Former legal adviser to Labour called to High Court
A former legal adviser to the Labour Party has been nominated for appointment to the High Court.
Senior Counsel Richard Humphreys, a former Labour party councillor and government special adviser in the 1990s, will be joined in the High Court by Senior Counsel Tony O'Connor, chairman of the Mental Health Tribunals.
Ms Justice Iseult O'Malley, appointed to the High Court three years ago, will be elevated to the Supreme Court.
Ms O'Malley is a sister of Finbarr O'Malley, a Labour policy adviser who later became special adviser to Pat Rabbitte when he was communications minister.
Judge O'Malley's elevation follows the recent retirement from the Supreme Court of former Chief Justice John L Murray.
The Superior Court nominations were agreed following yesterday's Cabinet meeting held at Lissadell House in Co Sligo.
The Government also agreed to nominate solicitor Miriam A Walsh and junior barrister John F Brennan to the District Court, arising from the retirement of Judge Sean MacBride and the elevation of Judge Sinéad Ní Chúlacháin to the Circuit Court. The Government has also agreed, in principle, to nominate junior barrister John Cheatle to fill the vacancy that will arise in the District Court from the pending retirement of Judge Mary Collins.
Mr Humphreys had been tipped to become Attorney General during the formation of the Fine Gael/Labour Coalition in 2011.
However, that role went to Senior Counsel Maire Whelan, a former financial secretary for the Labour Party, and Ireland's first female Attorney General.
Mr Humphreys was also mooted as a possible candidate for a new role of Deputy Attorney General; however, that new role did not ultimately emerge from the bilateral talks.
Last night, a Government source said that Mr Humphreys, Chairperson of the Statute Law Expert Advisory Group at the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform since 2013, was "eminently qualified" for the High Court. Mr Humphreys, who represented Sinn Féin twice in Constitutional challenges taken by Pearse Doherty TD, was nominated after his application was considered by the Judicial Appointments Advisory Board, the body set up in 1995 to depoliticise judicial appointments.
Mr Humphreys' nomination was warmly received in legal and political circles last night.
However, concern has been expressed that other senior lawyers are not seeking appointment to the bench because of cuts to pay and pensions and the fact that judges must now serve 20 instead of 15 years before they can draw down a full pension.
There are fears that Senior Counsels, particularly those with experience in constitutional and criminal law, are shunning the bench in favour of private practice.