Independent TD Mattie McGrath has vigorously defended proposals for the reform of how members of the judiciary are appointed, as outlined in The Judicial Appointments Commission Bill 2017. Deputy McGrath was speaking ahead of a highly significant Dáil debate on what may prove to be some of the most far reaching transformations of the judicial selection process in the history of the state:
“Given the seriousness, and indeed the necessity of the measures being proposed in this Bill, it is vital that the government urgently addresses its own clear divisions on this matter.
The Minister for Justice, Charlie Flanagan, has at best displayed a kind of lukewarm enthusiasm and has it seems only reluctantly come round to supporting the provisions of the Bill.
What Minister Shane Ross, who is the driving force behind this Bill, is attempting to do is both politically courageous and long overdue.
The reactions of the judiciary, while cloaked in concerns about the separation of powers and the fittingness of the new process, are ultimately the last gasp of an elite group who for far too long have been self-selecting and self-regulating. That has to change.
The judiciary is not and cannot be immune to revisions and reforms such as those outlined in the Judicial Appointments Commission Bill 2017.
It is patronising in the extreme for some members of the judiciary to suggest that ‘lay people,’ regardless of their qualifications, cannot meaningfully engage in a judicial selection process.
To go further and say that this new appointment process is an active risk to the stability of the different branches of government is totally alarmist.
I accept the challenges that reform represents for any institution that has to undergo it.
That being said, we need this new Bill and this new appointment process set up as quickly as possible in order to safeguard beyond any doubt the genuine independence of the judiciary from actual or perceived undue political interference,” concluded Deputy McGrath.