McGonigal, Richard (1902–64), barrister and senior counsel, was born at 8 Mount Street Crescent, Dublin, on 14 February 1902, the eldest son of John McGonigal KC, county court judge for Co. Tyrone (1939–43), and his wife Margaret Davoren, daughter of Richard Davoren, solicitor, of Friarsland, Roebuck, Co. Dublin. One of three sons and four daughters, he was educated at Belvedere College, Dublin, and Clongowes Wood College, Co. Kildare. At Clongowes he showed early promise as a mathematician when he won the coveted Palles gold medal in mathematics in 1919, and a paper on ‘The living wage’ to a college society was a precursor of an active interest in later life in industrial and economic matters. At UCD he took a degree in science before studying for the bar at King's Inns, where he excelled, being awarded the Brooke scholarship and coming first of twenty-nine barristers called to the Irish bar in November 1925.
McGonigal's outstanding intellectual ability and deep knowledge of the law, coupled with his clear, incisive, and persuasive manner and impressive demeanour, meant that he steadily advanced in his profession, becoming a senior counsel on 12 January 1940 and a bencher of King's Inns in Trinity term 1944. As a senior counsel he appeared in many important civil and constitutional cases and public inquiries, and at the time of his death was one of the two or three acknowledged leaders of the Irish bar. His professional standing and other attainments led to international recognition when he was elected as one of the fifteen judges of the European Court of Human Rights when that court came into being in January 1959. He was also a commissioner of charitable donations and bequests.
Despite the demands of his large practice, McGonigal found time to take on many onerous and important positions in public life. In 1945 he was appointed chairman of the Irish railway wages board, and later he was chairman of the Joint Industrial Council as well as a member of the banks’ arbitration tribunal. His appointments to important bodies in the sensitive fields of industrial relations and salary fixing were a recognition of his sense of fairness and impartiality.
A good conversationalist, McGonigal was a cultured man with a deep interest in the arts. He was a governor of the NGI, and himself acquired an extensive collection of paintings, including several by Jack B. Yeats (qv); he was also reputed to have what was probably the finest collection of jade in Ireland. At the time of his death he was chairman of An Taisce – the National Trust for Ireland.
McGonigal died 24 January 1964 at his home at 11 Elgin Road, Ballsbridge, Dublin, survived by his widow, Annette, daughter of Henry Lionel Pilkington, of Tore, Co. Westmeath. There were no children of the marriage. His younger brother Ambrose McGonigal (qv) practised at the Northern Ireland bar and became a lord justice of appeal.