Tuesday 14 August 2018

Judicial appointments bill facing more than 50 amendments in Dáil

The lay majority is a red line for Mr Ross who claims the current process is subject to political influence and 'rotten'. Photo: Fergal Phillips
The lay majority is a red line for Mr Ross who claims the current process is subject to political influence and 'rotten'. Photo: Fergal Phillips
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

More than 50 amendments are to be proposed to new laws governing the appointment of judges in a bid to clean up what the Attorney General has described as a "dog's dinner".

While the majority of changes to be put forward by the Government are "technical", there is a clear effort to bring the legislation back towards what was originally envisaged by Transport Minister Shane Ross.

The Cabinet yesterday approved the amendments to the Judicial Appointments' Bill, which include extending the size of the committee for selecting judges to 17.

Membership of the panel will now include the Chief Justice, presidents of the four courts, the AG, a nominee from the Irish Human Rights & Equality Commission and other nominees.

Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan has briefed his Opposition counterpart Jim O'Callaghan.

Mr O'Callaghan said Fianna Fáil will "give consideration to any amendments that will improve what is widely recognised as a poorly drafted piece of legislation that does not serve the public interest".

In particular he is still opposed to having a lay chairperson and majority on the committee that will nominate judges for Cabinet approval.

The lay majority is a red line for Mr Ross who claims the current process is subject to political influence and "rotten".

The Independent Alliance minister secured Fine Gael's support for the bill as part of his deal for entering Government.

He has agreed to the changes proposed by Mr Flanagan ahead of the bill's return to the Dáil.

Fianna Fáil is likely to vote against most amendments, but the Government hopes to get Sinn Féin's backing in some cases. Fianna Fáil has called for it to be scrapped after comments made by AG Séamus Woulfe.

He said amendments made by the Opposition have made the legislation "contradictory" and "inconsistent".

Irish Independent

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