Minister 'disappointed' memo still on courts website

 

MINISTER FOR Justice, Equality and Defence Alan Shatter has said he is “disappointed” that a memorandum, in which judges criticise the Government’s approach to the proposed referendum on judicial pay, remains on the Courts Service website. The 12-page memo was posted on the main web page of courts.ie late last week.

It is understood the judiciary had earlier approached Attorney General Máire Whelan to see if there would be any problem with releasing the full document, elements of which had already been leaked, into the public domain, and Ms Whelan gave her assent.

According to sources, the judges decided that posting the memo on the courts.ie website was the best option available to ensure the public had full access.

Mr Shatter said the matter was brought to his attention on Friday.

“I was surprised to learn of [the] posting on this website which is essentially provided at State expense to facilitate the publication of court judgments and information about the courts and court services.

“I can confirm that I asked an official in my department to inform the chief executive of the Courts Service that I did not believe this posting to be appropriate. At all times, I was conscious that the Courts Service has an independent statutory role and it was ultimately for the Courts Service to determine what action to take.

“I am disappointed that this memorandum continues to be posted on the website,” Mr Shatter continued.

“I am not aware of any similar publication being posted in the past on the website of a Government department or a State agency in circumstances in which an issue arose concerning the salaries of individuals paid through such Government department or State agency.

“I believe that this event, which was not sanctioned by anyone associated with the Government, is most unfortunate and it remains my hope that corrective action will be taken.”

The Minister added that “unnecessary controversy” had arisen over the proposed referendum.

“This measure poses no threat of any nature whatsoever to judicial independence in that it is merely concerned with ensuring judicial salaries are treated in the same manner as the treatment of similar salaries across the public service,” he said.

“There is no question of the judiciary being treated differently from others or of being individually or collectively targeted either now or in the future. The measure is intended to ensure continued public respect for the judiciary and to remove any public perception that the judiciary are immune from the unprecedented economic and fiscal difficulties confronting the State which have impacted on the salaries of all who are paid out of the public purse.”

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin accused the Government of mishandling the issue. “The only reason this referendum is becoming controversial is because of an obsession by some in this Government with populist gestures which are spread through one-sided leaks,” he said.