Fine Gael TDs differ on Bill to change system of judge selection

Róisín Shortall calls for more control and monitoring of District Court judges

Fergus O’Dowd: he said“we trust lay people who are selected as jurors” and have full confidence in their decision-making in cases

Fergus O’Dowd: he said“we trust lay people who are selected as jurors” and have full confidence in their decision-making in cases

 

Some District Court judges are “off the wall” and outrageous, racist and sexist, Social Democrats TD Róisín Shortall has said.

The Dublin North West TD called for more control and monitoring of District Court judges who “operate as if they are not answerable to anybody – and they’re not”.

Speaking during a Dáil debate on the the Judicial Appointments Commission Bill, she said the “outrageous, outdated, out of touch or off the wall” comments of some judges are often laughed off but it was a very serious issue. Such judges were often poorly educated or trained, and this needed to change.

Some of the Fine Gael TDs who spoke on the topic took opposing views on the merits of the legislation, which aims to change the selection process for judges, and the speed of its passage through the Dáil.

Fine Gael Dublin South West TD Colm Brophy supported the Bill as a “modern, progressive proposal”, and said he would like to see its passage as quickly as possible. It would be “regrettable if any efforts were made to hold up this important legislation for either party political or personal reasons”.

Fair and balanced

He said it was fair and balanced, and its passage should be speedy. “As legislators we have a duty to the people who put us in this House to ensure that this very important legislation is facilitated in every way possible and pushed forward.”

His colleague, Louth TD Fergus O’Dowd, also supported a majority lay committee and chairperson. He said that “we trust lay people who are selected as jurors” and have full confidence in their decision-making in cases.

Mr O’Dowd also supported proposals for diversity, and said place of birth determined a lot of a person’s future. “There are certain parts of Dublin city where a person is more likely to be a judge, a middle-class lawyer, a teacher or a TD, and there are other parts of the city where a person is more likely to die younger, end up in jail or be poorly educated.”

Greater discussion

Dublin Fingal Fine Gael TD Alan Farrell questioned whether there should be a lay majority on the appointments commission, and said there should be “greater discussion”.

He was also concerned at the proposal that the Chief Justice would not chair the commission, and believed it could detract from the authority of the Supreme Court, which was “the highest in the land”.

He questioned the “rush” to pass the Bill before the summer recess. “This Bill should not be rushed, nor should it be guillotined or passed without a great deal of amendment.” This was “not just to improve it” but to ensure “it is not a bad Bill”.