District Court judge post received 164 applications last year

JAAB annual report shows number of applications fluctuate with economy

Some 164 barristers and solicitors applied for a single District Court judge post last year, among the highest number received for one post in recent years, new figures show.

The Judicial Appointments Advisory Board Annual Report 2015 also shows no applications for the District Court came from senior counsel and only 13 were from junior counsel.

Of the 14 judges appointed last year to various courts, 10 had been recommended by the board.

The 12-member board, set up in 1995, is chaired by Chief Justice, Mrs Justice Susan Denham and includes the presidents of the other courts, representatives from the Law Society and the Bar Council and three Minister for Justice appointees.


The board advertises judicial vacancies, at the request of the Government. Applicants fill out detailed forms, but there is no interview process. The board meets periodically to consider the applications and recommends a minimum of seven names to the Government for each post, unless there are fewer applications.

And, although the legislation does not explicitly state it, it is understood the board’s current practice is to put forward the names of all those who meet the criteria for appointment.

Applications for judicial posts, particularly to the District Court have fluctuated with the economy.


When the board was first established, applications were in the 100s, peaking in December 1999, with 301 for one District Court post. Numbers slumped in the 2000s and in May 2004, a single post attracted only 47 applications.

The recession saw a revival of interest; in 2013, 174 applications were received for one District Court post. Figures reduced again since then, but rose last year to 164.

In July 2015, there was one application, from a female senior counsel, with more than 20 years’ experience, to fill the vacancy created by the retirement of Mr Justice John Murray from the Supreme Court. High Court judge, Ms Justice Iseult O’Malley, was subsequently appointed.

The board received applications for four Circuit Court posts last year, 45 in June and 41 in November.

Of the 45, 17 were senior counsel, two were junior counsel and 20 were solicitors. A quarter of the applicants were women. Of those recommended by the board, two men, Tony O’Connor and Richard Humphreys, and one woman, Isobel Kennedy, were appointed to the High Court; all were senior counsel. Two other judges were promoted from the Circuit Court; Margaret Heneghan and Mary Ellen Ring.

There were two posts advertised at Circuit Court level last year; in June and November. The former attracted 135 applications and the latter, 133.

Of the 135, less than a quarter were from women, there were seven applications from senior counsels, 35 from juniors and 54 from solicitors. The Government subsequently appointed three Circuit Court judges, two of whom had been recommended by the board; solicitor Gerard O’Brien and senior counsel John Aylmer. Judge Sinéad Ní Chúlacháin was promoted from the District Court.

Five judges were appointed to the District Court last year, solicitors Marie Keane, John King and Miriam Walsh, and junior counsels John Brennan and John Cheatle.

In its recommendations, the board said it remained concerned by the absence of any procedure for ensuring appointed judges were medically fit. It said it is not practical for the board to arrange for medical examination of all those it recommends. Best practice was for medical examinations to be required of those who were proposed to be appointed, it said.

Fiona Gartland

Fiona Gartland

Fiona Gartland is a crime writer and former Irish Times journalist