Tuesday 19 February 2019

Government 'fully committed' to Judicial Appointments Bill described by AG as 'dog's dinner'

Shane Ross
Shane Ross
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

THE Government is "fully committed" to legislation which would bring about major reforms to the way judges are appointed a spokesman has said.

The backing comes following comments from the Attorney General which described the Judicial Appointments Bill as a "complete dog's dinner".

In a rare public statement, Séamus Woulfe suggested the bill as been seriously undermined by Opposition TDs.

It is the pet project of Transport Minister Shane Ross, who has threatened to block the selection of new judges unless the bill is prioritised.

The legislation seeks to significantly reduce the political and legal influence over appointments by setting up a body with a non-legal majority and a non-legal chairperson.

Mr Woulfe, who is the Government's legal adviser, said: "A whole myriad of amendments they made now make the bill a complete dog's dinner at the moment.

"A number of the amendments were contradictory and inconsistent, and unconstitutional. Therefore that makes it a challenge to get the bill to report stage very soon."

His made the comments at a Association of European Journalists lunch.

In a statement a spokesman for Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said Mr Varadkar spoke to Mr Ross and Mr Woulfe on Friday evening.

"The Government is fully committed to the Judicial Appointments Bill and will bring it back into the Dail for report stage after the Easter recess.  It's an important piece of reform and modernization. The government hopes that all parties will work together to assist its passage," the spokesman said.

Earlier this week, there were frank exchanges at Cabinet when Mr Ross expressed strong reservations about the appointment of three new judges.

The minister warned that he will not allow further promotions unless he sees progress on getting the bill passed.

Mr Woulfe said: "I'm sure under our new politics a deal will be done involving various Government ministers and Opposition parties.

"We await with interest over the next few days how that will pan out."

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