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'He's not a godlike creature': Bríd Smith TD defends criticism of 'sinister and personalised' attack on judge

The People Before Profit TD claimed in a Facebook post a High Court decision was made by a ‘right wing’ judge.

Brid Smith TD of People Before Profit.
Brid Smith TD of People Before Profit.
Image: Sam Boal/Rollingnews.ie

BRÍD SMITH TD has defended comments she made about a High Court judge and a Facebook post that used an image of him and claimed he was “right wing”.

The People Before Profit TD had been reacting to a High Court decision that saw the High Court Judge Garrett Simons rule that a sectoral employment order made by Business Minister Heather Humphreys had been made outside her powers and was unconstitutional.

This meant a law guaranteeing minimum pay in the sector was struck down.

The Dublin South Central deputy put up an image of Mr Justice Simons on Facebook with the caption: “This is Garrett Simons. He’s a high court judge. He earns over 200,000 euro a year. And he’s just put the boot into workers.”

She also released a statement in which she criticised the judgement as “scandalous” and said it “tells us a great deal about the judicial system in this country”.

She wrote: “The irony that a judge earning over 210,000 euro a year can be worried that an electrician on 45,000 euro may be overpaid will not be lost on the workers affected.”

The text of the Facebook post was also published on People Before Profit’s website and accused the judge of being “a henchman for the political establishment”. 

Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan accused Deputy Smith of a “sinister” and “personalised” attack on a judge. The President of the Law Society of Ireland, Michele O’Boyle, said Smith’s actions were “shocking, unwarranted and dangerous”.

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“There is a fine tradition in Ireland of politicians in particular, and commentators in general, displaying respect for the judiciary, even where they may not like individual judgments.  It is in everyone’s interest that this tradition of respect should continue. It is in no one’s interest, neither judges, politicians nor the public as a whole, that this tradition should be departed from under any circumstances,” O’Boyle said.

Speaking on Newstalk Breakfast this morning, Smith said she has “every right to criticise the judgement” and that referencing what the judge earns is valid.

I’m not having to go at the judge, he’s probably a very nice guy. I don’t know him. In fact, I did have course to deal in his court in the recent past with the Climate Emergency Bill, and I found him to be very fair. The point I was making about the judgement is that it attacks the very fabric of the conditions and pay of workers who rely on us as an Oireachtas to put a floor of safety on their lives, and it rules it out on the basis, or it makes it unconstitutional, on the basis that it’s not competitive.

“If the High Courts were made up of plumbers and working class mothers from Ballyfermot that decision would never have been reached. The decision doesn’t fall from the ether. He’s not a godlike creature, Solomon from above, no judges are, but their class background and their material conditions from which they come does impact on the decisions they make,” she said.

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Rónán Duffy

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