Flanagan warns of destabilising effect of Judicial Appointments Bill

Minister for Justice says Minister for Transport has his ‘boot on his neck’ over Bill

Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan: “I would like to see the Bill progressed. So would Shane.” Photograph: James Forde

Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan: “I would like to see the Bill progressed. So would Shane.” Photograph: James Forde

 

The slow passage of the legislation to reform the way judges are appointed, championed by Minister for Transport Shane Ross, through the Oireachtas could destabilise the Government, Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan has said.

Mr Flanagan did not say Mr Ross personally would destabilise the government, but rather the process of passing the legislation could. This was a reference to the handling of the legislation in the Seanad, which has seen some senators engage in filibuster tactics.

Mr Flanagan also said the Dublin Rathdown TD had his “boot on his neck” over the Judicial Appointments Bill. He made his comments at a meeting of the Fine Gael parliamentary party.

The Bill has been a priority demand of Mr Ross in Government. He has said he wanted to end what he has called political cronyism in judicial appointments by taking the decisions out of the hands of the judiciary and politicians, and transferring it to a new, independent appointments commission, comprising judges, legal professionals and lay people. Mr Ross has argued for a lay majority, a change that has been fiercely resisted by lawyers.

Mr Flanagan has sat through lengthy sessions of the Upper House as it debates the Bill, including 3½ hours on Tuesday night.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar this week asked Fine Gael Ministers to refrain from criticising Mr Ross, and numerous sources at the weekly meeting of the parliamentary party said Mr Flanagan did not do so.

Rather, they said he was critical of how the legislation was being handled in the Seanad.

Mr Flanagan told The Irish Times: “I would like to see the Bill progressed. So would Shane. It’s a Government Bill and we have had over 60 hours of circular debate. I have a number of priorities to be advanced. Some senators have openly lauded their own obstructionist tactics.”