Bridge-playing Co Down solicitor ‘one of best civil practitioners in NI’

Ciara Burns was a well-respected solicitor and champion bridge player
Ciara Burns was a well-respected solicitor and champion bridge player

Tributes have been paid to a Co Down solicitor and one of the top bridge players in Ireland who died suddenly on Sunday.

Ciara Burns, 45, who was found dead in her home in Downpatrick, was described as “one of the best civil practitioners in Northern Ireland”.

The Queen’s University law graduate had spent 20 years with Caldwell and Warner Solicitors in Belfast before moving to GR Ingram and Co in Portadown, where she held the position of head of litigation.

Gabriel Ingram said: “She was a very important part of the team. In my opinion she was one of the best civil practitioners in Northern Ireland.

“She was a pleasure to work with, an extremely bubbly, welcoming, vivacious character.

“In the time she was here nobody ever had a bad word to say about her. She knew her stuff, and could relate so well to clients. They all loved her.”

Miss Burns represented the family of Ben Robinson in their civil claim against organisations including the Irish Rugby Football Union.

The 14-year-old from Carrickfergus died after suffering concussion in a match in 2011.

Since his death, his father Peter has become a high-profile campaigner, raising awareness of the potentially lethal effects of concussion.

Miss Burns had been responsible for bringing a civil claim against the Irish Rugby Football Union, World Rugby, Carrickfergus Grammar School, Ulster Rugby, the teenager’s rugby coach and the match referee.

Away from work Miss Burns had represented Ireland in three European Championships and Northern Ireland in countless Lady Milnes trials.

Two years ago, she acted as president of the Irish Bridge Union, one of the few top players to become involved in administration.

Ferghal O’Boyle of the Bridge Association of Ireland said: “Everyone loved Ciara.

“As well as being one of the top bridge players in Ireland, Ciara also possessed that rare gift of being down to earth and friendly as well.

“Her bubbly, cheerful disposition was infectious and we were all taken by the fact someone so nice could also be so good.”

He added: “Ciara will by now have met up with the two people she missed so much – her father Hugh and her best friend Mary Finn.”

Her funeral takes place on Saturday at St Brigid’s Church, Downpatrick.