Monday 1 May 2017

Manners must be put on judges

WE are not in a good place when the judiciary begins to pose a problem to the good running of the State. It is nothing short of an abasement of Irish public life that, when it comes to their pensions, we must be put to the trouble and expense of a referendum to compel a set of judges, who appear to think they hold office in a similar manner to those medieval kings who ruled by divine right, to behave themselves.

Sadly, the reputation of our judiciary was further damaged last week by the revelation that Chief Justice John Murray had, at his first meeting with Taoiseach Enda Kenny, raised concerns held by judges over the impact of recent tax changes on their pensions. It is excessive to use words like seedy but anyone who recalls the era of Thomas Finlay would have felt queasy over a spectacle that bore far too close a resemblance to the exchanges a Taoiseach normally has with the Vintners Association.

Our judges have, courtesy of a shackled media and a cowed political class, acquired an increasingly sacerdotal hue. Like our former Catholic prelates, we are regularly told, in particular by our judges themselves, that they are no ordinary citizens. Our judiciary though should know that in all polities from the ECB to Machiavelli's Prince unbridled authority will, if it is not tempered by some form of accountability, eventually dawdle towards the seductive territories of self-interest.

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