The director general of the Law Society has joined calls for a major overhaul of judicial appointments to ensure the system is free of political bias.
However, Ken Murphy said he believed this could be achieved without the need for new laws, in contrast to the view of Ireland’s senior judges who insist that legislation is needed.
His intervention follows recent calls by the State’s judges for a radical overhaul of the appointments process. Their views came through a committee chaired by Chief Justice Susan Denham.
Up to 10 senior judges are planning to retire this year ahead of new cuts to the pensions of high earners.
Currently, a list of potential names is supplied to the Government and the Cabinet chooses from that list. The Law Society said this system leaves itself open to accusations that political allegiance has played a part in an appointment.
Mr Murphy said the society’s key recommendation is that just three names are sent to Cabinet to consider.
Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, he said even judges who have been appointed during the current process would acknowledge that it is far too political.
He said there is no question that the existing judiciary is excellent, but said the system that produces them is flawed.
His view was echoed by Chief Justice Denham, who said it was clear that the success of the administration of justice in Ireland had been achieved in spite of, rather than because of, the appointments system.
“Public confidence that justice will be administered fairly by persons of the highest quality and integrity is vitally important in maintaining the confidence of citizens in the State,” said Chief Justice Denham. “The judicial appointments system needs to change to ensure this is so, and is seen to be so.”
The committee said that the Judicial Appointments Advisory Board should be reformed and developed.
It made its submission to the Department of Justice on the system of judicial appointment, which it said was demonstrably deficient. It said it must be reformed if it is to secure the selection of the very best candidates and contribute to the administration of justice in a manner that will sustain and enhance public confidence.
It said the principle of appointing a judge on merit should be enshrined in law and political allegiance should have no bearing on judicial appointments.
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