Retired judge to chair judicial pay referendum

Mon, Sep 5, 2011, 01:00

RETIRED HIGH Court judge Bryan McMahon is to chair the Referendum Commission which will deal with the proposed constitutional amendment on judicial pay, The Irish Timeshas learned.

Under the provisions of the Referendum Act 1998, a referendum commission is chaired by either a retired or serving senior judge nominated by the Chief Justice.

The commission will be responsible for explaining the purpose of the referendum to the public, and for summarising arguments for and against the amendment.

The Government is proposing that Article 35.5 of the Constitution be amended by substituting the following: “35.5.1 The remuneration of judges shall not be reduced during their continuance in office save in accordance with this section. 35.5.2 The remuneration of judges is subject to the imposition of taxes, levies or other charges that are imposed by law on persons generally or persons belonging to a particular class.

“35.5.3 Where, before or after the enactment into law of this section, reductions have been or are made by law to the remuneration of persons belonging to classes of persons whose remuneration is paid out of public money and such law states that those reductions are in the public interest, provision may also be made by law to make reductions to the remuneration of judges.”

The referendum will take place on Thursday, October 27th, and a second referendum, to give new powers to parliamentary committees to conduct investigations, is to take place on the same day. The purpose of this amendment is to overturn the Supreme Court ruling which ended the Abbeylara inquiry into the shooting dead by members of the Garda Síochána of John Carty in the Co Longford village.

The wording of this amendment has not yet been published, and no referendum commission can be nominated until this takes place.

However, it is likely that Judge McMahon will also chair it when it does.

The purpose of the referendum commission is to inform the public about the contents of the proposed amendment or amendments, and outline the arguments for an against in an impartial manner.

In relation to the referendum of judges pay, no body of opinion has yet emerged to oppose the amendment and in a recent Irish Timespoll, 94 per cent of those polled indicate their intention to vote for it, though concern has been expressed by some lawyers that it might impinge on judicial independence.