Monday 23 September 2019

Struggling judges 'will be wiped out' by pay cuts

Ralph Riegel and Dearbhail McDonald

A DISTRICT Court judge has said several members of the judiciary are struggling financially -- despite the fact that wages range from €147,000 in the district court up to €295,000 for the top judge.

Judge Michael Pattwell said that some judges were struggling even before the impact of the proposed pay and pension cuts. A referendum will be held at the same time as the presidential election on the cuts.

"You cannot collectively say that judges can afford to take a pay cut -- each individual judge has his or her own individual problem," he said.

Legal sources said last night that a small number of judges could be "wiped out" by the combined impact of cuts to their pay and pensions.

Judges are also facing tax bills of up to €600,000 on their retirement because of changes to public sector pensions.

Several members of the judiciary have suffered serious losses in the property market collapse and the meltdown in bank share values and it is understood that a small number are to trying to prevent loans being transferred to NAMA.

The pending cuts are expected to be debated at a meeting of senior judges next week. Nine out of 10 judges volunteered up to 10pc of their annual salaries in lieu of the controversial 2009 public sector pension levy.

But it is changes introduced in the last budget, which capped tax relief on public pensions at €2.3m, that could see some judges facing financial difficulties, according to some of their colleagues who have spoken to the Irish Independent.

And Judge Pattwell, who earns €147,000 a year, said that no one can make sweeping, generalised comments about a particular group.

His income will be more than halved once he formally retires at the end of the month and commences his judicial pension after 21 years on the bench.


He claimed it will cost the government several multiples of what they will ultimately save just to stage the referendum.

"I think it is probably a populist move because if you do the figures what is to be saved is about €250,000 a year," he said. "But it is going to cost a couple of million to run the referendum."

Judge Pattwell said the judiciary will not fight the government's pay move.

Justice Minister Alan Shatter also insisted that the judiciary supports the move.

Irish Independent

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