Rush to pass bill on judges prompted Kelly comments

Kelly comments are some of the most forceful and public criticisms to date

 Minister for Transport Shane Ross. File photograph: Maxwells

Minister for Transport Shane Ross. File photograph: Maxwells


The Judicial Appointments Bill, which is the brainchild of Minister for Transport Shane Ross, has for a long time received, at best, lukewarm support from his cabinet colleagues.

However following the controversy surrounding the appointment of former attorney general Máire Whelan to the Court of Appeal, the Government has a new found appetite to get the bill passed as soon as possible.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said the Daíl will sit into the summer recess to debate the bill. For Mr Ross, the imperative is to get the bill passed as quickly as possible to put to bed accusations that he traded his agreement to Ms Whelan’s appointment for the reopening of his local Garda Station in Stepaside.

It is this rush which seems to have prompted Mr Justice Peter Kelly’s comments on Friday night that the bill was “ill advised” and “ill-conceived”.

The judge’s views have been shared by his colleagues on the bench for some time but the comments are noteworthy as being some of the most forceful and public denunciations of the proposals from a sitting judge to date.

The Bill will create a new body which will have with a majority of non-legal members, headed by a non-legal chair. It will select a ranked shortlist of candidates for the bench. The Government will retain the final vote in the selection process.

It is this lay majority and lay chair which most aggravates the judges.

Chief Justice Susan Denham met the then Taoiseach Enda Kenny late last year and followed up with a letter outlining her strong reservations about the proposed changes.

Last month the presiding judge of the Central Criminal Court, Mr Justice Patrick McCarthy, said Mr Ross’s proposals were “wrong in principle and in practice” and “will do long-term harm to the administration of justice because of the ill effects they will have upon the system of appointments.”