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President of High Court steps into row over judges’ independence

THE President of the High Court, the second most senior judge in the country, has intervened in the row over judicial independence.

Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns said that the concerns raised by the Association of Judges of Ireland  - of which he is not a member - "are well founded".

Judge Kearns said this morning that he hoped every effort will be made to address these concerns with a view to resolving them as soon as possible.

"The present situation is highly undesirable," he said after the AJI and Supreme Court judge Adrian Hardiman voiced support for High Court judge Mr Justice Peter Kelly who has claimed that judicial independence is being destroyed "brick by brick" by the coalition.

The judge said that he wished to clarify some confusion as to the role of the Master of the High Court within the High Court.

This follows remarks made by Master Ed Honohan on RTE this morning in which Mr Honohan said that it was inappropriate and wrong for anyone, even a High Court judge, to suggest that there might be a question mark over the administration of justice.

"I wish to clarify that the Master is not a judge but an office holder with limited functions created by statute," said Judge Kearns.

"He does not operate under my oversight, direction or control.

"Specifically, he has no authority to speak on behalf of the High Court or its judges. Any impression to the contrary would be mistaken".

Earlier, Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore attempted to quell the increasingly damaging row between the Government and judiciary.

Mr Gilmore said that the airwaves were not the place to debate and dispute whether judges' independence is under attack.

"I think frankly it is a conversation that is best not conducted in public. I don't think dialogue over the airwaves is the way this kind of discussion should take place," the Labour leader said.

"As far as the Government is concerned and as far as I am concerned we respect the independence of the judiciary, full stop."

Online Editors