Judges lobbied for colleague in Europe to be appointed to Irish bench

Former European Court of Human Rights judge Ann Power was not appointed

Members of the judiciary unsuccessfully lobbied the Taoiseach to appoint a former judge in Europe to the Irish bench in 2015.

Mr Justice George Birmingham of the Court of Appeal wrote to then taoiseach Enda Kenny in March 2015 warning that failure to continue the tradition of appointing former judges in European institutions to the Irish bench could "prove very damaging to the country".

Mr Birmingham was writing in his capacity as president of the Association of Judges of Ireland (AJI), the representative group for the Irish judiciary.

It is understood he was referring to Ann Power, an Irish judge on the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), who resigned from her position in October 2014 to return to Ireland, three years before her term ended.


Ms Power was not appointed to the Irish bench on her return and is now a senior counsel with the London firm Doughty Street Chambers.

She is also the presiding judge of the Constitutional Court Chamber of the Kosovo Specialist Chambers (KSC) in The Hague, which deals with international crimes, including, war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Ms Power declined to comment when contacted.

Seeking influence

In his letter, Mr Justice Birmingham said he “wanted to make clear that the association would never seek to influence the appointment or reappointment of particular individuals.

“However, there is one issue that the association would seek to raise with you. When individuals in the past have taken up appointment [in Europe], whether they did so from the Irish bench or from the ranks of the legal profession, there was a practice that their term of office would be renewed, if that was an option or alternatively, that when their term in office came to an end that they would be then appointed to the bench in Ireland.”


He told the taoiseach that the AJI believed it was “very important” this understanding should continue as otherwise it might make a stint on the ECHR, the Court of Justice or the General Court in Europe “unattractive” to Irish jurists.

“If the result of that was that there was a reluctance to seek such appointments, then this could prove very damaging to the country in the long run.”

Ms Power was replaced as the Irish judge on the ECHR by Siofra O’Leary, who was previously a prominent lawyer at the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg. Her term will expire in 2024.

Conor Gallagher

Conor Gallagher

Conor Gallagher is Crime Correspondent of The Irish Times