Howlin: Inappropriate for judiciary to be exempt from pay cuts

A senior government minister has told judges it would be “inappropriate” for the judiciary to be exempt from Government pay cuts.

Howlin: Inappropriate for judiciary to be exempt from pay cuts

Members of the judiciary are some of the best paid public servants in the country and enjoy salaries ranging from €2,400 to €4,000 per week.

Last July, the Government pressed ahead with reductions in salaries and pensions for higher paid public servants, including the judiciary and former and current members of Government.

The Government made the reductions in spite of the president of the Association of Judges of Ireland (AJI), Mr Justice Peter Kelly arguing that judges are bearing the “heaviest burden” in the public sector through the “extraordinary” pay cuts they have sustained.

Mr Justice Kelly — who enjoys a High Court judge salary of €191,306 even after July’s cuts — wrote to the Minister for Public Expenditure Brendan Howlin to express the association’s concern over the Government’s cuts.

In his letter dated Mar 19, released under the Freedom of Information Act, Mr Justice Kelly wrote: “Members of the judiciary have borne reductions in take-home pay which are by any standards extraordinary.

“By way of concrete example, the current take-home pay of a judge of a High Court is 33% less than he or she was paid in 2009.

He said: “That is before the impact of the reduction recently announced which would bring the reduction to 38%. A High Court judge appointed since 2012 takes home 45.5% less than an equivalent judge was paid in 2009. Again this is without taking account of a further reduction.”

Mr Justice Kelly stated: “All of this does not take account of other recent changes which have had a much heavier impact upon judges than other members of the public service.

“The cumulative effect is, on any view, enormous. The impact upon individuals is very significant. It bears repetition that the overall impact of these changes upon the morale and attitude of sitting judges — and on the prospect of recruitment of new members to the judiciary, does not appear to have been the subject of any assessment, still less discussion or even consideration.”

He adds: “There is now a self-evident necessity to put in place an appropriate mechanism for consultation and creditable trust-worthy review of measures affecting the judiciary.”

One month later, Chief Justice Susan Denham, on April 16, announced the establishment of a new forum between the Government and judges with Mr Justice Kelly, representing the AJI.

By the time Mr Howlin replied to Mr Justice Kelly’s letter four months later (July 24), the Government had pressed ahead with its salary cut. In his letter, he wrote: “It would, of course, be inappropriate for judicial office holders, uniquely, to be exempted from these reductions.

He said the cuts “to judicial pay and pensions to date have been proportionate to other public servants earning similar salaries, and have been driven by the State’s unfortunate fiscal position, and commitments made in securing the necessary bailout funds from the troika”.

“The engagement, dialogue and consultation that might be appropriate for the determination of the appropriate rates of remuneration for employees and office-holders in more normal times cannot apply.”

Cuts since 2008

- The pay of a High Court judge was cut from €206,618 at the start of this year to €191,306 – a 21% decrease on the Sept 2008 salary of €243,080.

- Supreme Court justices are now paid €202,622 following the July cuts compared to €219,191 at the start of this year and €257,872 in Sept 2008.

- Circuit Court judges are now paid €145,686 per annum compared to €156,248 at the start of the year and €177,554 in 2008.

- District court judges currently receive a salary of €127,234 and this followed a pre-cut salary of €136,224 and a 2008 salary of €147,961.

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