Fianna Fáil Justice Spokesperson Jim O’Callaghan TD has urged the Government to heed the serious concerns raised this afternoon by the Council of Europe Group of States against Corruption (GRECO) regarding the Judicial Appointment’s Bill.

The GRECO Report into corruption prevention in respect of members of parliament, judges and prosecutors, was published this afternoon.

The report notes the body’s “significant concerns” regarding the composition of the Judicial Appointments Commission and questioned whether the composition was “in line with European standards”.

GRECO has also “urged the Government to reconsider this matter in order to limit potential risks of improper influence from the executive/political power over the appointment process to the judiciary, or any perception thereof, and to do so in close co-operation with the judicial authorities.”

Deputy O’Callaghan said, “By reducing the involvement of the judiciary in the selection of judges and by downgrading the position of Chief Justice, the Government is letting Minister Ross drive forward a personal agenda which will undermine the independence of the judiciary.

“It will damage our international reputation as a country that abides by international standards. These concerns were raised by Fianna Fáil and by other opposition parties when the Bill was debated in Dáil Éireann.

“The report from GRECO substantiates these concerns. This Bill should now be stopped by the Government before it proceeds any further.

He continued, “Minister Ross’ Bill has progressed to date because of a deal struck between Fine Gael and Sinn Féin.

“It is astonishing that the Fine Gael Parliamentary Party does not voice public concern about this proposal, despite the fact that many members of Fine Gael are deeply unhappy with the Bill and the manner in which it is being pushed through the Houses.

“The reputational damage for Ireland will be significant if the Government persists with a Bill which provides for a judicial appointments regime that the European Commission and now the Council of Europe have formally stated is not in line with European standards.

“It is deeply disturbing that senior members of the judiciary in Ireland felt compelled to communicate their concerns to GRECO, and to directly contradict the false statement made by Government that this Bill has been subject to in-depth consultations with the Judiciary.”