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Christopher Kevin Boyle (23 May 1943 – 25 December 2010) was a Northern Ireland-born human rights activist, barrister and educator.[1] He was among the first in the academic law community to engage in human rights activism.[2][3]

Christopher Kevin Boyle
Born23 May 1943
Newry, County Down, Northern Ireland
Died25 December 2010(2010-12-25) (aged 67)
Other namesKevin Boyle
CitizenshipUnited Kingdom
EducationQueen's University Belfast (law); Cambridge University (criminology)
EmployerUniversity of Essex
OrganizationIrish Centre for Human Rights (1980),

Article 19 (1986–1989),

Essex Human Rights Law Centre (1990–2003 & 2006–07)
Known forhuman rights activism
TitleEmeritus Professor
Spouse(s)Joan Smyth Boyle
Parent(s)Louis & Elizabeth Boyle
RelativesSons Mark & Stephen Boyle
AwardsLawyer of the Year, 1998

Born and brought up in Newry, Boyle studied law at Queen's University Belfast. He was a lecturer in law at Queen's when he took part in the 1969 People's Democracy march from Belfast to Derry which was attacked by loyalists at Burntollet.[2][4] He was later involved in the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association. Boyle's brother, Louis Boyle, also an alumnus of Queen's, was at the time active as a Catholic Unionist, and unsuccessfully sought to be the Unionist and Conservative candidate for South Down in the 1969 Stormont elections.

In the 1970s Boyle took up a post at University College, Galway (UCG, now the National University of Ireland, Galway). He became dean of the Faculty of Law in 1978, and in 1980 established the UCG human rights centre.[3][4] In the 1980s he helped to develop the Essex Human Rights Law Centre, founded by Professor Malcolm Shaw, at the University of Essex in Colchester, England.[1][5]

Boyle was involved in several missions on behalf of Amnesty International in the 1980s. Later, he served as the first director of the human rights NGO Article 19 from 1986–1989.[6][7] In 1990 he became director of the Human Rights Centre at Essex, holding that position until 2001.[1]

In 1998, Boyle was named Liberty's Lawyer of the Year, alongside Françoise Hampson, for their work advancing human rights claims before the European Court of Human Rights.[8] He was based in Geneva from 2001–2002 as a special advisor to Mary Robinson during her time as UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, returning to Essex University Human Rights Centre, where he again served as director in 2006–07.[1]

Boyle was called to the bar in Northern Ireland, in the Republic of Ireland, and in England and Wales.[4]

The archives of Kevin Boyle's work are housed at the James Hardiman Library at the National University of Ireland, Galway. These archives consist of over one hundred boxes of printed books and manuscripts and are a major resource for the teaching and study of human rights.[9]


  • Liberty and Law Society Gazette, Lawyer of the Year (shared with Françoise Hampson), 1998.[1]


  • Kevin Boyle and Tom Hadden (1985), Ireland – A Positive Proposal.
  • Kevin Boyle (1995), "Stock-Taking on Human Rights: The World Conference on Human Rights, Vienna 1993" in David Beetham (ed.), Politics and Human Rights, Wiley-Blackwell, ISBN 0-631-19666-8.
  • Kevin Boyle and Juliet Sheen (1997), Freedom of Religion and Belief: A World Report, Taylor & Francis, ISBN 978-0-415-15978-4.
  • Kevin Boyle and Cherian George (2008), "Free speech: The emerging consensus", Strait Times (Singapore), 10 December 2008, A26.


  1. ^ a b c d e Rodley, Nigel (2 January 2011). "Kevin Boyle obituary: Internationally respected human rights lawyer and academic" (obituary). The Guardian (UK). Retrieved 26 January 2012.
  2. ^ a b Coulter, Carol (29 December 2010). "Tributes to human rights lawyer Kevin Boyle" (obituary). The Irish Times. Retrieved 26 January 2012.
  3. ^ a b "Kevin Boyle, 1943–2010" (obituary). Times Higher Education. 31 January 2011. Retrieved 26 January 2012.
  4. ^ a b c McCreary, Alf (31 December 2010). "Obituary: Kevin Boyle – Inspirational figure behind original civil rights movement" (obituary). Belfast Telegraph. Retrieved 26 January 2012.
  5. ^ Calnan, James (29 December 2010). "Founder of Colchester's Human Rights Centre dies". Essex County Standard. Archived from the original on 29 October 2013. Retrieved 26 January 2013.
  6. ^ Moorehead, Caroline (31 October 1986). "New body set up to attack censorship / Launch of Article 19 organization". The Times (London).
  7. ^ "Human rights academic Kevin Boyle dies". RTÉ News. 28 December 2010. Retrieved 26 January 2013.
  8. ^ Geoff Gilbert, et al. "The Common Introduction", The Delivery of Human Rights: Essays in Honour of Professor Sir Nigel Rodley, pg. xxvi (2010)
  9. ^ Professor Kevin Boyle Archive at NUI Galway. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 7 December 2014. Retrieved 28 November 2014.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)