Shane Ross’s judges Bill a ‘dog’s dinner’, claims Attorney General

Séamus Woulfe says Opposition amendments make it ‘challenge’ to pass Bill

 Minister for Transport Shane Ross is  demanding that the Judicial Appointments Commission Bill be progressed soon. Photograph:  Gareth Chaney Collins

Minister for Transport Shane Ross is demanding that the Judicial Appointments Commission Bill be progressed soon. Photograph: Gareth Chaney Collins

 

A Bill championed by Minister for Transport Shane Ross to reform the way judges are appointed has become a “complete dog’s dinner”, the Attorney General has said.

Séamus Woulfe said it would now be a “challenge” to ensure the Judicial Appointments Commission Bill proceeds through the Oireachtas because it has been subject to so many amendments from the Opposition.

Mr Ross is demanding that the Bill, one of his priorities in Government, be progressed soon, although it is viewed as unnecessary by most in Fine Gael.

The Bill has also been opposed by Fianna Fáil and others in the Dáil, although Sinn Féin has broadly backed the thrust of the Bill.

Mr Ross met Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan on the issue this week, following the Independent Alliance Minister’s latest warning that he would not stand over the appointment of more judges under the current system.

The warning came at the same Cabinet meeting where the Government appointed three new judges.

Speaking at a lunch hosted by the Association of European Journalists in Dublin on Friday, Mr Woulfe said the Bill had become mired in difficulties.

It was initially intended the Attorney General would sit on the new Judicial Appointments Commission proposed by Mr Ross, but this was changed by the Opposition at committee stage.

He said the Opposition decided “to knock the Attorney out” of the process but argued he had an important role in judicial appointments in terms of being a link person between the Bar and knowing the candidates and the judges.

“The whole myriad amendments that they made now make the Bill a complete dog’s dinner at the moment because a number of amendments were contradictory and inconsistent and unconstitutional,” he said.

“Therefore, that makes it a challenge to get the Bill to report stage, very soon. I’m sure under our new politics, a deal will be done.”

The Bill has also faced widespread Opposition from judges and the legal profession and Mr Woulfe joked that relations between the Government and the judiciary were “going brilliantly at the moment and everything is very smooth”.