal system, as well as its meaning in their lives. Although they may receive state funding, CLCs are run by their community, either through participating in its management or through volunteering and other activities such as fundraising. In this way, CLCs promote social inclusion.

    CLCs may engage in strategic litigation and test cases, using targeted legal representation to achieve a result to benefit a community beyond the immediate client. In this way issues with wider public interest will reach the court. The general aim is to break down the social, cultural and psychological barriers which inhibit people from availing of legal services and thus accessing justice.

    In Ireland, there are two independent, community-based law centres, Northside Community Law & Mediation Centre and Ballymun Community Law Centre.
    Specialist Law Centres are a response to the complexity of some of Ireland's current social issues. These centres focus on a specific area, such as disability or immigrant rights issues and provide legal services in those areas.

    In Ireland, there are three independent, specialist law centres: the Immigrant Council of Ireland, Mercy Law Resource Centre and the Irish Traveller Movement Law Centre. A fourth, Disability Legal Resource, was in existence until 2005 when it was forced to close due to lack of funding.

  • Ballymun Community Law Centre

    Ballymun Community Law Centre (BCLC) is a North Dublin law centre which provides a range of community legal services in an area where no previous legal services existed. Its mission is to provides information, advice, assistance, representation, mediation and education as well as taking a strategic approach to tackling inequality. It specialises in the following areas of law: housing, consumer, debt, social welfare, employment and equality.

    Ballymun run a Legal Education Programme, which includes the popular Housing Law and Policy course taught by NUI Galway expert Dr Padraic Kenna. You can find out more information about BCLC's Mediation Service here. BCLC provides mediation services for all kinds of conflicts, including housing disputes, family and parenting issues.

    You can contact the law centre through their website or by telephoning 01 862 5805.

  • Free Legal Advice Centres Ltd

    PILA is a project of Free Legal Advice Centres Ltd (FLAC), but PILA also works with FLAC just like any other law centre.

    FLAC was established in 1969 by four Irish law students. It is an independent human rights organisation dedicated to the realisation of equal access to justice for all. To this end it campaigns on a range of legal issues but also offers some basic, free legal services to the public. 

    FLAC currently concentrates its work on four main areas: Legal Aid, Social Welfare, Credit & Debt and Public Interest Law. Landmark public interest litigation undertaken by FLAC includes the Foy case.

    You can find out more details about how to contact FLAC, including its Information & Referral Line, here on its website.

  • Immigrant Council of Ireland

    The Immigrant Council of Ireland (ICI) is an independent human rights organisation that was established in 2001. It advocates for the rights of migrants and their families and acts as a catalyst for public debate as well as legislative and policy change.

    The ICI is an Independent Law Centre, which means it can provide legal representation to migrants and their families. It undertakes strategic litigation in order to try to effect change. It also provide a Racist Incident Support and Referral Service, undertakes work in the area of integration, conducts policy and campaign work and provides a training service.

    The ICI also provides a Specialist Immigration Advocacy Service for vulnerable migrants and those who have experienced human rights abuses in Ireland, such as victims of sex trafficking, people who have experienced domestic violence and children. The ICI's Information and Referral Service deals with more than 10,000 enquiries about Ireland’s immigration system each year.

    You can find out more details about how to contact ICI, including its Information and Referral Service phone line, here on its website.

  • Irish Refugee Council Independent Law Centre

    The Irish Refugee Council Independent Law Centre opened in November 2011, as the legalservices section of the Irish Refugee Council.

    The primary aims of the Law Centre are to meet unmet legal need in a strategic manner and to promote and deliver early legal advice and representation to those in the early stages of the asylum process.

    It also accepts referrals from organisations in relation to individuals at various stages of the asylum/refugee process where those cases may be of strategic benefit to asylum seekers in Ireland and/or where an individual is extremely vulnerable and has difficulties in otherwise accessing legal services.

    Organisations and individuals can contact the IRC Law Centre on 01 764 5061 or by emailing lawcentre@irishrefugeecouncil.ie.

  • Irish Traveller Movement Independent Law Centre

    The Irish Traveller Movement (ITM) Independent Law Centre opened in 2009, replacing the ITM's Legal Unit.

    The Law Centre provides a specialist legal service to Travellers in Ireland and is the only one of its kind in the country. The Law Centre recognises that there is an unmet legal need in the Traveller community and that the existence of a specialist legal service for Travellers is essential to the advancement of Traveller rights in Ireland.

    The Law Centre's aims are to advance the ability of members of the Travelling Community to access expert legal advice and representation, to proactively advance Traveller human rights under the various legislative frameworks, to advance recognition of Travellers as an ethnic minority, to develop the capacity of Traveller organisations to respond to legal issues facing Travellers and to take a series of test cases to challenge laws that attack Traveller culture.

    Organisations and individuals can contact the Law Centre's Managing Solicitor Siobhan Cummiskey on 01 6796577 or by email at itmlawcentre@gmail.com.

  • Mercy Law Resource Centre

    The Mercy Law Resource Centre is an independent law centre, set up by the Sisters of Mercy in 2009. It provides a free, quality and holistic legal service to people who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless. This includes people who are trying to move away from homelessness or are struggling with issues often linked to homelessness e.g. addiction, leaving prison, mental illness, prostitution.

    The Centre provides legal advice and representation to people who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless in the areas of Housing and Social Welfare Law. This service is available to persons from Dublin who are not already catered for by the Ballymun and Northside Community Law Centres. The services include Free Legal Advice Clinics, Legal Representation, Legal Resource to Homeless Organisations and Policy Work.

    The Centre's services also include a "befriending" service for clients in order to accompany them and provide them with emotional support as they go through the difficult process of trying to assert their rights.

    Organisations and individuals can contact the Centre on 01 4537459, by email at info@mercylaw.ie, or through the contact form on their website.

  • Northside Community Law & Mediation Centre

    Northside Community Law & Mediation Centre is an independent Law Centre. Operating since 1975, the Law Centre was the first Community Law Centre in the Republic of Ireland.

    The Law Centre provides provides free advice and servies to people in its catchment area - Dublin North Central and Dublin North East. Key areas of the Law Centre's legal services are Family Law, Employment & Equality, Social Welfare, Consumer Law, Deb, Wills & Inheritance and Housing. The Law Centre also provides a free mediation service to anyone living in the Northside area. Its website includes the Social Welfare Casebase, which is a resource of social welfare appeals case decisions.

    Northside has an active community legal education programme, targeted at both individuals and organisations. It can be contacted by calling 01 847 7804 or by email at info@nclc.ie.

  • Limerick Community Law & Mediation Centre

    Limerick Community Law and Mediation Centre is a recently established community law Centre which aims to support and promote the rights of disadvantaged and marginalised communities in Limerick City with particular remit for the Regeneration areas. The Centre provides a range of legal services, some of which are designed to meet the specific needs of the Regeneration communities and others which are available to the wider Limerick community.

    The main areas of work are the provision of free legal advice and information, advocacy, legal representation and mediation to people in its catchment areas.  Key areas of the Law Centre's legal services are Family Law, Employment & Equality, Social Welfare, Consumer Law, Debt, and Housing.   The Centre also provides a legal education programme with particular focus on issues arising in the communities it serves.    

    Limerick Community Law and Mediation Centre is a project of Northside Law and Mediation Centre, Coolock, funded by the Limerick Regeneration Agencies and the Public Interest Law Alliance.

    You can contact the law centre on 061 536100 or e-mail Limerick@nclc.ie Limerick Social Service Centre, Upper Henry Street, Limerick.