Clare Daly row: Judges call for setting up of judicial council

Request by Association of Judges in Ireland follows TD’s use of Dáil privilege

Clare Daly TD uses Dáil privilege to discuss a judge who had presided over a case in which she was involved.

 

The Association of Judges in Ireland (AJI) has called for the establishment of a judicial council following claims made against a member of the judiciary in the Dáil.

Independent TD Clare Daly used Dáil privilege to accuse a judge in Naas District Court of irrational behaviour and creating “huge problems” in the administration of justice.

Ms Daly’s statement has raised fresh concerns about the use of privilege by TDs to make allegations.

The association declined to comment on the specific claims made but said it did highlight the need for the judicial council to be set up.

Mr Justice John Edwards, secretary of the association, said in a statement: “The AJI considers that it would be inappropriate for it to comment on the circumstances of an individual case.

“However, in relation to Ms Daly’s more general criticism that no formal mechanism exists at present on foot of which a person can ventilate a complaint against a judge, the AJI supports in principle the recent call by the Chief Justice for the promulgation of a Judicial Council Bill in early course and for the establishment of a judicial council.”

Currently members of the public have no forum to make complaints about the judiciary. The judicial council has been promised for over 20 years but has yet to be legislated for.

Ms Daly outlined her concerns against a member of the judiciary in a speech in the Dáil on Wednesday evening.

‘Irrational decision’

Using privilege, she said Judge Desmond Zaidan had made an “irrational decision’’ by issuing a bench warrant for her arrest three weeks ago after she left the court, where she was due to appear to answer a case of speeding. She said she turned up in court with her solicitor but left when she saw a large number of people waiting for their cases to be heard before hers.

Ms Daly also alleged the judge “jumped” to her case and called her solicitor before the court to explain his client’s absence.

“I watched how the judge had dealt with the cases there before me, saw cases where people had not turned up on similar charges, did not have a solicitor on similar charges and no bench warrants or any proceedings were dealt with.

“I had to return to Naas District Court to listen to the same judge lecturing me about disrespecting his court without giving me an opportunity to say anything about his irrational decision.

Urgent need

“Our laws provide that nobody can do anything about that judge but he is causing huge problems with regard to the administration of justice given the inefficiency of the court sittings in his district. This needs to be radically reformed.’’

Ms Daly made the claims during a debate by Fianna Fáil proposing the setting-up of a judicial commission.

The party’s justice spokesman, Jim O’Callaghan, said there was a pressing need for a judicial council to be established. He said those who believe they have been subjected to judicial misconduct should be entitled to have their complaint considered.

“The most appropriate forum would be a judicial council established on a statutory basis,” said Mr O’Callaghan. “Such a council would benefit both the complaint and the judge, and would provide a mechanism for disciplining a judge where the complaint was upheld.”

Tánaiste and Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald has said the Government is prioritising the legislation for publication this Dáil term.

Personal experience

Green Party leader Eamon Ryan, meanwhile, said he was nervous of TDs mixing personal experience of the judicial system with their role of legislating.

Alleged abuse of Dáil privilege is the subject of a court case by businessman Denis O’Brien and former Rehab head Angela Kerins.

If members of the public have concerns about TDs’ use of their privilege, complaints are made to the Committee on Procedures, which is chaired by the Ceann Comhairle Séan Ó Fearghaíl.

The committee is not due to meet for a number of weeks.