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Tuesday 25 April 2017

Government stands firm on judges' pay referendum

Michael Brennan and Dearbhail McDonald

A referendum to cut judges' pay will be held, despite warnings from the judiciary that it could threaten their independence and Ireland's international standing.

Justice Minister Alan Shatter raised the issue at Cabinet yesterday after the judicial memo -- which also warned that the rule of law would be compromised -- had been covered extensively in the media.

A government spokesman confirmed the Cabinet had agreed that a referendum to allow it to reduce judges' pay would still go ahead.

And he said that there was not going to be a independent panel to decide on judges' pay -- which had been called for in the judicial memo.

"That is not the Government's intention at this point," he said.

Injustice

Yesterday senior counsel Maurice Gaffney, known as the "father of the bar", defended the independence of the legal profession and warned that there would be "chaos and injustice of all kinds" if the freedom of the bar and the rule of law -- which includes the independence of the judiciary -- was not protected.

Mr Gaffney (93) was speaking at the launch of the Bar Council's Archive Project, a collection of photos and other material, which was launched by retired Supreme Court judge Hugh Geoghegan.

The planned referendum comes as the Government is set to appoint a new Chief Justice.

Yesterday, Chief Justice John L Murray held a private lunch to celebrate his forthcoming retirement at the upmarket Dublin restaurant Chapter One.

The Government has repeatedly insisted that its plans to cut the pay and pensions of the country's 147 judges is not part of a move to single them out or threaten their independence.

But the relationship between the Government and the judiciary has been severely damaged by the prospect of a referendum on judges' pay which, combined with new caps on public pensions, has prompted many judges to fear that the judiciary is being singled out.

The referendum on judges pay, due to be held on the same day as the presidential election -- if passed -- will allow serving judges' pay to be reduced by 16pc for judges in the lower courts and up to 23pc for superior court judges.

New judges will face even steeper cuts.

Irish Independent

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