A senior member of the judiciary has warned of the risk of judges becoming "politicised".
In a major address on European law, Supreme Court Judge Mr Justice John MacMenamin suggested that some very significant issues in the area of EU competence - such as the 'dividing line' between rights, duties and principles - have effectively been "left to the judges".
Delivering the annual Garrett Fitzgerald Lecture at Maynooth University last night, Judge MacMenamin said that questions could arise as to whether courts should make decisions, as opposed to politicians.
He warned a time may come when judges are asked to rule on major socio-economic issues that could bring the legitimacy of the courts into question.
"One can envisage a time when developments will be such as to ask judges in the future, perhaps 10 or 15 years away, to make determinations with profound socio economic consequences which courts at present are not always well placed to make," said Judge Mac Menamin.
"If this happens, questions may arise as to the power and, perhaps the legitimacy of courts to make such decisions in the absence of clearly established mandate," he added.
Judge MacMenamin referenced developments in the United States where members of the judiciary are becoming increasingly politicised by others and warned of the corrosive effect of judges there being 'labelled'.
"The consequence is that some [US] judges are now portrayed as political surrogates," he said in a wide ranging paper that examined citizenship, accession and the historical development of European law.
Judge MacMenamin said that the European Court of Justice (ECJ) had fulfilled a "critical part" in bringing about the changes which have been beneficial both for Ireland and Irish people on both sides of the border.
The judge said that the ECJ had gained widespread acceptance owing to a relationship of trust.