Judges tell Shatter their 'voices will be heard' in shake-up of appointments
THE body representing more than nine out of 10 of the country's judges says it will assert the right of judges to "have their voices heard" under new plans to reform judicial appointments.
The Association of Judges of Ireland (AJI) says it will file submissions to a new consultation process initiated by Justice Minister Alan Shatter.
Last night, Mr Shatter announced a consultation process on the system of judicial appointments.
At present, judges are appointed to the bench by the President on the advice of the Government which receives a list of candidates vetted by the Judicial Appointments Advisory Board (JAAB).
However, the Government has been accused of having too much control over the appointment of judges, despite the establishment of the JAAB which was designed to depoliticise the judicial appointment process.
The Government is not obliged to accept the recommendations of the board.
Mr Shatter, who has been on a collision course with judges over cuts to pay and pensions, is pressing ahead with the consultation.
This is despite the fact that a long-awaited Judicial Council has yet to be formalised or placed on a statutory footing.
Instead, the AJI will submit its views on behalf of the judiciary.
"As a representative body representing over 90pc of the judiciary we will be asserting our right to be heard in this consultation process, and will be putting forward our views," said High Court judge Mr Justice John Edwards, secretary of the AJI.
"We don't wish to make any further comment at this time," he added.
Two years ago, the Irish Independent revealed that one-third of the country's judges had personal or political connections to political parties before being appointed to the bench.
Mr Shatter, who next week will bring final amendments to the Cabinet on the Legal Services Regulation Bill, said he would like to encourage public debate on elements of reform that should be considered in the public interest with regard to how we go about appointing judges.
"While the JAAB process was a model of best practice in its day, it seems to me that it would be worthwhile now to review the operation of the judicial appointments system to ensure it reflects current best practice, that it is open, transparent and accountable and that it promotes diversity," said Mr Shatter.
Mr Shatter added that any changes advocated must be capable of implementation within the current relevant provisions of the Irish Constitution.