Many in the legal profession were targeted during the boom years to invest in major property syndicates in Ireland and abroad, often borrowing from banks to fund multi-million euro investments.
The medical and legal sectors took part in a series of hotel, apartment and health centre investments as well as commercial and residential property deals in Europe through dedicated investment vehicles and are now nursing huge exposures that cannot be serviced on current salary levels.
A judge has never been declared bankrupt in Ireland and judges cannot serve if they are not fully tax compliant.
Unlike judges in other countries such as America, they cannot return to private practice where they once earned multiples of their generous judicial salaries as sole trader barristers.
Some members of the judiciary are now expected to retire early rather than risk losing out on pension entitlements following a separate cap -- in last December's Budget -- on tax reliefs on public pensions.
Ireland's financially pressed judges are amongst a huge swathe of professionals including lawyers, doctors and dentists, amongst others, who got caught up in the property boom and are now highly leveraged.
Partners in major law firms are also struggling to deleverage massive borrowings.
"The rollover of syndicated money has caught many of us out," one senior legal source told the Irish Independent last night. "There is no one who has not escaped the bust."
The Government last night approved the proposed wording on the referendum which Justice Minister Alan Shatter said did not in any way affect the "crucial independence of the judiciary".
The referendum, if passed, will allow the Government to impose the controversial public sector pension levy and other cuts already imposed on civil servants.
Earlier this week Ireland's new -- and first female -- Chief Justice, Mrs Justice Susan Denham, refused to accept a €38,000 pay rise that accompanies her promotion from ordinary judge of the Supreme Court.
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