Judicial responsibility cuts both ways


Sir, – What a sanctimonious speech Mr Justice Donal O’Donnell gave to the Bar Council conference recently (“Judges are easy target of populism, warns Chief Justice designate”, News, June 16th).

If the role of the judiciary is more contentious nowadays, the judiciary should examine its own behaviour before displacing responsibility toward those amorphous populists. The judicial system in our legal tradition is intended to be separate from politics. However, judicial independence is supposed to work both ways.

It is neither acceptable nor normal for a sitting Supreme Court judge to participate in a political process which might lead to the amendment of the Constitution, as Ms Justice Mary Laffoy did when she chaired the Citizens’ Assembly as it considered the Eighth Amendment while serving on the Supreme Court (“Justice Mary Laffoy to chair citizens’ assembly on abortion”, News, July 27th, 2016).

Nor is it acceptable and normal for a High Court judge to unburden himself of the opinion that Ireland should rejoin the Commonwealth in an article in The Irish Times, as Mr Justice Richard Humphreys did (“Why the Republic must consider rejoining the Commonwealth”, Opinion & Analysis, August 24th, 2018).

And Mr Justice John MacMenamin and the Association of Judges of Ireland were wrong to think it appropriate for him to protest against the domestic policies of a foreign government (“Warsaw protest over judicial independence was ‘humbling’”, News, June 13th, 2020).

The judiciary wields immense power over the liberty and property of the people and the other branches of government.

It is right that it is held to critical scrutiny. – Yours, etc,



Co Wexford.