The Justice Minister’s increasingly arrogant and hypocritical treatment of judiciary is deeply worrying and a real threat to judicial independence in this country, Fianna Fáil spokesperson on Justice Dara Calleary said today.
Minister Alan Shatter’s continued criticism of the judiciary over the publication of their memo on pay, despite revelations that the Attorney General gave the go-ahead to release this information, shows that he has no thought for the importance of maintaining good relations between these two arms of the State.
Responding, Deputy Calleary said: “The fact is that the judiciary sought and were given approval to publish their memo on the forthcoming judicial pay referendum. For the Minister to continue to criticise judges saying that the use of the Courts Service website was ‘not sanctioned by anyone associated with Government’ can only be described as arrogant, if not somewhat sinister.
“You can’t on the one hand allow information to be released, only to censor or limit the way in which this is done. The Justice Minister certainly should have been aware that the Attorney General was consulted on the publishing of the memo. If not, perhaps there are deeper problems in Government.
“Minister Shatter has displayed rank hypocrisy in his treatment of the judiciary. He is only too happy to invoke the doctrine of separation of powers when it suits him, and completely ignore it when it doesn’t. Speaking on RTE radio this morning he called on judges ‘to show due respect for the role of Government and parliament’. Yet, he has shown no such consideration, when it comes to responding to the legitimate point that the level of reduction in judges’ pay should be decided by an independent source.
“It is clear that the Minister for Justice is bent on asserting his power over the judiciary. Only recently it emerged that the Chairman of the Smithwick Tribunal wrote to the Minster to express concern about the Minister’s interfering ways. Judge Smithwick described the Minister’s personal intervention as a ‘wholly inappropriate attempt by the Executive to interfere with the independence of the Tribunal’. Yet Minister Shatter, in his wisdom, withheld this information and proceeded to guillotine a motion on the Tribunal through the Dáil.
“We are in the early days of this Government, but it is clear that Minister Shatter’s approach to his job poses a real threat to the principles of judicial independence so important in this Republic. I would encourage the Minister to worry less about headlines and focus instead on the substance of the issues he’s dealing with. There is no reason why the constitutional amendment on reducing judges’ pay cannot enjoy cross-party support, but the Minister needs to consult and proceed with less arrogance than we have seen to date.”