FG stalwart warns TDs to 'cop on' over judges
Former ceann comhairle Seán Barrett has launched an astonishing rebuke against changes to the way judges are appointed, saying TDs need to "cop on".
As Fine Gael and Sinn Féin hammered out a deal to ensure the Judicial Appointments Bill will get through the Dáil, Mr Barrett embarked on an impassioned Dáil speech against his own party policy.
"I won't be here after the next election but I'd just like to put on the record that we should cop on to ourselves," he said.
"The people have elected all of us in here irrespective of what party or not we are a member of. They expect us to do the job and be answerable to them."
Fianna Fáil has steadfastly opposed the Judicial Appointments Bill, which they described as Transport Minister Shane Ross's "vanity project".
Under the new system, the role of politicians in selecting judges will be more limited. Although the Cabinet will sign off on all appointments, a shortlist will be put forward by a board consisting of a lay majority. Mr Ross has repeatedly claimed many judges got their posts because they were the "friends or cronies" of politicians.
However, Mr Barrett said he could not think of "anybody better" than ministers who had received the seal of office from the President to make such decisions.
"There's no point when any of us are confronted on a canvass or walking down the street, and our answer to these people is 'well, we don't appoint anybody, it's some commission'," he said.
Mr Barrett, who was first elected a TD in 1981, added: "It seems to be the case now that we are all afraid to make a decision in case the media has a go off us. Let us cop on to ourselves."
In return for their support, Sinn Féin's justice spokesman Donnacha Ó Laoghaire sought assurances from Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan that he would introduce sentencing guidelines for judges in the near future.
"Even though sentencing guidelines are common in many countries, and have been supported by organisations such as the Rape Crisis Network, the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre, the Irish Penal Reform Trust and the Irish Council of Civil Liberties, there is currently no statutory provision for this in Ireland," Mr Ó Laoghaire said.
As a result of the deal, the Judicial Appointments Bill is likely to pass through the Dáil in the coming days.