Chief Justice Susan Denham calls for judicial council

Chief Justice Susan Denham calls for judicial council

The country’s top judge, Chief Justice Susan Denham, has hit out at the failure of the Government to establish a judicial council, which she said is damaging Ireland’s international reputation writes Political editor Daniel McConnell.

Ms Justice Denham has called for the establishment of such a council, which would defend the independence of the judiciary and ensure an appropriate relationship with other branches of the Government.

She has said that the 20-year delay in establishing a judicial council, has created a significant “institutional vacuum” and is a matter for real concern for the judiciary and the State.

But she has made very pointed criticisms of the Fine Gael-led minority government for downgrading the status of a bill which would see the council established.

She said the placement of the Judicial Council Bill under the heading ‘all other legislation’, “would appear to be a demotion from its status under previous government legislative programmes”.

She added the failure to progress this institutional reform with the urgency it deserves weighs heavily, both on relations between the judiciary and the executive, and on the State’s reputation internationally, as a modern democracy governed by the rule of law.

“The absence of such an institution — by whatever name it may be called — sets Ireland apart from the overwhelming majority of EU member states, as well as leading common law jurisdictions such as the United States, Canada and Australia,” Ms Justice Denham said in her statement.

Her remarks are contained in a statement marking the beginning of the new legal year. She was speaking in the context of Ireland having to issue a report internationally but said the report will show that progress has been “extremely slow”.

“It is therefore a matter of the most real concern to observe what would appear to be a distinct loss of momentum in delivering this historic institutional reform.”

In the coming week Ireland is to give an update to an international body (GRECO, a Council of Europe anti-corruption group) on five recommendations relating to the judiciary, which it made in late 2014.

The report will show no real progress from Ireland despite an extension of time.

Throughout 2014 and 2015 the Judicial Council Bill featured in successive iterations of the Government’s Legislative Programme, with an indication on each occasion that early publication of the bill was planned.

The “Programme for a Partnership Government” published in May 2016 does not contain provision for a Judicial Council Bill, notwithstanding the fact that a judicial council had been included in an earlier “discussion draft” of the programme published earlier that month.

This vacuum in the Infrastructure of the State of Ireland has been remarked upon at international level, she said, referring to a 2012 United Nations recommendation that a judicial council be established.

GRECO stated that within 18 months following the adoption of the report of the October 10, 2014, “Ireland shall report back on the action taken in response to the recommendations contained herein.”

The 18 months expired in April 2016. However, it was extended to September 30.

Three of the GRECO recommendations — the first, fourth and fifth d1 would be met by the establishment of a judicial council, Ms Justice Denham said.

In response, a spokesman for Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald said the Government is prioritising the legislation for publication this session.

“The bill, the complexities of which should not be underestimated, is at an advanced stage of drafting. Intensive work has been done on it over the summer months and the bill has progressed very substantially. It is a very substantial undertaking comprising at least 75 sections,” he said.

Following consultations with the attorney general, the Government said it was satisfied that the “specialist drafting of the bill is coming to a conclusion”.

The Tánaiste echoes the views of the Chief Justice as regards the importance of enacting this legislation and is fully aware of the pressing need for it, the spokesman said.

More in this Section

Pedestrian, 70, being treated for life-threatening injuries after collision with carPedestrian, 70, being treated for life-threatening injuries after collision with car

All women and families impacted by CervicalCheck scandal to get Dáil apologyAll women and families impacted by CervicalCheck scandal to get Dáil apology

Killarney deer struggling to walk suffering from suspected 'staggers' conditionKillarney deer struggling to walk suffering from suspected 'staggers' condition

National Bravery Awards: 'The award for me is that he is alive today'National Bravery Awards: 'The award for me is that he is alive today'


These are the nail hues to choose this season, says Katie Wright.Perfectly polished: 5 autumn/winter nail trends you’ll actually want to wear

This early 19th-century table is one of a number of Irish lots at Sotheby’s Style, Furniture and Ceramics sale in New York on Thursday (October 24).Irish lots poised to add bite to Big Apple sale

Something for all at Hegarty’s auction in Bandon, says Des O’SullivanSomething for all at Hegarty’s auction in Bandon

Des O’Sullivan gives a preview of the Irish selection on offer at two sales in DublinPreview of the Irish selection on offer at two sales in Dublin

More From The Irish Examiner