Sir, – For much of August and September, ethics in public office was to the forefront of political coverage in Ireland, peaking with the resignation of a minister of state.
Imagine if during that time a TD had opined that the Dáil register of interests should be abolished as its existence could, hypothetically, act as a disincentive to those who would wish to seek public office.
Yet, as Dr Cahillane points out (“Appointment of attorney generals directly to bench must stop”, Opinion & Analysis, October 5th), discomfort with ethics in public office appears to be the excuse used by politicians to block a short cooling-off period for attorneys general after they leave that office and before applying for appointment to judicial office.
The office of attorney general is prestigious and well-paid, and so the question must be asked: if a highly-qualified individual who wishes to take up the office of attorney general would be put off seeking that office by a requirement that they would not be able to step directly on to a judge’s bench, are they the right person for the job?
Shouldn’t the attorney general want to hold that office for the value it carries, rather than viewing it as a mere stepping stone to the benches of the High Court, Court of Appeal or Supreme Court?
Dr Cahillane is right to call out the glaring flaw in the system of attorneys general stepping from that office straight on to the benches of the superior courts.
A cooling-off period would go some significant way towards denting the public perception that judicial appointments of former attorneys general is a political act intended to reward party loyalists. – Yours, etc,