Cabinet to make judicial nominations on Tuesday
Nominations to at least four senior judicial posts, including Chief Justice, will be made by the Cabinet next Tuesday after consultations between the Taoiseach, the Tanaiste, the Minister for Justice and the Attorney General.
It is understood that Mr Justice Ronan Keane of the Supreme Court is favoured for the Chief Justice post by a number of senior Government figures, as well as by the majority of his colleagues in the judiciary.
The President of the High Court, Mr Justice Frederick Morris, is also seen as a contender. There is strong political support within Fianna Fail for its former attorney general, Mr Justice John Murray, but the fact that he has served less than a year on the Supreme Court would militate against him.
The present Chief Justice, Mr Justice Liam Hamilton, is to retire at the end of the month.
Mr Ahern, Ms Harney, Mr O'Donoghue and Mr Michael McDowell are expected to meet before the Cabinet meets in Cork next Tuesday. They are then expected to agree on the appointment of a Chief Justice and at least three other top-level judicial moves.
First, the Government must nominate someone to fill the vacancy caused by the retirement last month from the Supreme Court of Mr Justice Kevin Lynch.
The nomination of a serving Supreme Court judge as Chief Justice would necessitate a second Supreme Court appointment. Presuming the two new Supreme Court judges came from the High Court, there would then be two vacancies to be filled in that court.
However, should the current High Court President, Mr Justice Morris, be appointed Chief Justice, there would still be one Supreme Court vacancy to fill Mr Justice Lynch's position.
There would then be a vacancy for High Court President and, presuming that is filled from within the High Court, a consequent vacancy for an ordinary High Court judge.
The situation would be further complicated should Mrs Justice Denham of the Supreme Court be appointed High Court President. This would create a further Supreme Court vacancy.