EU criticises judicial appointments Bill promoted by Shane Ross

Commission says legislation is not in line with European standards

Minister for Transport Shane Ross had threatened to block any judicial appointments until the Bill was progressed. Photograph: Eric Luke / The Irish Times

Minister for Transport Shane Ross had threatened to block any judicial appointments until the Bill was progressed. Photograph: Eric Luke / The Irish Times

 

The European Commission has expressed concern about the new legislation on judicial appointments, saying it is not in line with European standards.

The legislation, which is going through committee stage in the Oireachtas, has been strongly promoted by the Minister for Transport Shane Ross.

Last year, Mr Ross threatened to block any judicial appointments until the Bill was progressed, though he has consented to the appointment of several judges since then.

The envisaged composition of a new body for proposing judicial appointments raises concerns regarding the level of participation of the judiciary in that body

Now, however, the European Commission has raised concerns about the proposed Bill because it provides for insufficient input from the judiciary on the new body which will recommend candidates for appointment as judges.

In a country report on Ireland published on Wednesday, the commission says that the proposed legislation does not conform to standards which Ireland signed up to in 2010.

“The envisaged composition of a new body for proposing judicial appointments raises concerns regarding the level of participation of the judiciary in that body,” the commission says.

“The proposed composition of the Judicial Appointments Commission, which would comprise only three judges over 13 (including a lay chairperson accountable to the Oireachtas) would not be in line with European standards,” the report says.

‘Vested interests’

The commission also noted that the Bill was opposed by the Association of Judges in Ireland.

In response, Mr Ross told The Irish Times: “Until the commission understand the history of naked political appointment of judges in Ireland, they are unlikely to grasp the need for radical reform of the process.”

Ross resisted criticism, telling The Irish Times last year that 'vested interests rarely, if ever, welcome reform in their own area'

Though he holds the Minister for Transport brief, Mr Ross has championed reform of the way judges are appointed, often claiming that there was political bias in the selection of judges.

The legislation sets up a new process for appointing judges, with a new body given responsibility for recommending candidates to the Government for appointment. Mr Ross has insisted on a non-legal majority and a non-legal chair for the new body.

The proposed changes have been strongly resisted by the judiciary. However, Mr Ross resisted their criticism, telling The Irish Times last year that “vested interests rarely, if ever, welcome reform in their own area”.

Last year, Mr Ross blocked the appointment of new judges until progress was made on the Bill, but under an agreement with Fine Gael he relented and consented to new appointments on condition that progress was made on the Bill. It was last debated by the Justice Committee last month, but is making slow progress through the legislative process.