Boardrooms must emphasise ethics, says Chief Justice

Business leaders have critical role to play in economic recovery, says Denham

Chief Justice, Ms Susan Denham, said the courts reflect the state of the economy and society. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons/The Irish Times

Chief Justice, Ms Susan Denham, said the courts reflect the state of the economy and society. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons/The Irish Times

Mon, Jul 8, 2013, 16:37

Chief Justice Susan Denham has said Ireland’s boardrooms must place more emphasis on ethics rather than keeping a “constant eye on the needs of shareholders” if trust in the economy is to be rebuilt.

Ms Justice Denham said “a trail of devastation” had wound its way through the courts system since the economic collapse and stressed that business leaders had a critical role to play in the recovery.

“Ethics in the boardroom and in the governance of enterprises, rather than a constant eye on the needs of shareholders, is the way forward to building trust in our economic sector,” she said.

“Knowing what is the right thing to do in a situation, and then doing it, comes from exercising self-awareness, personal integrity and often no small amount of courage.”

She was speaking at the launch of the Courts Service annual report for 2012, which showed a 50 per cent increase in orders to restrict company directors and a three-and-a-half fold increase in the number of company directors disqualified.

The report offers a snapshot of trends in Irish society five years after the collapse of the banking system. It shows that 1,921 people did not comply with court orders to pay bills last year, including fines for road traffic offences and not paying a television licence. This was an 82 per cent rise on the 2011 figure.

Overall, Commercial Court cases and winding up applications both fell by 13 per cent.

Road traffic cases continue to account for a large proportion (60 per cent) of the workload in the country’s District Courts, prompting Judge Denham to broach yesterday whether consideration should be given to alternatives to automatically including people who don’t pay fines in the court system.

“The Courts Service has many times offered the Road Safety Authority and the Department of Transport ideas for keeping people out of the courts system, including adding unpaid and uncontested fines to road tax bills,” she said.

Elsewhere, the figures show there was a 14 per cent rise in numbers or tenants ejected from properties for not paying rent, up to 1,794, but home, business and land repossessions dropped.