Independent TD Mattie McGrath has supported the calls of the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Shane Ross, for greater accountability and transparency in the selection process for members of the judiciary. Deputy McGrath was speaking after Minister Ross was accused of misrepresenting the willingness of the judiciary to accept fundamental reforms that would make them more accountable to the general public:
“I think the proposals that are being put forward by Minister Ross should be broadly acceptable to everyone who wants to see more than just cosmetic ‘reform’ of the judicial appointment process and indeed how we monitor the interests of judges where they might conflict with the duty to observe strict impartiality.
When I raised this matter during the Government formation talks it generated an unusually hostile reaction from the government parties. That made it very clear to me that there was no real political appetite to introduce the kind of radical reforms that Minister Ross is seeking.
The view is being put out there that this is a lone Minister engaging in a baiting of the judiciary; nothing could be further from the truth.
Indeed it is a matter of European concern.
In 2014, The Group of States against Corruption (GRECO), a Council of Europe body, explicitly requested that Ireland immediately establish a judicial council to enhance the procedures for appointing the best candidates to become judges; to establish an ethical code for judges as well as to institutionalise judicial training as important steps towards maintaining judicial integrity in the future.
Work to achieve all of those aims has either been delayed, resisted or dismissed.
The Government must take a more forthright approach on this matter and not allow legitimated concerns for the separation of powers to become an excuse for the paralysis of root and branch reform,” concluded Deputy McGrath.