Irish judiciary among best paid in Europe
Ireland's judiciary remains among the best paid in Europe despite the introduction four years ago of reduced pay levels for new appointees and salary cuts for existing judges.
A Council of Europe study involving 47 countries said Ireland, along with the UK and Norway, had the best remunerated judges both at the beginning and end of their careers.
The European Commission for the Efficiency of Justice study said this was a consequence of the appointment of professional judges from among the most experienced and renowned lawyers.
In contrast, pay levels in countries with other systems for appointing judges were considerably lower.
Pay changes introduced following the judicial pay referendum in 2011 saw the salary of a newly-appointed Supreme Court judge set at €178,608, High Court judge at €168,000, Circuit Court judge at €127,908 and District Court judge at €111,698.
Ireland was one of six countries in the survey which picked legal professionals with long-term experience as judges.
In contrast, 16 States used a competitive examination in the ordinary process for recruitment of judges, 15 used a combination of both systems, while 19 countries used other procedures.
In countries where examinations were used, the entry age of new judges was much lower than in Ireland.
Outside of the three top paying nations, the study found judicial pay rates varied wildly.
Of these nations the highest paid Supreme Court judges were in Cyprus (€136,756) and Israel (€136,070).
But at the other end of the scale, Supreme Court judges in Albania were paid just €14,964, while several other countries also paid a fraction of the levels seen in Ireland, the UK and Norway. These included a Supreme Court salary of €29,217 in Bulgaria, €35,060 in Hungary, €42,916 in Slovakia and €56,005 in the Czech Republic.
The report noted judicial system budget cuts had been extended in recent years in Ireland, Portugal and Spain.
It said legal aid budgets in Ireland, Austria, Slovenia and Turkey had also been in steady decline since 2010.
Ireland's legal aid budget slumped from €87.4m in 2010 to €80.1m in 2014, the study found.