Judicial appointments reform bill to be passed by June 2017

Independent Alliance minister Shane Ross
Independent Alliance minister Shane Ross

The Independent Alliance is pushing for legislation to reform Ireland’s judicial appointments process to be passed by June next year, The Sunday Times reports.

Independent Alliance minister Shane Ross said efforts to block the appointment of judges until a new appointments system is in place were the “only way to force reform”.

Leading judges have said a halt on appointments would be “disastrous” and The Bar of Ireland has warned delays may “not respect the constitutional right of access to the Courts and the obligation to ensure that justice is administered speedily and efficiently”.

Mr Ross told The Sunday Times: “History would suggest to me there would be procrastination and delay by judges and politicians if they get any opportunity to do so.

“This thing has been in the pipeline for nearly 15 years and nothing has been done about it. The only way to force reform is to take this course of action.”

He also said the Independent Alliance had agreed to a number of appointments during the Summer in order to prevent serious gaps from developing before the bill could be passed.

Mr Ross said: “We were conscious of the fact that we didn’t want there to be any gaps or lack of justice being administered, and that the bill wasn’t going to be ready.

“So we agreed with Fine Gael that we appoint these as long as they are the last ones. They agreed that. That’s an incentive to us and them, and indeed it should be to the judges, to let this through.”

The last judicial appointment took place on 20 September, when the Government nominated Ms Justice Leonie Reynolds to the High Court. She was sworn in before the Supreme Court last week.

There are currently five judicial vacancies: one in the Supreme Court, three in the Circuit Court, and one in the District Court.

Last week, a spokesperson for the Department of Justice told Irish Legal News: “In respect of existing and future vacancies in the Courts, the requirements of the administration of justice will be the overriding priority for the Government over the period ahead as the necessary reforms in regard to the judicial appointments process are brought forward as expeditiously as practicable.”

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