Report criticising judicial appointments Bill to be published

European body warns of need to ‘limit potential risks of improper influence’

The controversial Bill has been championed by Minister for Transport Shane Ross. Photograph: Alan Betson

The controversial Bill has been championed by Minister for Transport Shane Ross. Photograph: Alan Betson

 

Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan said a report by a European anti-corruption body which expresses concern about legislation on the appointment of judges, will be published on Thursday afternoon.

Mr Flanagan told Fianna Fail justice spokesman Jim O’Callaghan he will bring the Council of Europe report by Greco (Group of States against Corruption) to Cabinet this morning.

Once the Government gives its approval the report will be published. Elements of the document have been raised in both the Dáil and Seanad.

The Greco report calls on the Government to reconsider its plan to create a judicial appointments commission which has a lay majority and a non-legal chairperson on the grounds that it is not in line with European norms.

The report calls for the re-assessment “in order to limit potential risks of improper influence from the executive/political power over the appointment process to the judiciary”.

The controversial Bill has been championed by Minister for Transport Shane Ross but is being steered through the Oireachtas as a justice matter by Mr Flanagan.

In the Dáil this morning Mr O’Callaghan referred to the Government’s emphasis on its standing on the international stage in its bid to seek a non-permanent seat on the UN security council.

He said “hopefully he will also bring those principles to bear when the Cabinet is considering the Greco report”.

Mr Flanagan said “I would expect that that document will be published and will be available to the Deputy as early as possible after lunch. Then we will have an opportunity of resuming debate in the Seanad on this issue and hopefully back into this chamber before too long.”

The legislation had completed its passage through the Dáil and is currently before the Seanad where the report or late stage debate has to date taken over 12 hours with less than one quarter of the more than 100 amendments dealt with.

The Seanad is expected to sit next Monday to further consider the Bill. On Tuesday the Labour party unsuccessfully sought to have consideration of the Bill suspended until the report was published.

The report states “Greco has significant concerns about the composition of an appointments commission” which “would place judges in a clear minority position in favour of a strong lay representation (including the chairperson) accountable to parliament.

“This is not in line with European standards - which in situations where final judicial appointments are taken by the executive - calls for an independent authority drawn in substantial part from the judiciary to be recognised to make recommendations or opinions prior to such appointments”.