Irish Times view on the Judicial Appointments Bill
It is time to go back to the drawing board even if that provokes the resignation of Shane Ross
It is an open secret that many Fine Gael TDs and senators have serious concerns about the judicial appointments Bill but feel bound by the commitment to Ross included in the programme for government.
It is still not too late for the Government to scrap the ill-advised Judicial Appointments Bill being foisted on the country at the whim of Minister for Transport Shane Ross.
The Bill is bogged down in the Seanad because of a rearguard action led by former attorney general Michael McDowell. Ross has accused opposing Senators of representing vested interests “who will stop at nothing to frustrate democratic decisions” but they are entirely within their rights to use all available parliamentary means to scrutinise a deeply flawed piece of legislation.
It is an open secret that many Fine Gael TDs and Senators have serious concerns about the Bill but feel bound by the commitment to Ross included in the programme for government.
The main feature of the Bill is the replacement of the current Judicial Appointments Advisory Board with a new body designed specifically with an inbuilt majority of people with no legal experience.
Ross insists that this is designed to remove political interference from the appointment of judges but it will do no such thing. It will simply mean that the recommendations for appointment to the judiciary will be made by a body which does not have the necessary expertise or experience to make informed recommendations.
The final decision on appointments will still be made by the Government, as required by the Constitution, but it will be restricted to the candidates recommended by the new body.
There is certainly an argument for improving the judicial appointments process but this Bill was drafted on the basis of no serious research, analysis or international comparisons. Significantly, the Government has not proved that the current system has been producing bad judges, or that the system is as “rotten” as Ross claims.
It is about time that the Fine Gael majority in the Cabinet acted in the national interest and instructed Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan to go back to the drawing board. Such a move might provoke Ross to resign from Cabinet but so be it.