A SENIOR judge complained that the pay cuts suffered by those on the bench had been "enormous" – but a senior government minister has said it would be "inappropriate" for the judiciary to be exempt from pay cuts.
Members of the judiciary are some of the best-paid public servants in the country and enjoy salaries ranging from €2,400 to €4,000 per week.
Last July, the Government pressed ahead with reductions in salaries and pensions for higher-paid public servants, including the judiciary and former and current members of government.
The Government made the reductions in spite of the president of the Association of Judges of Ireland (AJI), Mr Justice Peter Kelly, complaining that judges were bearing the "heaviest burden" in the public sector through the "extraordinary" pay cuts they sustained.
Mr Justice Kelly – who receives a High Court judge salary of €191,306 even after last July's cuts – wrote to the Minister for Public Expenditure Brendan Howlin to express the association's concern over the Government's cuts.
In his letter, dated March 19, released through the Freedom of Information Act, Mr Justice Kelly wrote: "Members of the judiciary have borne reductions in take-home pay which are by any standards extraordinary.
"By way of concrete example, the current take-home pay of a High Court judge is 33pc less than in 2009.
"That is before the impact of the reduction recently announced which would bring the reduction to 38pc. A High Court judge appointed since 2012 takes home 45.5pc less than an equivalent judge was paid in 2009. Again, this is without taking account of a further reduction," he said.
"All of this does not take account of other recent changes which have had a much heavier impact upon judges than other members of the public service."
One month later, on April 16, the Chief Justice, Susan Denham announced the establishment of a new forum between the Government and judges with Mr Justice Kelly, representing the AJI, sitting on it.
However, Mr Howlin did not respond to Mr Justice Kelly's letter for four months, eventually replying on July 24
By that time, however, the Government had already pressed ahead with its salary reduction. In his letter, Mr Howlin pointed out that the cuts applied universally to higher paid public servants.