Fianna Fáil TD for Wicklow Stephen Donnelly has described the Government’s judicial appointments reform plan as deeply flawed.
Deputy Donnelly made the comments in the Dáil during a debate on the Judicial Appointments Commission Bill 2017.
Deputy Donnelly said, “There is agreement across the political spectrum that the judicial appointments process needs to be reformed. Changes are needed to ensure that people are appointed to judicial office based solely on merit. However the Government’s plan will simply not achieve this.
“Central to the Government’s plan is the proposal to create a new Commission to handle judicial appointments. This Commission will have a lay majority and the Presidents of the Circuit and District Courts will be unable to contribute to its work in any meaningful way.
“Essentially, a core element of the Government’s plan is to have people who have never been lawyers or judges playing a central role in determining who would make good judges. This is a ridiculous situation and I have no doubt that the Commission will find it difficult to determine who should be appointed to a particular role based on merit. We don’t expect Human Rights advocates or members the local GAA club to start appointing doctors and hospital consultants – why should a different approach be taken with judicial appointments?
“Fianna Fáil has put forward comprehensive proposals which would achieve genuine reform of the judicial appointments process. We recognise that experts needs to be involved in the decision making process. The Bill we have put forward will provide for representation from the District Court and the Circuit Court and will mandate the holding of interviews to determine whether a perspective candidate is suitable for appointment.
“We need to allow experts to put forward the best person for the job, not just someone who meets the minimum standard. Unfortunately the Government’s plan will not achieve this. Minister Ross has said he is attempting to remove political interference in the process, but the Bill he is pushing won’t achieve this.”