Independent TD says Coalition judicial appointments would ‘make Fianna Fáil blush’
Shatter says Ireland a world leader for independent courts as judges chosen on expertise
Shane Ross: accused by Alan Shatter of attempting to traduce the reputation of a judge and to smear the judiciary
The Minister for Justice and an Independent TD traded insults in a heated row about accusations of political favouritism in judicial appointments.
Alan Shatter and Shane Ross each accused the other of “outrageous” comments about appointments to the courts. During bitter exchanges, Mr Shatter accused Mr Ross of attempting to traduce the reputation of a judge and to smear the judiciary.
The row erupted during debate on the Courts and Civil Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill which will allow the attendance of the media at family law cases in certain circumstances.
It will increase the monetary award limits the District and Circuit courts can give in civil proceedings and will allow for the appointment of two extra judges to the Supreme Court.
“This Government is at the same racket as the last were,” Mr Ross said, “ and they are appointing people who have shown political loyalty to themselves at a rate which would make Fianna Fáil blush. “The District Court is still getting people appointed without interview.
“It has often been possible for people in the Bar Library to identify the political allegiances of judges in a way which discredits the whole tradition.”
It was “not necessarily true in all cases” but “it was very obvious under the last government and Fianna Fáil have practised this utterly ruthlessly in the past. They’ve regarded the judiciary in many cases as some form of political reward for those who’ve been loyal to them at election time.”
He claimed the Judicial Appointments Advisory Board (Jaab) “is a fig leaf that doesn’t allow any serious examination of the appointment of judges”.
He said there would be increased transparency and a better system if potential appointees were questioned at an Oireachtas committee in a “demanding” way.
Rounding on his Dublin South constituency colleague, Mr Shatter he was maligning members of the current judiciary and making individual member of the judiciary readily identifiable, “whilst he uses this House in a manner to damage the reputation of any member of the judiciary who cannot respond”.
He insisted every appointment made since he became Minister had been based on recommendations by the board for legal expertise.
He said Mr Ross was making accusations about political appointees but then suggested “we should further politicise the making of judicial appointments” by turning judicial appointments “into a party political game in this House”.
The Minister repeated his view that it would be a good idea to review how the appointments board worked and the mechanisms used “but at the same time ensuring no issue arises with regard to judicial independence”.