The Bar of Ireland has warned that delaying further judicial appointments until the appointments process has been reformed would adversely affect the administration of justice in Ireland.
Last month, Government minister Shane Ross said appointments under the existing system would stop as part of the coalition agreement between ruling Fine Gael and the Independent Alliance.
Mr Ross has campaigned for the Judicial Appointments Advisory Board to be replaced with a new judicial appointments commission.
In a statement, the Bar said that the appointments process “may need to be modified in order to ensure that it is as effective as it can be”, but that there is no evidence to suggest the current system does not meet constitutional requirements.
Paul McGarry, chairman of the Council of The Bar of Ireland, said: “Ireland has a reputation as an open and transparent State where citizens and business operate in the knowledge that disputes may be resolved effectively.
“There is already significant pressure on the Irish judicial system due to shortages of resources and support. In 2014, Ireland had the lowest number of judges of 47 countries examined by the European Commission at 3 per 100,000 inhabitants, as opposed (for example) to 10 per 100,000 in France or 24.3 per 100,000 in Germany.
“The new Court of Appeal already has had to deal with an enormous backlog, together with an increase in new appeals. The delay in an ordinary appeal being heard before that Court is approximately 18 months, and increasing all the time. Manifestly, the Court of Appeal requires a significant number of additional judges to meet its obligation.”
“There are currently several statutory vacancies on the District Court, three on the Circuit Court, and one on the Supreme Court. In the coming months more judges will retire. The suggestion that these positions will not be filled until some indeterminate point in the future raises the possibility that one arm of the State might appear to be reducing the capacity of another.
“There are legitimate concerns that such a course would not respect the constitutional right of access to the Courts and the obligation to ensure that justice is administered speedily and efficiently.”