’Nod and wink’ old boys’ club judicial appointments must end, says Sinn Féin
All judicial appointments made on merit, Minister insists
Minister for Justice Alan Shatter: “It is often only when I open the paper on the morning after an appointment that I discover an appointee has a tangential relationship with someone in politics”
All judicial appointments made by the Government have been made on merit, Minister for Justice Alan Shatter has insisted in the Dáil.
He said that since the foundation of the State in 1922, the judiciary “has acted independently and made decisions independent of politics”.
Mr Shatter told the House: “While there were concerns in this area prior to the establishment of the Judicial Appointments Advisory Board, it is very difficult to find any judgment delivered by a member of the judiciary since 1922 which was influenced by a political allegiance. I say that as a lawyer, not as a politician.”
Mr Shatter was responding to Sinn Féin justice spokesman Pádraig Mac Lochlainn who expressed concern during a debate on legislation to allow for a referendum on whether to create a new court of appeal.
‘Wink and nod’
Mr Mac Lochlainn said that for too long, “we have all been aware of stories relating how judges were appointed with a wink and nod after demonstrating their loyalty to either Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael, the Labour Party, the Progressive Democrats or whoever”.
He said: “The days of the old boys’ club, which dominated the legal and political spheres in Ireland, must come to an end. They have failed our people. The practice of the Government appointing judges, senior judges in particular, must be ended if the public is to have any faith in a judiciary free from political or any other bias.
“The sheer number of judges appointed politically adds to an already embedded and unfortunate public perception of the judiciary.”
They were speaking during a debate on the introductory stages of the Thirty-Third Amendment of the Constitution (Court of Appeal) Bill. A referendum must take place to allow the creation of a new court.
Mr Mac Lochlainn had previously introduced the Reform of Judicial Appointments Procedures Bill “in the hope that this would put an end to the system of political appointees being made judges”.
He said this should not rule out people who had been involved in politics.
“It is healthy for citizens to be involved in politics, but we would like more accountability in terms of the process.”
His Bill aimed to change the way the appointments board operated to increase transparency and accountability, a reform which, he said, “is badly needed”.
Mr Mac Lochlainn said the CVs of the eight current Supreme Court judges showed “they are people of eminent qualifications”.
“However, sadly, when people are appointed politically, this leaves an impression we need to deal with. We cannot have a situation where there are questions regarding the appointment of people who love the law, are extremely talented and are committed to the service of the people because of the process of their appointment.”
The Minister told him all the judicial appointments were of people on the recommended list of the appointments advisory board and they were all appointed on merit.
Mr Shatter said: “It is often only when I open the paper on the morning after an appointment that I discover an appointee has a tangential relationship with someone in politics.”