Alan Shatter believes it would be “undesirable” if judges were excluded from bringing in “efficiencies and costs savings” as part of the new Croke Park deal on public sector reform.
The justice minister’s comments follow reports that he had written to top judge seeking to cut their judges and increase their working hours.
In a statement, Mr Shatter said each sector of the public service was “expected” to come up with its own proposals to save money and enhance reform. However, he rejected any suggestion that his requests compromised the constitutional independence of the judiciary.
A spokesman for the minister confirmed that Mr Shatter had written to Chief Justice Susan Denham before Christmas.
“A range of measures are under consideration in the talks about the extension to the Croke Park Agreement with a view to saving money and enhancing the current programme of public service reform to secure the more efficient and effective delivery of public services,” he said.
“In addition to public service-wide proposals, each sector will be expected to come forward with its own sector-specific proposals.”
He said it was in this context the letter was sent.
“The minister expressed the view that it would be undesirable for the judiciary to be excluded from effecting efficiencies and cost savings and invited the chief justice to consider what efficiencies and cost savings might be implemented by the judiciary.”
Likely reforms include lengthening the law terms by shortening the holiday period in the courts and longer sitting hours.
The spokesman said there was no question of the latest moves infringing on the independence of the judiciary.
“The judiciary are, of course, independent and a key part of that independence is maintaining public trust and confidence. Having brought forward the successful constitutional amendment to facilitate the application of public sector pay cuts to the judiciary, the minister and the Government are keen to ensure the independence of the judiciary continues to be upheld and strengthened.”
He added: “It is right, therefore, that the judiciary themselves give timely consideration to what measures may be appropriate for them to bring forward in the current circumstances. This does not compromise their independence.”
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