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Dublin: 10 °C Thursday 18 October, 2018

Government to block "bizarre proposal" restricting lobbying of judges

The government is to vote against John Crown’s bill which would require TDs and Senators to declare any contact with judges.

John Crown will today introduce a bill which requires TDs and Senators to inform the Minister for Justice if they try to lobby the judiciary.
John Crown will today introduce a bill which requires TDs and Senators to inform the Minister for Justice if they try to lobby the judiciary.
Image: Eamonn Farrell/Photocall Ireland

Updated, 11.16

THE GOVERNMENT is to block a bill being brought to the Seanad today which would require TDs and Senators to inform the Minister for Justice of any attempt they make to lobby the judiciary – describing the proposal as “bizarre”.

The bill is being introduced by NUI senator Prof John Crown today, but the government parties have already agreed to vote against the motion.

A Department of Justice spokeswoman this morning the bill would have the opposite effect to its intended aim – to stop parliamentarians from trying to lobby the judiciary in legal matters.

The spokeswoman said the bill would provide a mechanism for communications to be made to the DPP, and to individual judges, concerning criminal offences – as long as they were reported to the Minister for Justice at the time.

Such communications, the spokeswoman added, would be a “gross violation” of the separation of powers. As a result, the government was opposing Crown’s “bizarre proposal”.

Crown, however, believes the government’s motives are more ulterior.

“The government was thinking of going along with the bill, but when they considered the impact on how the business of politics is done in this country, they decided otherwise,” he said.

Crown added that he had not been approached by the government parties with any suggested amendments to the bill, though he would be happy to accept input in that regard.

He explained that his original hopes had been to introduce a bill which placed an outright ban on lobbying of the judiciary by TDs and Senators, but he had been advised that doing so would pose constitutional problems regarding freedom of speech.

It is understood that the bill had been slated for discussion yesterday, to allow for the attendance of justice minister Alan Shatter.

Shatter is unlikely to attend today’s debates on the bill, as he is due in the Dáil – taking ministerial questions as the Minister for Defence – while the debates on the bill will get underway.

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Gavan Reilly

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