Former chief justice fretted over pension before accepting ECJ appointment

Thomas O'Higgins
Thomas O’Higgins

Ireland’s former chief justice Thomas O’Higgins was reluctant to accept an appointment at the European Court of Justice for fears it would affect his pension after having only 11 years of service on the Irish bench, State papers show.

Recently-released documents from the Office of the Taoiseach indicate that Mr Justice O’Higgins was worried about retiring from the Irish bench, a necessary precursor to accepting the European appointment.

In a memo dated November 1984, he explained: “Under the law, a judge who resigns is entitled to a pension only if he has reached 65 and has at least 15 years’ service.”

In the following month, he wrote to the Taoiseach and asked to have his “pension and gratuity rights preserved” as his retirement would not be related to either age or incapacity.

According to The Irish Times, Mr Justice O’Higgins was given an undertaking by the Government that his pension would be “kept in cold storage” until becoming payable at the age of 65.

Mr Justice O’Higgins went on to accept the nomination and served as the Irish judge at the European Court between 1985-91.

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