Judicial appointments law is ‘vanity project’ for Shane Ross, Seanad hears

Minister says he is pleased Upper House accepts change needed to way judges appointed

Minister for Transport Shane Ross singled out Independent Senator Michael McDowell, who has been a vocal opponent of the measures. Photograph: Alan Betson

Minister for Transport Shane Ross singled out Independent Senator Michael McDowell, who has been a vocal opponent of the measures. Photograph: Alan Betson

 

Legislation to reform the manner in which judges are appointed has passed second stage in the Seanad.

The Judicial Appointments Bill, which has been championed by Minister for Transport Shane Ross, is now expected to pass all stages next week.

In response, Mr Ross said he was very pleased the Upper House had accepted the necessity to change the way judges are appointed.

Speaking to The Irish Times, the Minister singled out Senator Michael McDowell, who has been a vocal opponent of the measures.

“I fully understand why barrister Michael McDowell has opposed this reform with such consistency but I am sure he accepts it is generally acknowledged that the present situation of vested interests has got to end.

“I am sure he and others from the Bar Library will be able to adjust to a new system of choosing the judiciary.”

The Bill sets up a new process for appointing judges, with a new body given responsibility for recommending candidates to the Government.

Mr Ross has insisted on a non-legal majority and a non-legal chair for the new body.

It is opposed by Fianna Fáil and members of the judiciary, who believe the Chief Justice should be the chair of the commission.

The Bill was criticised in the Seanad by Mr McDowell and Senator David Norris, who called it a “vanity project for Minister Ross” and claimed Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan had been “ blackmailed into this” by Mr Ross.

Labour Senator Ivana Bacik also claimed the Bill was “a populist crusade by a particular member of Government, the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Ross”.

Mr McDowell did not oppose the Bill’s passage at second stage but warned he would be making amendments at committee stage.

“I make this gesture on the basis that I hope that this House will live up to its constitutional responsibilities to examine this legislation very carefully and not be bullied, bounced or blackmailed by one tail wagging the governmental dog, but make up its own mind on what it considers to be the right thing to do in respect of the appointment of judges from now on,” he said.