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judicial appointments

24 new judges will be appointed in Ireland this year

Phase one of the plan is expected to cost between €15 million and €18 million.

LAST UPDATE | 24 Feb 2023

TWENTY FOUR new judges are to be appointed this year, the Department of Justice has said.

Minister for Justice Simon Harris secured Government approval for the new judges to help increase access to justice, support the establishment of a Planning and Environment Court and dedicated Family Courts, and to clear Covid backlogs.

Harris intends to appoint an initial tranche of 24 judges this year (phase one), with a further 20 new judges following the implementation of “reforms and efficiencies” (phase two).

Speaking at the announcement in Dublin Castle today, Harris said that phase one is expected to cost between €15 million and €18 million. There currently isn’t a costing for phase two, he added.

The 44 extra judges will ultimately increase the overall number of judges in Ireland from 173 to 217.

The decision comes following Government approval earlier this week to publish the report of the Judicial Planning Working Group, which was led by Brigid McManus.

The group was established in 2021 by Minister Helen McEntee to bring a strategic focus to planning the number and type of judges required to ensure the efficient administration of justice in Ireland over the next five years.

Harris announced the planned appointment of the extra judges at the Chief Justice’s Access to Justice Conference this morning.

“Having an efficient courts system that provides timely access to justice is of central importance to society,” the Minister said.

“The courts exist to protect our rights and uphold the rule of law, and at some point we are all likely to have reason to interact with the courts system. When we do, it is important that we experience an efficient, fair and timely service that is equally accessible to all.”

How we get to phase two

Harris told reporters today “it’s very clear” – from the McManus report and various OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) reports – that Ireland doesn’t have enough judges.

“We have a much lower number of judges per 100,000 population than the OECD average in many European countries,” he said.

Harris added: “The first and most important thing we do here is recognise as a Government that we don’t have enough judges in Ireland. And anybody that reads the McManus report will see that very clearly.

So phase one is about that recognition, about injecting into the judiciary greater numbers, increasing the size of our our High Court, our Circuit Court, our Court of Appeal and our District Court. That’s what we’re doing first.

“Before we move to phase two, we will have to be able to measure the impact of that additional investment. And that will mean bringing forward an action plan around performance this year – it’ll been looking at things like data, I think there would be a recognition that we need much better data in relation to our courts and how they operate.

“It will mean things like a five-day sitting of the District Court. And it will mean making sure that no matter where you live in Ireland that there is that speedy access in terms of things like domestic violence orders, (there are) some concerns in relation to that currently.

“So this is more collaborative than adversarial, absolutely, with full respect of the independence of the judiciary, but also an understanding from Government that if we invest significantly in expanding the size of the courts that that will see quicker access to justice.”

With reporting by Órla Ryan

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