Tuesday 21 January 2020

McDowell claims Ross wants judicial reform due to 'personal agenda'

Michael McDowell. Photo: Gareth Chaney, Collins
Michael McDowell. Photo: Gareth Chaney, Collins
Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

Transport Minister Shane Ross has been accused of seeking reform of how judges are appointed due to "dissatisfaction" over a court case where he was the plaintiff.

Independent Senator Michael McDowell made the claim while the Seanad debated the Judicial Appointments Bill.

He alleged that Mr Ross wants a lay chairperson for the proposed Judicial Appointments Commission because of his experience in the case.

Barrister and former Justice Minister Mr McDowell questioned why the individual who chairs the commission should be a lay person who hadn't practiced law in 15 years. He claimed Mr Ross was driven by a "personal agenda" on the issue and that it arises from a court case where he was a plaintiff.

Mr McDowell was warned by the acting Cathaoirleach of the Seanad that Mr Ross wasn't present to defend himself and may dispute the claim.

Mr Ross sought commitment on reform of judicial appointments as a demand before he entered government in a bid to reduce political influence in the process.

The bill was recently described as a "dog's dinner" by Attorney General Séamus Wolfe due to the number of amendments that have been made as it has been debated in Leinster House.

It's not the first time Mr McDowell has accused Mr Ross of pursing a "personal agenda" in wanting to change the judicial appointments system.

Last year, Mr Ross responded to the claim from Mr McDowell, saying: "I fully understand the resistance to reform from the strong legal lobby; however, I look forward to a group of non-political, independent citizens working with judges, to select people suitable for such important positions."

Irish Independent

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