Former FG candidate lands €260,000 job at EU court
Cabinet nominates Justice Mac Eochaidh, but Ross says appointment highlights need for reform
Taoiseach Enda Kenny has nominated a former Fine Gael general election candidate for a €260,000-a-year taxpayer funded job in the European Union justice system, the Sunday Independent can reveal.
High Court judge Colm Mac Eochaidh, who was Tanaiste and Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald's running mate in the 2002 General Election, has been nominated by the Cabinet to represent Ireland on the EU General Court.
Justice Mac Eochaidh's nomination was approved at the last Cabinet meeting before the Dail recess after he was selected by an independent panel of experts - a process that was agreed between Fine Gael and Independent Alliance.
The nomination was only published on the Department of the Taoiseach's website on Friday after the Sunday Independent asked if Justice Mac Eochaidh had been selected by the Government for the lucrative role.
It is understood that Transport Minister Shane Ross, who has led the charge on judicial appointment reform, was told about the nomination just before the last Cabinet meeting but was absent when the issue was discussed as he was speaking in the Seanad.
Yesterday, Mr Ross said he was "not questioning'' the credentials of Justice Mac Eochaidh but said the judge's nomination "underlines the need to urgently remove all judicial appointments from political influence".
"We lifted the freeze on urgent cases and Fine Gael said this was an urgent case," Mr Ross added.
However, Labour Party TD Alan Kelly said there was a "pattern emerging" of people linked to Fine Gael being appointed to senior EU positions and called on Minister Ross to raise questions about the selection process.
"If Shane Ross was still a journalist he would be asking these questions. Perhaps he might now be prepared to provide some answers," he said.
Last year, the Taoiseach's economic adviser Andrew McDowell was appointed as vice-president of the European Investment Bank, which comes with a €275,000-a-year salary plus expenses. In 2015, former Fine Gael senator Eugene Regan was appointed as a judge of the Court of Justice of the European Union on a €250,000-a-year salary.
The highly-paid judicial role that Justice Mac Eochaidh applied for was advertised earlier this year and 10 people applied after Brussels decided to double the number of judges sitting in the EU General Court. The Government established an expert panel to choose an Irish judge for the plum job which comes with a €554-a-month allowance for entertainment and the reimbursement of all travel expenses.
EU General Court judges are paid a basic salary of €229,268, along with a residence allowance worth 15pc of their annual wage, which equates to an additional €34,000. Before he takes up the role, Justice Mac Eochaidh will have to go before an EU interview panel which will make the final decision on the appointment.
The judge is well respected in both legal and political circles.
In 1995, the then barrister, along with environmentalist Michael Smith, paid for an advertisement in the Irish Times offering a £10,000 reward for any information relating to planning corruption.
The information they received led to the establishment of the long-running Mahon Tribunal which exposed planning corruption and corrupt payments by developers to politicians
In 2012, Justice Mac Eochaidh, was appointed to the High Court by the Fine Gael/Labour Party coalition after serving as a senior counsel for three years.