Fianna Fáil still opposed to backing judicial bill

Fianna Fáil is still opposed to backing Transport Minister Shane Ross’s “dog’s dinner” judicial appointments bill despite the Cabinet agreeing to more than 50 amendments regarding it in a bid to rescue the proposed law from being scrapped.

Fianna Fáil justice spokesman Jim O’Callaghan last night repeated his concern over the bill, despite Mr Ross and Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan making a series of last-ditch changes to ensure the bill is passed.

As reported in yesterday’s Irish Examiner, Mr Ross and Mr Flanagan held a private meeting on Monday to examine how the bill could be altered to make it acceptable for opposition parties.

While both ministers agreed to stand firm on the bill’s key points — that a lay majority and a lay chairperson must have control of the proposed judicial appointments committee — they also signed off on more than 50 new amendments, which include:

  • Expanding the number of members of the appointments committee from 13 to 17;
  • The inclusion of the presidents of the district and circuit courts for the first time in the appointments committee;
  • The decision to reinstate the attorney general Séamus Woulfe, who recently described the bill as a “complete dog’s dinner” due to multiple changes to date;
  • The reinstating of the senior judicial advisory committee as a separate process for the three most senior judicial posts;
  • Further appointments checks in addition to the decisions made by the committee.

Yesterday, senior Government sources said that they believed the changes — many of which have simply returned the bill to its original form — would win over Fianna Fáil support in an Oireachtas vote next week after months of bickering which had threatened to pull down the Coalition and the confidence and supply deal.

However, speaking to reporters last night, Mr O’Callaghan said he and Fianna Fáil remain opposed to the bill as it is still not workable.

“Fianna Fáil remains opposed to the Government’s judicial appointments bill,” said Mr O’Callaghan.

“However, we will give consideration to any amendments that will improve what is widely recognised as a poorly drafted piece of legislation that does not serve the public interest.”


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