Varadkar defends ‘modern’ judicial appointments Bill

Changes proposed by Shane Ross follow international practice, says Taoiseach

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said he would seek advice on whether he could publish the letter sent to the Government by senior judges. Image: Oireachtas TV

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said he would seek advice on whether he could publish the letter sent to the Government by senior judges. Image: Oireachtas TV

 

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said the Government’s proposal to change the way judicial appointments are made follows international practice. He said having a lay chairperson of the selection commission was not unusual.

“It is the case in England, for example, and it is also the case in Scotland where there is an equal number of legal and non-legal members,” he added. He said it was also the modern way of appointing people to public office, adding the secretaries-general of Government departments were selected through the Top Level Appointments Committee. Mr Varadkar said President Michael D Higgins would continue to appoint judges on the Government’s nomination.

“What this legislation is about is the process by which three names are put to the Government,” he added.

He said the legislation would end canvassing. Mr Varadkar said he would seek advice on whether he could publish the letter sent to the Government by senior judges.

Debate begins later on Tuesday on the Judicial Appointments Commission Bill providing for a lay majority and chairperson in the selection of judges.

Mr Varadkar was replying in the Dáil on Tuesday to Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin who claimed the legislation was being introduced to meet a demand from Independent Alliance Minister for Transport Shane Ross.

He said Mr Ross had portrayed the judiciary as “some sort of self-serving, egotistical, insiders” group. This was a very damaging type of commentary on the judiciary, he added. He said the Dáil should be cautious and there was no compelling rationale put forward as to why Mr Ross’s Bill was superior to other measures.

He said his party believed the Chief Justice should be the chairperson of the commission. Pressed by Mr Martin on whether the Government would except amendments, the Taoiseach said they would be considered on a case by case basis.