Judges prepared to make voluntary payment - Cowen

 

TAOISEACH BRIAN Cowen said he believed that members of the judiciary would make a voluntary contribution in lieu of a pension levy.

Mr Cowen said things had moved on, and the fact that the Chief Justice, Mr Justice John Murray, had been in touch with the Revenue Commissioners, providing for a scheme whereby his colleagues could arrange for a voluntary contribution of the order required, was to be welcomed.

“And it enables the judiciary to make that contribution . . . and I believe they will do so,” he added.

Mr Cowen rejected a call by Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny that the Government ignore the advice of the Attorney General (Paul Gallagher) on the matter.

Mr Kenny said that the Cabinet should thank the AG for his advice and indicate it was now deciding that the levy was in the common good of all of the people who were public sector workers.

It would be deemed to be a pension levy, and not a pay cut, as per the constitutional issue.

When Mr Cowen suggested that Mr Kenny had taken “five sides of the argument”, the FG leader said he was on the side of the proposal that judges pay the levy.

Mr Cowen said that the position of the AG was clear.

“He is the adviser to the Government on the Constitution and legal matters generally,” said the Taoiseach

“It is not open to the Government to act in a way that it is advised would not be in line with the Constitution.

“That is a pretty basic procedure of government. The advice was based on the case law and the clear wording of the Constitution itself.”

Mr Cowen said that the judiciary and the AG were ad idem in their interpretation of the Constitution.

Mr Kenny said that the Government should at least publish the AG’s advice.

He asked on what grounds had the Government made a political decision, to exclude judges from paying the levy, when almost 300,000 other public workers had to pay it.

Some of those affected were now having to live on less than €100 a week after all contibutions were made, he added.

Mr Kenny said that while welcoming the Chief Justice’s comments, he believed that the Taoiseach and the Government had put the judiciary in a very particular position through no fault of its own.

He said that he respected the constitutional position relating to the reduction of judges’ pay.

“And I respect the fact, and it is very necessary, that they be seen to be independent from the executive,” he added.

“That is as it should be. However, the fact of the matter is that almost 300,000 public servants are being told that this is not a pay cut but is a pension levy.” He said that the advice of the Attorney General was only that . . . it was only advice.

Moreover, political leadership, either from the Taoiseach, the Minister or the Government, had to make a judgment.

In the past, such advice, although not from the current AG, had been deemed to be invalid before the Supreme Court, he added.

Mr Kenny said that the introduction of the levy was a result of a political decision, made in the common good.