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Forget cronyism, Mr Justice White is simply the right man for the job

Given my own party political background, Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore's current predicament should probably have me doing cartwheels of joy.

Suggestions have been made of cronyism over the appointment of his former political colleague Mr Justice Michael White to the High Court. But I'm getting no thrill out of it.

The only important question here is, was Michael White qualified for the job?

And the answer is, a resounding yes. As far as I can make out, he is.


Having a political past, even if it is with the Workers' Party, should not be a disqualification from contributing to Irish public life in the future.

Not everyone wants to be a judge. Not even every solicitor or barrister wants to be one when they grow up -- or rich.

The pool of possible candidates is small. While it is not a self-selecting group, the type and background of person who might wish some day to serve on the bench is not the most all-embracing.

In a country the size of ours, gaining the qualifications and the experience needed to be considered for appointment almost pre- determines the likelihood that many of these people know each other.

From my experience, many people who study law have an interest in politics.

The two almost go hand in hand. While having an interest in politics is different from activism, it can lead to it occasionally, especially in college.

Put these two together and you find yourself with a small pool of candidates who have a background of interacting with each other and probably with others who have gone on to become politicians and maybe even Ministers.

The fact that Michael White was a Workers' Party candidate in the 80s and the fact that he had represented Eamon Gilmore in some legal actions in the 90s are being quoted as if these were two separate and independent reasons why he should not have been considered.


But they are not unconnected. White was a smart young lawyer in the Workers' Party, not the only one -- so was Pat McCarten, who went on to be a councillor and, later, a judge.

It is not unsurprising that Gilmore, a political contemporary, would go to someone he knew when needed legal advice.

If we are to disqualify people with past political associations from becoming judges, just to serve the optics of political correctness, then we might find ourselves having to recruit our judges abroad, as we do with doctors.

The question here should primarily be about the person's qualifications and suitability.

I don't know the man personally, but he is clearly eminently suited.

He has developed a good reputation not just as a practising solicitor but also as a Justice.

He has presided over many difficult cases with fairness and impartiality. Isn't that what we expect from our judges?

A political past should not be a hindrance -- no more that it should be guarantee. There is a case for reforming and modernising the process of appointing our judges and to remove it from the charges of political cronyism. I am not convinced that this would be achieved by parliamentary committees.


Yes, it is right and fair to subject the Tanaiste to the same standards he applied and demanded when in Opposition, but not to the point that it might hinder or impede people who are qualified to do the job.