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Sunday 17 November 2019

Pay cuts for judges stalled

Referendum needed to bring in salary reductions put on the 'long finger'

Fionnan Sheahan Political Editor

JUDGES will escape pay cuts for another year as the Government has put back the necessary legal changes for the reduction until some time in 2012.

Although Fine Gael is pushing plans to cut the wages of low-paid workers, proposals to allow the public to change the Constitution to inflict a first pay cut on judges are being dragged out. Despite drafting a law himself when he was in opposition to hold a referendum to allow the judiciary's pay to be cut, Justice Minister Alan Shatter now will not have the proposals ready in time for a vote on the same day as the presidential election, the Irish Independent understands.

Mr Shatter estimated last year that "judges have avoided €3m in public sector pay cuts" because of a constitutional barrier exempting them from wage reductions.

The judiciary has already made representations to the new Government about their pay and conditions and is regarded in political circles as a powerful lobby.

Fianna Fail said the delay in holding the referendum was another example of a "populist pre-election promise being long-fingered".

Taoiseach Enda Kenny confirmed last week the Government will hold a number of uncontroversial referenda on the day of the presidential election, including one which will give the Oireachtas greater powers of investigation and another to protect whistleblowers.

The referendum on children's rights is being deferred until next year, at the earliest, because it needs more legal work and is a highly sensitive issue.

But Mr Kenny made no mention of the referendum on judges' pay and Government sources say it is not expected this year.

As recently as January, Mr Shatter was demanding that the then government accept his legislation and hold a referendum on the matter.

Yet the minister now says the detail of the legislation required is "being considered further" by the Attorney General's office.

Fianna Fail justice spokesman Dara Calleary said Mr Shatter should explain why it can't be run in line with the presidential election.

"The judges' pay referendum was one of those populist platforms that made up Fine Gael's pre-election agenda. This is another example of a pre-election commitment being long-fingered after the election," he said.

Mr Shatter admits the two pay cuts imposed on the public sector have not been applied to judicial salaries.

"This has led to considerable disparities between judicial pay and that of other senior officeholders in the State with whom they would have been linked for pay determination purposes in the past," he told the Dail.

Irish Independent

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