Mr Kenny confirmed to the Dáil that he has spoken to Mr Ross over his controversial comments about judges in recent days, but announced that the Government would prefer that no judges be appointed until new laws are enacted: “There is a preference in Government that there should be no further appointments until the new legislation is in place.”
This is a stark shift in the Taoiseach’s previous position and in line with the position advocated by Mr Ross who has faced stiff opposition from within Fine Gael.
In the Dáil during Leaders’ Questions, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said Mr Kenny “blinked first” in his dealings with Mr Ross: “On judicial appointments, the Taoiseach has announced a new departure today. In the past, he said there was no such edict in terms of appointing judges, or failing to appoint judges. It seems the Taoiseach met the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Shane Ross, on the matter and the Taoiseach blinked, because he is now using new language to the effect that the Government has a preference now that it would not appoint any new judges until the new legislation is enacted in a couple of months time.”
Mr Martin severely criticised the performance of Mr Ross, saying the minister’s criticisms of the judiciary are unacceptable.
“He is utilising his position as a minister to undermine and attack the judicial pillar in a politically populist way. In short, he does not have respect for the judicial pillar which is so central to our democracy,” he said.
Mr Martin called on the Taoiseach to speak to Mr Ross and remind him of his collective Cabinet responsibility. He accused Mr Ross of acting like a “mini dictator” in the Dáil. Mr Martin said unless Mr Ross got his way that no judges and no appointments made to State boards under his remit would be appointed.
Ministers on their own could not adopt solo-runs and had to act collectively as a Cabinet, Mr Martin said.
Meanwhile, Mr Kenny was branded a “disgrace” in the Dáil yesterday over poor standards of hospital care in Galway.
During Leaders’ Questions, Independent TD Catherine Connolly severely rebuked Mr Kenny over the chronic lack of facilities at University Hospital Galway and what she called the “warehousing” of patients on trollies. She was critical of Mr Kenny’s decision to attend a private hospital nearby while not attending the State-funded hospital, which she said is supposed to be a centre of excellence: “You are a disgrace — please don’t waffle or give me any of your bland rhetoric, Taoiseach.”
Ms Connolly referred to comments from a clinical director who said the hospital is “not fit for purpose”.
Mr Kenny said the fact more than 400 people were waiting on trollies in hospitals across the country is “unacceptable”.