THE Catholic Archbishop of Dublin has warned against undermining the independence of judges.
Dr Diarmuid Martin also appealed to all involved in the administration of justice to strive to ensure justice is available to all, not just those with "elevated" financial means.
Dr Martin also stressed anti-social behaviour is, for many people, the expression of other problems including mental health problems.
There must be an "urgent social and political response" to the high proportion of men and women who are returned to a prison system unable to address their problems, he said.
He called for a wider concept of truth beyond that of technology and science, arguing breach of the truth of trust and loyalty "is at the root of our economic challenges". All of us must act with a truth which is "not a self-centred ideology" but founded on a care and respect for the truth of the other.
He made the remarks in his homily at the annual mass held at St Michan's Roman Catholic Church in Dublin to mark the opening of the new legal year. The congregation at yesterday's mass included the Papal Nuncio, Archbishop Charles Brown, and senior members of the judiciary from Northern Ireland, England and Scotland as well as judges from the Supreme and High Courts here.
In his homily, Archbishop Martin focused on the themes of truth, unity and equality and their importance for fostering social harmony.
The right administration of justice is "a fundamental pillar of democracy" and our common sharing in, and respect for society. When dysfunctionality enters into the administration of justice, that has "degenerative effects" on the fabric of society.
"The independence of the judicial system is the first institution which is undermined by totalitarian or corrupt systems and the undermining of the independence of the judicial system is often the destruction of the final pillar which sustains democracy and freedom."
Equality was not an isolated concept and justice "has to seek a sense of equity which ensures that the balance of justice is something that can be attained by all, especially those whose opportunity and access to power may be weakest."
Justice must also work to ensure legitimate claims "do not result in a litigiousness which damages the unity of society".
In his sermon on the opening day of the law term, the Church of Ireland Bishop of Tuam, Killala and Achonry, the Rt Revd Patrick Rooke said qualities of mercy and humility can co-exist with the pursuit of justice.
In the Church of Ireland St Michan's in Dublin, Revd Rooke told a congregation of mainly lawyers and judges, including Chief Justice Susan Denham, that doing justice does not negate human compassion.
"'Winning your case' may bring you satisfaction at one level but does not mean that you are unaware of the sadness of the situation or indeed the mess that people can make of the lives they have been given," he said.
The bishop said while the job of those in the legal profession is to fight and achieve justice, it is "also about respecting human beings, showing kindness and acting out Christ-like humility in your endeavours."