Judicial appointments bill to feature lay majority and chair

Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald
Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald

The forthcoming judicial appointments bill will provide for a lay majority and chairperson on the new judicial appointments commission.

The Irish Times reports that the legislation has been completed and will be sent to Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald within the next two weeks.

The lay majority and chair was a key demand of Independent TD and Government minister Shane Ross, who pressed for legislation on the issue to be introduced.

However, it has divided the legal profession, with the Law Society of Ireland backing the measure and The Bar of Ireland opposing it.

Ken Murphy, director general of the Law Society, has said the lay majority “will ensure there is a much greater measure of diverse public interest represented in the judicial selection process”.

In contrast, Paul McGarry SC, chair of the Council of The Bar of Ireland, has said politicians are taking a “populist stance”.

He said: “One is reminded of the New Yorker cartoon where a passenger on an aircraft is standing with a hand raised addressing the rest of the passengers saying: ‘Those smug pilots have lost touch with regular passengers like us. Who thinks I should fly the plane?’”

The Bar supports lay members on the commission, but Mr McGarry said there was “no rationale” for a lay majority.

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