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State’s top judge denounces ‘inaccurate’ criticism of judiciary

Posted 21/11/2016

The State’s top judge has criticised “inaccurate discussion and misrepresentation” in relation to judicial reform in remarks that appear to be directed at the Minister for Transport, Sport and Tourism, Shane Ross.

Addressing the National Judges Conference at the weekend, the Chief Justice, Susan Denham, said it was a fundamental principle that each of the three pillars of State – the legislature, the executive and the judiciary – “owes respect to the other”.

Last week in the Dáil, the Taoiseach dissociated himself from remarks about the judiciary made by Mr Ross. Enda Kenny did so after the Labour Party’s Brendan Howlin said the comments by Mr Ross on RTÉ radio were the “most aggressive attack” he could recall by a Cabinet member on the judiciary.

Mr Ross had said there should be a public register of judges’ interests as judges might sometimes “forget” their oath to administer justice without fear or favour.

He also said there had always been “massive resistance” from judges to efforts to introduce such measures “because they are not used to being accountable.

“We need to reassure people that the judges are not a protected citadel as they are at the moment.”

Judges, he said, “have a blank cheque to declare nothing”.

Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality, Frances Fitzgerald, said the separation of powers was a cornerstone of our democracy and that there had to be respect between the various branches at all times.

Ms Denham, in remarks to the judges’ conference released through the Courts Service, said the judiciary had been pressing for five years to have the process of judicial appointments reformed and made more transparent, and that for 20 years the judiciary had been asking for, planning and researching a proposed judicial council.


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