Sinn Féin TD Pádraig Mac Lochlainn has today said the comments by an Athlone District Court judge in which he described Travellers as “Neanderthal men” were utterly disgraceful and further called for the judge to apologise. He also said this demonstrated the need for a Judicial Council to hold judges to account.
Deputy Mac Lochlainn said;
“Anti-traveller racism in all forms is unacceptable in Ireland, and it is mind boggling to think that Justice Seamus Hughes would think ethnic slurs tolerable in the Courts. Given the Justice’s previous comments on the social welfare recipients, it is not unreasonable to come to the conclusion that there are certain people in society which would not get a fair trial under Justice Hughes.
“We must challenge racism at every opportunity and these comments do nothing to build public faith in the justice system. It is an example of the systemic racism that Travellers face in the Irish society and for this reason Justice Seamus Hughes should apologise immediately.
“This is not the first time a judge in Ireland has made racist comments. Only a few months ago Judge Mary Devins had to apologise for comments concerning Poles and social welfare, and Judge Devins in Castlebar and Judge John Neilan in Longford made disparaging remarks about Nigerian and African people during cases.
“This kind of behaviour demonstrates the need for a judicial council that can deal with complaints regarding judicial conduct. It is astonishing that the public are subject to a judicial system where there is no avenue for them to lodge a complaint regarding inappropriate behaviour. I am calling on the Minister for Justice to introduce legislation for a Judicial Council immediately.
“Further to this, Sinn Féin is also calling for the introduction of human rights and equality training for the judicial community so that there are no doubts regarding their responsibilities.”
Note to Editor: The Chief Justice established an interim Judicial Council however it has no statutory basis or disciplinary remit.