15. Aonghus Kelly – Irish Rule of Law International – On the Law of Cumulative Effect

Aonghus Kelly is a lawyer who has a focus on the rule of law, international criminal law, human rights and the intersection of those areas with climate justice. He is presently Executive Director at Irish Rule of Law International, (IRLI) which is the legal NGO founded by and representing the bars and law societies from both jurisdictions from the island of Ireland which works overseas.

He is also a member of the Legal Action Committee at the Global Legal Action Network (GLAN), which uses innovative legal strategies to challenge global injustice. He previously spent time with the European Union Border Assistance Mission to Libya, as a defence lawyer at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, often known as the Khmer Rouge Tribunal, at the Special Prosecution Office of the Republic of Kosovo and the State Prosecutors Office of Bosnia-Herzegovina.  Prior to that he spent time, working as a solicitor in England, working on cases involving the aftermath of the war on Iraq in 2004, and in general practice in Ireland.

Aonghus sets out his somewhat indirect path into legal practice and how his career has been punctuated by learning – whether in the area of human rights or, most recently, sustainability. He describes the lightbulb moment that led him to switch from commercial practice into international human rights law, and the character traits that enable him to stay upbeat and focused in this area which can be emotionally difficult.  The key to maintaining a positive outlook in this area is, according to Aonghus, focusing on the law of cumulative effect, that every action, slowly over time, will accumulate to have the desired effect.

We examine some of the advances in this area, particularly the increasing alignment between human rights law and international environmental law (a theme also mentioned in the podcast in this series with Meriam Nazih Al-Rashid) and the advice that Aonghus would have for students entering the area.

There is more information on IRLI here: https://www.irishruleoflaw.ie as well as GLAN here: https://www.glanlaw.org


Aonghus gave the following Ted-X talk: “Why We Kill Each Other: The Creation of The Other.” You can find it on Youtube here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1AoXTMcT4uo&t=16s

This series is brought to you with the kind support of Eversheds Sutherland.  As a global top 10 law firm, Eversheds Sutherland provides legal services to a global client base. With more than 3,000 lawyers, Eversheds Sutherland operates in over 70 offices in more than 30 countries across Africa, Asia, Europe, the Middle East and the United States.


 The firm recognises that having diverse talent across its business brings many benefits. It is committed to accessing a wide range of views, perspectives and thinking in all of its teams and in this way is building a culture of inclusion, where each person feels able to be their true self at work and reach their full potential.


Diversity and Inclusion is fundamental to the firm’s purpose of “helping our clients, our people and our communities to thrive”, and ‘Inclusive’ is one of its five values.