Judicial Appointments Commission Bill ‘flawed, but a move forward’ – O’Brien
Speaking this evening in the Dáil on the Judicial Appointments Commission Bill, Sinn Féin TD and Justice spokesperson Jonathan O’Brien has said that while Sinn Féin supports the Bill, “it is limited in its effect, and is a tiny move forward in a scheme that is systemically flawed”.
Deputy O’Brien added that “it is essential that we have an independent and impartial judiciary which is representative of the community it serves – a truly representative judiciary would enhance confidence in the justice system”.
The Cork North-Central TD said:
“We support this Bill, however we are conscious of the criticisms of this Bill and wish to address them in this contribution and outline the rationale for our support.
“We are in favour of this Bill, but this is not unqualified support. We agree with members of the House who have criticised for the way in which this Bill is being handled. It isn’t good enough that it is being rammed through.
“Confidence in the justice system is contingent on a judiciary which is free from political control or political or other bias. Not only must society have a judiciary that is free from bias but it must also be free from the appearance of bias.
“It is essential that we have an independent and impartial judiciary which is representative of the community it serves – a truly representative judiciary would enhance confidence in the justice system.
“It is our view that future judicial appointments should be drawn from a wider pool of qualified candidates that is fully representative of the community in order to eradicate the corrosive and unaccountable system of patronage previously in operation.
“There must be a fair and accountable appointment process for the judiciary which is representative of the public interest.
“There must also be fairness in terms of who gets to appoint the judiciary in the first place.
“Despite the protestation of members of this House who came here via Kings Inns, this is not a particularly radical piece of legislation.
“It is disingenuous to attempt to portray fears for not being able to reward certain members of the legal profession with ‘jobs for the boys’ as being concerns for the competency of people in judicial ranks.
“At least a third of the country's judges has personal or political links to political parties before being appointed to the bench.
“As far back as 2013, we in Sinn Féin tabled a Bill on judicial appointments and it was blocked. We will be seeking some amendments to this Bill – some regarding the make-up of the lay aspects of the Commission itself in order to attempt to address the potential for it to be occupied by former political appointees. We want to see commitments to ongoing training included.
“We would like to see the matter of removal of members of the Judiciary as well as regulation of conduct of members of the judiciary addressed as a matter of urgency.
“In conclusion, we welcome this Bill but it is not the radical reform and attempt at modernisation that Fine Gael will tell us. It does not have the implication for the administration of justice that Fianna Fail tell us it has.
“It is limited in its effect, and is a tiny move forward in a scheme that is systemically flawed.”