Tuesday 24 October 2017

New Chief Justice won't accept €38,000 pay increase for top job

Dearbhail McDonald Legal Editor

IRELAND's new Chief Justice will not accept the €38,000 pay increase that comes with her new role.

Mrs Justice Susan Denham (65), Ireland's first female Chief Justice, will retain her salary as an ordinary judge of the Supreme Court.

Her predecessor in the role, Mr Justice John Murray, whose seven-year term ended last Friday, earned €295,916 a year.

Supreme Court judges earn €257,872 and Mrs Justice Denham will maintain her current salary despite her promotion.

It is understood she has, in line with other superior court judges, already taken a voluntary pay cut in lieu of the controversial 2009 public sector pension levy.

Ireland's judges are facing a hostile referendum on reducing their pay.

Judges' pay cannot be cut during their term of office, but the planned October referendum -- which is expected to be passed overwhelmingly -- will see their pay fall in line with that of other public servants.


Following a brief ceremony in Aras an Uachtarain yesterday, Mrs Justice Denham attempted to play down the ongoing controversy surrounding judges' pay. She insisted the judiciary was not, and never had been, opposed to a referendum on judges' pay.

Mrs Justice Denham, who was formally appointed to her new position by President Mary McAleese, said judges were not immune from the effects of the economic crisis.

"Judges are not, nor have they ever been, opposed to playing their part in sharing the financial pain required of everyone in this difficult time," she said.

She said members were aware of the current crisis as the effects of the financial storm came before the courts every day. "A trail of tragedy, fraught families, separating spouses, lost jobs, homes under siege, serious financial woes, companies being wound up, and stories of millions and billions of euros lost in the ether," she said.

"In these areas, as in all others, it is critically important that judges administer justice and give an independent decision. Judges are not immune from the effects of the economic crisis.

"In particular, the judiciary has never opposed, and does not oppose, a referendum."

Mrs Justice Denham made the constitutional declaration in the presence of Mrs McAleese, her husband Dr Brian Denham, Taoiseach Enda Kenny, Attorney General Maire Whelan and Justice Minister Alan Shatter.

The Chief Justice said it was important that the branches of government retained their integrity and strength and worked together for the benefit of Ireland during the financial crisis. She called for the development of a Judicial Council in Ireland and a Court of Appeal to deal with the growing number of complex cases coming before the Supreme Court and the Court of Criminal Appeal.

Elsewhere, Mrs Justice Denham said judges should refrain from engaging in matters of public controversy or political debate.

Irish Independent

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