Tuesday 26 September 2017

Justice is not blind on how judges are appointed

Justice Minister Alan Shatter, and Chief Justice Susan Denham. 'The present system of selection has by and large, served us well'. Damien Eagers
Justice Minister Alan Shatter, and Chief Justice Susan Denham. 'The present system of selection has by and large, served us well'. Damien Eagers

Charles Lysaght

The practice by which governments appoint judges largely from the ranks of their political supporters was inherited from pre-independence Ireland. While it has long been abandoned in Britain and Northern Ireland it remains a feature of our legal system.

While it was the predominant practice it was never universal. The early governments of the State were anxious to show fairness to the Protestant ex-unionist minority and judges were appointed from this community who had no party political allegiance. The appointment of a number of Jewish judges was further evidence of a desire that minorities should be represented in the institutions of State.

From 1932 to 1973, when Fianna Fail was in office for all except six years, the vast bulk of judicial appointments were from the ranks of their supporters. As the party was not well supported in the legal profession, especially among barristers, this reduced the choice considerably and so was not conducive to the best appointments.

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