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Monday 27 February 2017

Judges salaries to be hit if new changes to the constitution are voted in

Sarah Stack

Sarah Stack

THE REFERENDUM on judges' pay would allow the Government to cut salaries in line with other public servants.

Justice Minister Alan Shatter recently revealed members would face pay cuts ranging from 16.3pc to 23.2pc.



The Chief Justice, Mrs Justice Susan Denham, is currently entitled to €295,916 but refused to take an increase in salary when appointed to the position in July. She, along with the other members of the Supreme Court, are paid €257,872 a year.



Elsewhere the president of the High Court is on €274,779, while a High Court judge is on €243,080. The president of the Circuit Court earns from €249,418, with judges on €177,554.



And the president of the District Court earns €183,894 euro, with a District Court judge's salary set at €147,961.



Changes to Article 35.5 of the constitution would also make members of the judiciary liable for the controversial Public Service Pension Levy, which hit the pockets of public sector workers last year.



The Referendum Commission said people need to listen to arguments for and against whether the change in law would impact on the independence of Ireland's justice system.



But judges are not allowed to publicly enter debate, raising fears of an unfair balance on the issue.



Chairman Dr Bryan McMahon, a retired High Court judge, stressed he could not advocate on one side or the other but said he did not think a decision would influence how judges work.



"In most people's eyes the guarantee that the judicial remuneration will not be reduced is one of the more significant guarantees of judicial independence," he said.



"I cannot see if this is passed, or whatever the outcome of it, that the judges below in the Four Courts in the next couple of days after will change their attitude to their jobs.



"They're not going to feel less independent."



A Yes vote would see a law passed to reduce the pay of judges proportionately if the pay of public servants is being or has been reduced and that reduction is stated to be "in the public interest".



Judges already pay tax, capital gains tax and the universal social charge the same as everyone else, but a Yes vote would allow for a law to be passed making judges subject to the Public Service Pension Levy and any other future similar charge or charges.



Latest figures show 125 of the state's 147 judges paid a voluntary pension levy last year, yielding €1.24m in taxes.





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