Sinn Féin spokesperson on Justice Martin Kenny TD has said that the new Judicial Appointments Commission, as proposed in the Heads of Bill published by the Minister for Justice today, still lacks the measures necessary to ensure the full transparency of judicial appointments.
Teachta Kenny said:
“The publication of the Heads of Bill, so soon after the government was held to account regarding the appointment of Séamus Woulfe as the Supreme Court judge, is welcome but the Bill as outlined does not go far enough.
“Some of the measures proposed in the 2017 Bill, such as having a lay chairperson of the Judicial Appointments Commission, have been changed in this new legislation; which provides for the Chief Justice to chair the Commission.
“We see that the Minister for Justice will receive five unranked recommendations for each vacancy in the judiciary and while the procedure for application will include sitting judges as well as first-time applicants, there is still one nomination made to Cabinet by the Minister without any provision for discovery of the reasons why this recommendation will be made.
“The Bill also proposes that the highest judicial posts in the State will not be appointed by this Commission, but by a sub-Committee of it, comprising the Chief Justice, one lay member and the Attorney General.
“All of this reinforces the public perception that the legal profession is a closed shop with the same golden circle appointing their friends to the highest positions with a nod from the ruling party of the day.
“Sinn Féin will be proposing appropriate amendments to this legislation, while recognising the urgent need for judicial reform and we will work towards the speedy enactment of the amended Bill.”