Saturday 24 February 2018

Ross wants strict rules on selecting judges for EU courts

Transport Minister Shane Ross. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins
Transport Minister Shane Ross. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins
Philip Ryan

Philip Ryan

Transport Minister Shane Ross is set to cause a fresh headache for Fine Gael by demanding the introduction of strict new rules for appointing judges to EU courts.

The latest demand from the Independent Alliance minister follows the appointment of a third individual linked to Fine Gael to a six-figure job in an EU post within the past two years.

Since taking office, Mr Ross has attempted to block the appointment of all judges until the enactment of legislation that would overhaul the judicial appointment system.

The freeze has resulted in a number of key positions being left unfilled at a time when the courts are experiencing a major backlog in cases.

However, Tánaiste and Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald has convinced him to permit a small number of essential appointments.

But now, Mr Ross is insisting on introducing new legislation which will "tighten up" the process of appointing judges to lucrative roles on EU courts.

Mr Ross plans to include amendments to his judicial appointments legislation which will specifically deal with the EU courts.

"We will be introducing legislation at committee stage to ensure that appointments to EU courts are independent and robust in keeping with pan-European standards," Mr Ross told the Irish Independent.

Fianna Fáil justice spokesman Jim O'Callaghan, who is opposed to Mr Ross's judicial appointments bill, said he would examine the minister's proposals on the EU courts.

Last weekend, it emerged that a former Fine Gael general election candidate and sitting High Court judge, Justice Colm Mac Eochaidh, had been appointed to a €260,000 job in the EU General Court.

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 June 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.

Mr Mac Eochaidh was selected for the position by an independent panel consisting of High Court Judge John D Cooke, Attorney General Office deputy director Richard Barrett and retired ambassador Marie Cross.

The appointment was signed off on by Cabinet on December 20 but only announced on the second last day of the year after the 'Sunday Independent' contacted the Department of the Taoiseach.

Mr Ross said he would not question Justice Mac Eochaidh's credentials for the job but said the appointment showed the need to take the process away from politicians.

Irish Independent

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