Dáil Éireann - Volume 523 - 05 October, 2000

Written Answers. - Judicial Appointments.

24. Mr. Barrett asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if any of the persons on whose behalf he received representations from Members of the Oireachtas since his appointment as Minister were appointed as members of the Judiciary as sought in the representations made to him; the extent to which he regards such representations as relevant to the making of a judicial appointment; his views on whether such representations violate both the law and the spirit of the Courts and Court Officers Act, 1995; and if he will introduce legislation to exclude from appointment to a vacant judicial office any person advocated for such office in any political representation made to him. [20905/00]

Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. O'Donoghue): Since I took office, I have received over 40 representations from members of the Oireachtas in respect of Judicial appointments. Eight persons, on whose behalf representations were made, were subsequently appointed, all to the District Court bench.

I do not regard these representations as particularly relevant because it has been the practice of this Government and the previous Government to make appointments solely from the list submitted by the Judiciary Appointments Advisory Board as provided for under the Courts and Court Officers Act, 1995.

I believe it is important to refer to the fourth progress report of the All-Party Committee on the Constitution which dealt with the courts and the Judiciary and which the Government is currently considering. The committee took the view that our present system of appointing judges should be retained. The report went on to say that because judicial candidates were already short-listed by the Judicial Appointments Advisory Board strictly on merit, the Government could not be open to criticism that it appoints only its own supporters rather than suitably qualified persons when it chooses from the list.

I am sure that the Deputy will agree that it is appropriate that, as the Executive of the elected representatives of the people, the Government [1187] should retain the final decision in these matters as provided for under Articles 35.1 and 13.9 of the Constitution. It is therefore difficult to avoid a situation where public representatives continue to recommend to Ministers candidates for these positions. It is part and parcel of our democratic system.

Accordingly, I am not convinced that it would be right or indeed lawful to exclude a candidate from judicial office because representations had been made on his or her behalf, given that there could be cases where the recommendation was made without the knowledge of the candidate involved.