Judges say concerns now understood after AG meeting

Association of Judges releases statement after meeting today

Mr Justice Peter Kelly confers with Mrs Justice Catherine McGuinness. Photograph: Frank Miller

Mr Justice Peter Kelly confers with Mrs Justice Catherine McGuinness. Photograph: Frank Miller


The row between the Government and the judiciary appears to have abated

this evening after a meeting between judges and the Attorney General.

The Association of Judges of Ireland has said it is satisfied, having met with the Attorney General today, that its concerns about judicial independence are "fully understood" and that "progress will be made by mutual co-operation in resolving issues".

In a statement, the AJI said its President, Mr Justice Peter Kelly, had met with the Attorney General "to discuss the concerns of its members on issues involving judicial independence".

"The meeting was cordinal and fruitful," the statement said. "As a result, the AJI is satisfied that its concerns are fully understood and that progress will be made by mutual co-operation in resolving issues."

"The AJI is grateful to the Attorney General for her assistance in this regard," it concluded.

Earlier, President Michael D Higgins said he hoped the Government and the judiciary would resolve their difficulties quickly.

Asked whether, from a constitutional point of view, he was concerned about the difficulties at present between the judiciary and government,he said he was “concerned at what has been written about these difficulties.”

“ I believe myself that the suggestions that have been made that they be quickly resolved is something that everyone would support. Obviously I have a specific role in the constitution in relation to the appointment of judges, but all I would say is that on this issue no more than other issues, our arguments, when they start, should have the intention of ending in a way that clarifies and restores what is very important work, the role where all of us are, where the judiciary is, where government is, and where the presidency is.”

The representative body for solicitors in Ireland called on the Government and judges to stop rowing in public and meet privately to resolve ongoing tensions.

The society said it viewed the recent public bickering with “dismay” and warned it could “cause major damage to the democratic system in Ireland and to the country’s reputation abroad”.

The society’s managing director Ken Murphy said the judiciary and the Government needed to “ sort it out and take it private”.

He said the judges disagreed with the Government’s assertion that channels of communication are open but added “it isn’t just a question of the channels and the communication taking place, the right spirit has to be involved as well and it has to be a spirit of mutual respect”.

Judges are angry over a range of issues they say threaten their independence, including pay, pensions and future appointments.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny yesterday said the independence principal was “central to democracy” but declined to intervene in the row between the Association of Judges in Ireland and Minister for Justice Alan Shatter. Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin warned of the possible “full blown constitutional crisis” developing.

Although the Law Society is not taking sides in the dispute, Mr Murphy said some of the judges’ gripes were “issues of principle”and were not solely related to remuneration.

He also defended the judiciary against Master of the High Court Edmund Honohan’s contention that they had a “sense of entitlement” in seeking consultation.

“Consultation is the norm in modern policy making,” Mr Murphy said. “All government ministers in all governments in all countries consult in advance of decision making… it’s not as if the judiciary, in anticipating they would be consulted in matters affecting them, are seeking something out of the ordinary for every other group in society.”

Mr Murphy said discussions involving the Taoiseach, the Chief Justice, and the Attorney General, seemed appropriate for finding a resolution to the row and “should be utilised now”.

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