Thursday 8 December 2016

Judicious wording of the Constitution

Published 03/05/2011 | 07:41

FOR obvious and sound reasons, the wording of constitutions are, as a general rule, carefully crafted and multiple drafts will often be worked through until the final distillation is presented to the voters.

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The Irish Constitution is no exception and Article 35.5 specifies that "the remuneration of a judge shall not be reduced during his continuance in office". The distinct reference to 'a judge' was, it is reasonable to assume, to ensure that a government could not apply financial pressure on one if they were uncomfortable with his/her rulings.

If the drafters of the Constitution had intended an overarching application of the principle to all judges, the article would be simply phrased in a manner that would cite 'the judiciary' and not 'a judge'. The clarity of the wording begs the question as to how has this been interpreted by the Attorney General to mean all members of the judiciary. It is a commonsense question because of the unequivocal wording of the article. Would it be possible to get a clear and commonsense answer to this question before more money is expended on a referendum on 'judges' pay'?

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