Shane Ross isolated after Enda Kenny comments on judicial rights

Transport Minister Shane Ross has been left isolated in the public row over judicial appointments after Enda Kenny yesterday said he supported the right of the State’s top judge to express her opinion.
Shane Ross isolated after Enda Kenny comments on judicial rights

Mr Ross escalated the disagreement yesterday by arguing that judges want to seize control of appointing members to the bench in order to promote “cronies”.

His comments came despite a public defence of the judiciary at the weekend by the State’s top judge, Chief Justice Susan Denham.

She refuted Mr Ross’ claims that judges were blocking reform. She dismissed the “inaccurate discussion” suggesting otherwise and went further saying it was “a fundamental principle, that each of the great organs of State owes respect to the other.”

Taoiseach Enda Kenny’s spokesman yesterday said the Fine Gael leader “fully respected the chief justice’s position and her right to make her views known.”

The siding with the chief justice is the second time in a week that Mr Kenny has stuck by the judiciary rather than his own Cabinet member’s demands for reforms.

Mr Ross last week made fresh calls for a register for judges’ interests — on top of the lay-dominated appointments process agreed in the programme for government — in case judges “might forget their oath”.

This prompted Mr Kenny to distance himself from those remarks.

The Fianna Fáil leader, Micheál Martin, also accused Mr Ross of undermining the independence of the judiciary.

“I think Shane Ross is basically endangering a very basic principle of democracy, namely the separation of powers,” he said. “We have to be extremely careful.”

Mr Ross is also under fire over his own transport and sports portfolio and for failing to fill state board positions. Fianna Fáil say he has refused to fill 36 positions-despite receiving recommendations from the Public Appointments Service.

Mr Kenny still supports Mr Ross’ idea for a lay-majority board to appoint judges. His call for a declaration of interests for the bench will also be examined, say government sources. However, there is opposition within Fine Gael to the radical reforms proposed.

Mr Ross insisted yesterday though there could be “no backsliding” that the “mystique” of judges needed to be broken down. He maintains they must not be allowed live their “charmed lives”.

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