Sunday 25 February 2018

More staff for body set up to appoint judges

Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald. Photo: Tom Burke
Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald. Photo: Tom Burke
Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

The Government is set to row back on a commitment to slim down the number of people involved in making recommendations for judicial appointments.

The new Judicial Appointments Commission (JAC) will have 13 members - one more than the organisation it is to replace.

That's despite a pledge in the Programme for Government that it would have fewer members than the existing Judicial Appointments Advisory Board (JAAB).

Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald is expected to bring the Judicial Appointments Commission Bill to Cabinet today.

Independent Alliance Minister Shane Ross has led the charge for reforms to the system of appointing judges, demanding an independent body with a lay majority led by an individual outside the legal profession.

The JAC's numbers are to be increased to 13 - from a previously planned 11 - to allow for three senior judges, rather than two, to become members.

The chief justice and the presidents of the High Court and Court of Appeal are all to sit on the new commission.

An extra lay person is also to be added to maintain a majority of members outside the legal profession.

The new JAC will be limited to providing Cabinet with three recommendations per judicial vacancy, rather than the minimum of seven currently required. This is designed to limit Cabinet discretion and lessen the opportunity for politically motivated appointments.

Speaking to reporters before details of the extra members for the JAC emerged, Mr Ross hailed the Bill that's to be brought to Cabinet today. "We're going to change the system so radically that it will be almost unrecognisable."

He added that the new independent body would take "the appointment of judges almost out of the political arena".

Last week the Government approved the nomination of a number of new judges recommended by the JAAB, including some with links to Fine Gael.

Irish Independent

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