Government to choose 10 new judges

Seven vacancies to fill on High Court as senior judges move to new appeals court

With the High Court set to lose seven senior judges to the appeals court, one-fifth of its posts are up for grabs in a single round.

With the High Court set to lose seven senior judges to the appeals court, one-fifth of its posts are up for grabs in a single round.

 

The Government is about to select 10 new judges for the superior courts in a move that will significantly alter the profile of the judiciary.

The Judicial Appointments Advisory Board this week sent a list of eligible candidates to the Government for seven vacancies that will arise on the High Court next month with the formal establishment of a Court of Appeal.

A further three vacancies are to be filled on the 10-member appeals court, which is expected to come into operation in late October and will begin hearing cases in a dedicated building on the Four Courts complex, in Dublin, in January.

With the High Court set to lose seven senior judges to the appeals court, one-fifth of its posts are up for grabs in a single round of appointments.

Speculation

There is speculation that one of the vacancies could be filled by Ann Power-Forde, who resigned from her post as Ireland’s judge on the European Court of Human Rights this summer. Her nine-year term at the Strasbourg court had another three years to run, and her departure opens another key judicial vacancy that must be filled by March.

The changes will bring unprecedented upheaval to the High Court, which has lost 11 of its 19 most experienced judges in the past year through retirements and promotions.

Seven of its members – judges Seán Ryan, Peter Kelly, Mary Finlay Geoghegan, Michael Peart, George Birmingham, Mary Irvine and Gerard Hogan – are to be promoted to the Court of Appeal, which is designed to ease the four-year backlog of cases at the Supreme Court and allow that court to focus on cases of exceptional public importance. A referendum on the creation of the new court was passed with 65 per cent support last year.

Anxious

Michael D Higgins

Senior barristers say privately that cuts to judicial pay and pensions deter highly qualified members of the profession from applying for places on the bench.

In a speech to the Bar Council conference earlier this year, High Court president Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns acknowledged the cuts but said he was confident barristers and solicitors would “respond positively” to the call to apply for judicial posts. He urged qualified women to apply.

Separately, three senior counsel – Caroline Costello, Aideen Donnelly and Séamus Noonan – were sworn in as High Court judges this week.