Wednesday 21 August 2019

Ross approves nearly 50 judges 'despite all his threats to walk out'

Shane Ross
Shane Ross
Hugh O'Connell

Hugh O'Connell

Transport Minister Shane Ross has approved the appointment of nearly 50 judges under a system he has described as "rotten" and plagued by "cronyism", the Irish Independent can reveal.

The minister has demanded the reform of the judicial appointments system as a price for supporting the Government, but the legislation has been stuck in the Seanad for more than a year.

Mr Ross says the current judicial appointments system allows politicians to appoint "their favourite barristers and solicitors to the bench".

But despite at one point threatening to veto appointments Mr Ross has, as a member of Cabinet, approved 49 of them in the past three years.

The appointments, all of which must be signed off by Cabinet under the Constitution, have been to fill vacancies across all courts in the State as well as appointments to the European Court of Justice and the EU General Court.

The appointments in this State include 15 in the High Court, 10 in the Circuit Court and 13 in the District Court, as well as the Chief Justice Frank Clarke.

"Nearly 50 judges have been appointed by this Government despite all his threats to walk out of Government. The reality is that Ross would on his own (walk out of Government), his other Independent Alliance colleagues would not surrender their ministries for such trivia," said Independent Senator Victor Boyhan, who compiled the figures.

The Judicial Appointments Commission Bill would set up a new body to consider appointments with a lay chair and lay majority. The lay chair proposal has proven to be a sticking point with opponents including former justice minister and attorney general Michael McDowell.

Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan told the Seanad, where the bill passed committee stage, last week that it still needs a "substantial amount of work" and would not immediately return for report stage in the upper house in September.

The Irish Independent previously revealed how most Fine Gael senators are either against the bill or want it changed.

A spokesman for Mr Ross declined to comment.

Irish Independent

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