Judicial appointments Bill passes in Dáil and now goes to Seanad

Sinn Féin joins with Fianna Fáil in voting down several Government amendments

After various amendments it transpired that the Dáil appointed 16 people to a 13-member commission. File photograph: The Irish Times

After various amendments it transpired that the Dáil appointed 16 people to a 13-member commission. File photograph: The Irish Times

 

The controversial legislation changing the way judges are appointed has been passed by the Dáil and now goes to the Seanad.

The Judicial Appointments Commission Bill was passed by 55 votes to 49 on Thursday. Sinn Féin supported the Government, while Fianna Fáil, which has a confidence and supply arrangement with the minority Coalition, voted against the Bill.

Earlier, Sinn Féin joined forces with Fianna Fáil in voting down several Government amendments moved by Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan.

The Bill, which has been sponsored by Minister for Transport Shane Ross within the Cabinet, proposes the setting up of a new body to recommend candidates for judicial appointments by the Government.

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

After the Bill’s passing, Mr Flanagan said he would need “a period of reflection” to reassess the legislation.

The Bill had a confused passage through the Dáil because of the passing of contradictory amendments.

One amendment, to increase the membership of the proposed commission from 13 to 17, failed to pass.

However, other amendments, to include the presidents of the Circuit and District Courts, as well as the Attorney General, on the proposed new body, were passed.

Wallace interjection

This meant the Dáil appointed 16 people to a 13-member commission.

Mr Flanagan said at the time the discrepancies and anomalies in the Bill could be dealt with by the Seanad.

The Bill’s final stages in the Dáil were marked by consideration of 105 amendments, leading to several votes.

During Thursday’s debate, Independent TD Mick Wallace said the House was making a “bollocks” of the legislation.

Fianna Fáil justice spokesman Jim O’Callaghan claimed there was a “incoherence and inconsistency” at the heart of the Government’s proposals.

Sinn Féin justice spokesman Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire said some of the commentary around lay members of the commission was unhelpful and ignored the reality of the high threshold that the lay appointees would have to reach.