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Alan Shatter criticises High Court judge comments on pay

A High Court judge had said the government was attacking the independence of the judiciary – but Shatter has hit back.

Alan Shatter
Alan Shatter
Image: Julien Behal/PA Wire

MINISTER FOR JUSTICE Alan Shatter has dismissed comments by a senior judge suggesting that the government is deliberately attacking judicial independence.

In a strong rebuke, Minister Shatter said it was “unfortunate” if pay reductions for judges which were brought in by a referendum were seen as an attack on an organ of the State.

The Sunday Business Post reported yesterday that Mr Justice Peter Kelly told a group of business people that judicial independence is being demolished ‘brick by brick’ by the government. He is reported to have cited the government’s handling of judges’ pay and pensions and the establishment of new courts as evidence.

The Justice Minister said in a statement that he was “surprised” at the comments and warned that they could affect how Ireland is seen internationally.

“The present government has not nor will it ever interfere in any way with the inviolable constitutional duty of the judiciary to independently hear and determine court proceedings,” he said in a statement.

Judicial independence is a crucial and fundamental principle of the concept of the separation of powers. This concept is of central importance and requires respect by each organ of the State.

“At a time when we are still fighting to restore our economic sovereignty and bring about sustainable economic recovery, we all have a duty when speaking to ensure that what we say has no unintended consequences and does not undermine international business confidence in the State,” he said.

No one should have any doubt that the rule of law applies fully in this State and no question mark hangs over the independence of our judiciary or court system.

In additional comments on RTE Radio One’s Morning Ireland this morning, Alan Shatter said he was “sure it wasn’t [Mr Justice Kelly’s intention” to suggest that the government interferes with the courts.

He said that some people are “uncomfortable” with the government’s “reform agenda”, including plans to bring in a new civil court of appeal as the High Court is overburdened.

Mr Justice Peter Kelly was appointed to the High Court in 1996. He has been in charge of the Commercial Court since it began in 2004 and has presided over a number of high profile cases involving property developers and the recession.

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