New body to appoint judges on way ‘at earliest opportunity’

Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald says law and procedures need comprehensive research

 Fianna Fáil justice spokesman Jim O’Callaghan: says  that, of the proposed 12-member commission, only five would be from the judiciary. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

Fianna Fáil justice spokesman Jim O’Callaghan: says that, of the proposed 12-member commission, only five would be from the judiciary. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

 

The Government is to introduce legislation setting up a new commission to appoint judges “at the earliest opportunity’’, Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald has told the Dáil.

She said a judicial appointments commission would replace the Judicial Appointments Advisory Board and make recommendations to the Government for appointments.

It would also make longer-term contributions to the development of the system of judicial appointments, researching international practice, keeping selection processes under review and making recommendations.

“Review of the law and procedures in this area needs comprehensive research and consultation with the interested and affected people and groups,’’ the Tánaiste said.

Ms Fitzgerald said she had to be very conscious of the fact the judiciary and the courts, as the key organs of the justice system, were constitutionally independent in their operation.

“That is a very basic principle within which we must continue to work,’’ she said.

She said the focus was very much on the manner in which the selection, recommendation and appointment arrangements could be improved in a new and statutory framework.

Transparency

“The objective of that is to increase transparency, match best international practice and ensure that Ireland leads out on the guarantee of a highly effective and impartial judicial appointment system,’’ Ms Fitzgerald said.

The Tánaiste was responding to the Fianna Fáil Private Members’ Judicial Appointments Commission Bill, which has been accepted by the Government.

Fianna Fáil justice spokesman Jim O’Callaghan said Ireland was a small country and he thought it was important a body such as proposed in the Bill would seek to identify and headhunt people whom the commission believed would be good judges.

Mr O’Callaghan said that, of the proposed 12-member commission, only five would be from the judiciary. He thought it was important, however, that the individuals recommending persons for appointment to the bench should have an understanding of how the courts operated.

He said under the Constitution the entitlement to nomination still remained with the Government, so it was necessary to ensure any new body established conformed with that requirement.

“What we need is a body that makes recommendations and those recommendations must be taken seriously,’’ Mr O’Callaghan said.