Flanagan denies any 'go-slow' on appointing judges over Ross's bill
Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan has denied there has been a "ministerial go-slow" in appointing judges due to Shane Ross's drive to reform the system for selecting them.
Mr Flanagan said 16 judges have been appointed so far this year and he plans to nominate more in the coming weeks.
He made the remarks as the Judicial Appointments Commission Bill was debated in the Seanad, where more than 100 amendments are being considered.
The Labour Party failed in a bid to have the debate delayed until after the publication of a report by a Council of Europe body, the Group of States Against Corruption Organisation (Greco).
The report is believed to raise concern about the proposed changes to the law. The Greco report is to be considered by the Government today and could be published as early as this afternoon.
The bill has been championed by Transport Minister Mr Ross, who wants to reduce the role of politicians and members of the legal profession in appointing judges.
It commits to the introduction of a new commission to advise the Government on appointments, chaired by a non-lawyer and with a non-legal majority. It will be able to propose a maximum of three names to the Government for each judicial vacancy.
Mr Flanagan denied that anyone in Government, including Mr Ross, has been blocking the appointment of judges until after the bill has passed.
This suggestion has been made by opponents of the bill, among them Senator Michael McDowell.
Mr Flanagan said there should not be "any suggestion that members of the Government...are exercising a form of veto of the appointment of judges". He pointed out that 16 judges have been appointed this year, adding: "That is not indicative to me of any blockage or any stop or any halt."
There was dissent from within Fine Gael on the bill. Senator Catherine Noone, a practising solicitor, said she finds it to be an "insult to the profession", particularly the requirement that a lay person be chairperson of the new commission.
She said someone who doesn't have a legal qualification could be an excellent chairperson, but that legal professionals should also be allowed to perform the role.
However, Ms Noone said she will vote in line with the Government, albeit with a "heavy heart".