| 16.4°C Dublin

Garda spending cuts may be false economy

The recent spate of killings, with three so-called "gangland" murders and several other killings this month, brings to an end the recent downward trend in homicides. It is a reminder of the need for constant vigilance when fighting serious crime.

In their struggle against organised crime the Gardai will always be at a disadvantage because, as soon as they succeed in locking up the members of one criminal gang, a new group of thugs will rapidly emerge to supply the goods and services, chiefly drugs, that makes organised crime so lucrative.

However, it simply isn't good enough to shrug our shoulders and mutter something about the cyclical nature of organised crime. The three young children who saw their fathers shot this week will be forever traumatised. Deputy Garda Commissioner Nacie Rice's description of these cold-blooded killings in front of children as "depraved" is one that no right-minded person could argue with.

Hopefully the recent upsurge in gangland killings and the savage murder of Sligo pensioner Eugene Gillespie will serve to shock Justice Minister Alan Shatter out of the complacency into which he seems to have fallen in recent months. Some of Mr Shatter's recent pronouncements, including his comments on Apple map's mistaken positioning of an airfield in his constituency and his opportunistic exploitation of the controversial publication of topless pictures of the Duchess of Cambridge to threaten new privacy legislation, would seem to indicate he has taken his eye off the ball.

This is not the time for a distracted Minister for Justice. In any society, particularly one enduring the stresses of this one, the provision of policing and the maintenance of law and order is a vital public service, probably the most important public service of them all. Without them the operation of a civilised society becomes impossible.

While the Gardai must bear their share of public expenditure cuts, the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors is surely correct to question the wisdom of the Garda recruitment ban. This is storing up problems which will only become fully apparent in the coming years. The failure to replace garda vehicles as they reach the end of their 200,000 mile service life also strikes us as being particularly misguided.

The shocking events of the past few days have provided a frightening demonstration of what a breakdown in law and order would entail. Minister Shatter must ensure that any cuts in Garda spending don't prove to be a false economy.

Transparency on appointment of our Supreme Court judges

Mr Justice Peter Kelly's claim that appointments to the Supreme Court are "purely political" should serve to start a long overdue debate on the criteria employed to select the judges who sit, not just on the highest court in the land, but on the other courts also.

Mr Justice Kelly, who heads up the Commercial Court, made the comments in a recent interview. He confirmed the widely held suspicion that, despite the establishment of the Judicial Appointments Advisory Board in 1995, many politicians find it impossible to resist the temptation to appoint their friends and supporters to highly-paid, senior judicial positions.

In truth, despite the overwhelmingly political nature of the process which led to their appointments, most of Ireland's judges have served this country well since independence. However, in an era which demands greater accountability in all areas of public life, the opaque nature of the process by which judges are appointed is no longer acceptable.

Perhaps we should follow the American example, where Supreme Court nominees are first interviewed in public by the Senate, which then votes on whether or not to approve the appointment.

Irish Independent