President of the High Court Mr Justice Peter Kelly has been accused in the Dáil of high handedness over cancellation of the Kilkenny High Court personal injuries list.
Fianna Fáil TD John McGuinness questioned the efficiency of the judiciary in the management of cases and called for a business case to be made for the appointment of judges.
Mr McGuinness raised the issue in the Dáil after cancellation of the Kilkenny High Court civil personal injuries list until the new year because of a shortage of judges.
He said a Circuit Court list was also cancelled at very short notice “and the reason was also a shortage of judges”.
He asked if cancellation of the courts’ lists was “an effort by the judiciary to put pressure on the Minister [for Justice] to appoint even more judges”.
The Carlow-Kilkenny TD said he was aware of the separation of powers of the judiciary and legislature.
But he said this was not about separation of power but “about the management of time for judges, respecting the public and the citizens that all of us represent”.
And he added that “we should not be afraid to determine if its [the judiciary] giving value for money and if they’re needed”.
The Fianna Fáil TD said the president of the High Court informed the local bar association of the cancellation. But he claimed it was “high handed”.
The president of the court should have shown “a little bit more consideration for the citizens who have to appear before that court and he didn’t”.
The Carlow-Kilkenny TD said “a lot of people who are listed for a hearing have been waiting for years” and are “emotionally built up to go to court to have their case heard only to be told at short notice that it’s not going to happen”.
A shortage of judges?
He asked “is there a shortage of judges to the extent that these provincial courts have to be cancelled at the last minute? Is the court system so dysfunctional that they could not have arranged for matters to be dealt with differently?”
But replying for the Government, Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed said: "I'm not going to accept the deputy's invitation to trespass on matters germane to the judiciary or indeed his commentary about the business case."
Mr Creed said the principle of separation of powers is long established.
He said the High Court personal injuries list was cancelled because of a shortage of judges. All listed cases were adjourned to the next list in the new year and urgent cases could be considered for hearing in Dublin.
He said the issues in Kilkenny would be resolved following the appointment of five judges who will be sworn in on Friday.
Mr Creed said the Circuit Court was operating with a full complement of judges. Planned criminal and family law cases will be heard next week while all civil cases will be adjourned until early in the new year. An additional judge operating an ex-officio capacity would be sworn in on December 9th.