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Wednesday 7 December 2016

Brother of bank chief lobbied for top EU judge role

Coalition to review appointment rules

Dearbhail McDonald Legal Editor

Published 04/07/2011 | 05:00

A BROTHER of the governor of the Central Bank lobbied former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and the late Brian Lenihan for a key judicial role in Europe with an annual salary of €228,000.

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Ed Honohan -- the brother of current Central Bank governor Patrick Honohan -- wanted to become Ireland's judge at the European Court of First Instance (ECFI).

Last night, the Government admitted there was nothing to stop lobbying for judicial appointments for the bench here or in Europe.

But added it would immediately review the situation.

The revelation that Mr Honohan lobbied for the post comes when there are a host of senior judicial roles to be filled including Chief Justice, two High Court vacancies and three Circuit Court roles.

"There is currently no ban on people expressing an interest in being appointed to these positions," a spokesperson for Taoiseach Enda Kenny said.

"Indeed as there was no formal application process in place, interested candidates would have had no other means of making their interest known.

"The Minister for Justice has asked his department to examine the judicial appointments procedure."

The revelation comes as the Government continues to clash with the judiciary over pay.

The country's top judge, Chief Justice John Murray, has warned the Coalition on its plans to hold a referendum on judges' pay.

The Government plans to hold a referendum on the same day as the presidential election to change the Constitution and allow judges' pay to be cut.

But Mr Justice Murray has told the Government the proposed referendum was "fundamentally deficient" and would compromise "judicial independence".

In 2008, the position that Ed Honohan wanted at the ECFI -- a branch of the European Court of Justice that is now known as the General Court -- came with a €19,000 monthly salary including a €500-a-month official dining entitlement.

It ultimately went to High Court Judge Kevin O'Higgins. Mr Honohan remains Master of The High Court.

Mr Honohan, who has been friends with Mr Ahern since the 1970s, stated in a letter to the then-Taoiseach in April 2008 there could be difficulties with perception because he had been friends and acquaintances "with many" in the then Government.

Political

Mr Honohan said that it would be "political correctness" taken to a short-sighted extreme if he was discounted because of his political affiliations.

"Is it at all conceivable that the fact that I have been a long-time member of Fianna Fail might be allowed to weigh against me in the balance?" he asked Mr Ahern, who never replied to the letter.

"To put it crudely, Taoiseach, I am not a 'boy' looking for a 'job' in the sense of 'jobs for the boys'," he said in the letters that have been released under the Freedom of Information acts.

A large number of judicial positions are expected to open shortly.

A new Supreme Court judge will be unveiled later this month, and two Supreme Court judges are also set to retire early next year and another is eligible to retire but has the option of remaining for another two years.

Irish Independent

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