Former AG criticises Ross for ‘mischaracterising’ judges

Paul Gallagher says new judicial appointments regime ‘unnecessarily politicised’

Paul Gallagher SC was critical of Shane Ross.

Paul Gallagher SC was critical of Shane Ross.

 

The Minister for Sport and Tourism, Shane Ross, has been criticised by the former attorney general Paul Gallagher SC, who said “populist attacks” on the judiciary in the US and elsewhere share “common themes” with developments taking place in Ireland.

He made the comments as part of a general criticism of the Government’s attitude towards the judiciary and the proposed new regime for appointing people to the bench.

Referring to the “inherent vulnerability” of the rule of law, he said it had come under serious attack recently, “disguised by the language of democracy or populism”, in the United Kingdom, the United States, Hungary and Poland.

While the attacks in these other countries have been blatant, the challenges to the rule of law shared some common themes with challenges taking place in Ireland, he said.

“These attacks frequently involve a misrepresentation of the judicial position and role, and are justified by reference to populist demands.”

Damaging judicial independence

Without naming Mr Ross, he included in his address two quotes from the Minister that he said mischaracterised the position of the judiciary in relation to the proposed new judicial appointments regime.

“The Government’s approach has to date ignored the legitimate concerns expressed by the judiciary,” he said. “The issue has been unnecessarily politicised, which in and of itself is damaging to judicial independence.”

Mr Gallagher made the comments in a speech delivered in Trinity College Dublin recently but not reported at the time. He cited attacks by the American president, Donald Trump, on the US judiciary and media attacks on the judiciary in the UK, where the Daily Mail branded the judges of the high court as the “enemies of the people”.

He said the independence of the judiciary was crucial to the rule of law. The 2011 referendum on judges’ pay had resulted in “the abuse of the judiciary and their motives”.

“The proposed reform of the judicial appointments process risks a repeat of the damage caused by the constitutional amendment,” he said.

A spokesman for the Department of Justice and Equality said it was expected that the Judicial Appointments Bill would be published by the end of May. Mr Ross, who has championed the new regime, has argued that he would prefer to see the filling of judicial vacancies delayed until the new regime is in place.