Sunday 17 February 2019

Attorney General back in the fold under new plans

Attorney General Seamus Woulfe
Attorney General Seamus Woulfe
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan plans to reinstate the Attorney General as a key player in the selection of new judges when legislation on appointments comes back before the Dáil.

Mr Flanagan and Transport Minister Shane Ross met yesterday to discuss the controversial Judicial Appointments Bill.

It is understood the Justice Minister plans to alert his Cabinet colleagues to a raft of changes to the proposed legislation today.

Included among a series of technical amendments is a move to have the Attorney General (AG) sit on the committee that will vet potential judges.

Opposition TDs have already clubbed together to effectively remove the AG from the process, in a move that has been criticised by the incumbent Seamus Woulfe.

Mr Woulfe famously told an Association of European Journalists' lunch last month that Opposition amendments had made a "dog's dinner" of the Bill. And the Government's legal advisor questioned the wisdom of an Oireachtas Committee that voted to "abolish" his role in the process.

Mr Woulfe said this was widely viewed as an "absolutely crazy thing to do" because the AG was "hopefully a good link person" between the Bar Library and the Government.

On foot of his comments, Fianna Fáil's justice spokesman Jim O'Callaghan called for the bill to be dropped altogether.

However, the Government must persist with the changes if it is to pacify Independent Alliance Minister Shane Ross.

Mr Ross has threatened to block the Cabinet from making judicial appointments unless he sees the Bill progressing through the Dáil.

Mr Ross has described the current system for selecting judges as "rotten" that benefits political insiders. His proposal involves a new independent committee comprising a lay majority and lay chairperson.

Irish Independent

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