Retired judge could chair judicial appointments body, says FF

Party claims it is willing to compromise on measures in the Judicial Appointments Bill

Fianna Fáil spokesman on justice Jim O’Callaghan had previously insisted the Chief Justice should chair the new Judicial Appointments Commission. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Fianna Fáil spokesman on justice Jim O’Callaghan had previously insisted the Chief Justice should chair the new Judicial Appointments Commission. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

 

Fianna Fáil has proposed the appointment of a retired judge to chair the new Judicial Appointments Commission in a proposed compromise with the Government.

Over 190 amendments have been tabled to the Judicial Appointments Bill, which is to be debated at the Oireachtas committee on justice on Wednesday.

The legislation allows for a lay chair and a lay majority on a new 11-member board to oversee the appointments of members of the judiciary.

The initiative was first proposed by the Minister for Transport Shane Ross during the Government formation discussions.

Fianna Fáil spokesman on justice Jim O’Callaghan had insisted the Chief Justice should chair the commission and stressed Fianna Fáil would vote against the Government legislation if this was not accepted.

However, in a series of amendments tabled, Mr O’Callaghan has proposed the appointment of a retired High Court, Supreme Court or Court of Appeal judge as chairperson.

Mr O’Callaghan said it remained his belief that the Chief Justice should chair the board but stressed the need to find a compromise.

Solution

He added: “The Government has not accepted our position that the Chief Justice should be the chair, so we are trying to identify a solution to the difficulties.

“If you look at the calibre of retired judges, for example Catherine McGuinness or Mary Laffoy, you cannot think of persons more capable for the role.”

A spokesman for Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan declined to comment on whether he was willing to accept the amendment.

Sinn Féin, which is supporting the Government legislation, said it is content with a lay chair and will not be supporting the amendment by Fianna Fáil.

Independents4Change TD Mick Wallace stressed he and colleague Clare Daly, who are members of the committee, wanted the commission to choose its own chair.

Asked if they would be willing to accept the Fianna Fáil proposal, Mr Wallace said they would be guided by the discussion at the meeting.

Lay persons

Mr O’Callaghan also proposes the six lay persons are appointed by individual bodies including the Citizens Information Board; the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission; the Free Legal Advice Centres and the Top Level Appointments Commission.

The Government legislation allows for the Public Appointments Service to make the appointments, but Fianna Fáil believes this is a layer of unnecessary bureaucracy.

Sinn Féin also believes there should be greater diversity in the selection of the lay persons.

The party’s justice spokesman Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire is also proposing the Minister for Justice provide a written response if he fails to accept the advice of the commission.