The Department of Justice is to query procedures used by the Council of the Bar of Ireland for choosing its nominee to the board of the Legal Services Regulatory Authority.
Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald has asked her department to write to the Bar Council, for confirmation that it followed its own internal procedures correctly when it chose its nominee, David Barniville SC, then its chairman.
The correspondence comes after concerns were raised with Ms Fitzgerald, and with Taoiseach Enda Kenny, over whether proper internal procedures were adhered to.
Allegations were made, by a long-standing member of the Law Library, that the nomination, sent to Government in January this year, did not comply with the Bar Council’s own constitution, was not transparent, and members were not informed about the decision until July, when they should have been told sooner.
The first meeting of the Legal Services Regulatory Authority is to take place later this month.
The authority, which was formally established on October 1st, will have responsibility for oversight of solicitors and barristers.
Expressions of interest
Legislation governing its role and procedures will be phased in over the coming months.
The 11-person board was confirmed by the Dáil and Seanad on July 21st.
It consists of one representative each from the Citizens Information Board, the Higher Education Authority (HEA), the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC), the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (IHREC), the Institute of Legal Costs Accountants, the Consumer Association of Ireland, the Legal Aid Board, the Honorable Society of King’s Inns and the Bar Council. There are also two board members from the Law Society.
In choosing nominees, only the Legal Aid Board sought expressions of interest and operated an applications process for the post prior to selection.
On completion of its process, it nominated managing solicitor Joan Crawford.
The Council of the Bar of Ireland said, at a meeting on January 28th, it decided to nominate Mr Barniville and Sara Moorhead SC as the alternate nominee. Members were informed on July 25th, after the nominees were confirmed by the Department of Justice on July 21st, it said.
The Law Society, which represents solicitors, said it nominated Geraldine Clarke and James MacGuill, both former presidents, after a senior management committee considered suitable candidates earlier this year.
A spokesman said their names were approved by the society’s council unanimously and they were then approached by the society.
The HEA nominated its former chairman Dr Don Thornhill. He was proposed by the organisation’s chief executive and accepted by its board, a spokesman said. He has been appointed chair of the authority.
The CCPC said it felt because of the importance of the area, its nominee should be a current member of staff and it chose its head of advocacy Deirdre McHugh.
The IHREC held a meeting of its board at which the primary and substitute nominees were discussed and agreed.
Nominees were then approached “to confirm their interest and eligibility”, the commission said, and Professor Gerry Whyte, of the Law School, Trinity College Dublin, was put forward.
The CIB nominated its own chief executive, Angela Black, and its substitute was board member Eugene McErlean.
The decision was made by its board.
Responses to queries regarding the nominations of the Institute of Legal Costs Accountants, the Consumer Association of Ireland or the Honorable Society of King’s Inns had not been responded to at the time of going to press.
The ILCA put forward its secretary, Stephen Fitzpatrick, as a nominee and the CAI nominated its policy advisor, Dermott Jewell.
Eileen Barrington SC replaced retired High Court judge Nicholas Kearns, who became unavailable to serve, as the nominee for King’s Inns.