Speaking on the issue of appointments to the judiciary today, Sinn Féin Justice Spokesperson Pádraig Mac Lochlainn said the appointments process needs drastic reform and that public confidence in the justice system is contingent on a judiciary which is free from political control or political or other bias.
The Donegal North East TD said;
“Sinn Féin is committed to the establishment of an independent and impartial judiciary which is representative of the community it serves. The sheer number of politically affiliated judges adds to an already embedded public perception of the judiciary is an elite to whom the law of the land does not apply equally. This has been exacerbated by perceived inconsistencies and poor sentencing decisions in a range of areas including drug-related crime, domestic and sexual violence in particular.
“Judicial independence requires that the judiciary must be independent of other branches of government. They must be free of political and other bias when adjudicating. It is high time that the Judicial Appointments Advisory Board should be required to publish an annual report to include information on candidates who are selected for appointment.
“We are calling for the establishment of a fair and accountable appointment and removal process for the judiciary which involves meaningful lay participation representative of the public interest.
“Sinn Féin believes that judicial independence is undermined by the current appointment process in the 26 Counties. The Judicial Appointments Advisory Board (JAAB) was established in the wake of the controversial appointment of Harry Whelehan as President of the High Court in 1994, and was meant to have removed sole discretion for judicial appointments from Government.
“However there is still political involvement in the appointment of the judiciary, as the Judicial Appointments Advisory Board merely provides a list of seven qualified candidates to the Government who makes the appointments of judicial office holders.
“Sinn Féin believes that appointment procedures should be transparent to enhance public confidence in the process. This Fine Gael/Labour Government promised to be a reforming government and put an end to the ‘jobs for the boys’ culture, but looking at their judicial appointments so far it is clear many of their political cronies have received jobs from them.”