Minister Helen McEntee speaking at Government Buildings this morning Sam Boal
judicial appointments

McEntee says diversity will be a focus of new process for appointing judges

The new Bill was approved by Cabinet earlier this week and will be published shortly.

NEW LEGISLATION AROUND reforming how judges are selected will have a focus on diversity, the Justice Minister announced this morning.

The Judicial Appointments Commission (JAC) Bill 2022 will see a new nine person commission established to select and interview potential candidates to become judges and will replace the current Judicial Appointments Advisory Board.

The Bill, which was agreed by Cabinet earlier this week, was initially proposed in late 2020 following the controversy surrounding Supreme Court Justice Seamus Woulfe and the Golfgate event in August 2020.

Following the event, the Government faced questions about how Woulfe was appointed to the Supreme Court in July 2020.

According to Justice Minister Helen McEntee, the commission is a significant change in how judges are appointed and specifically focused on greater diversity of judges into the future.

“It’s very clear that through the legislation, we’re asking the commission to make sure that the selection process and the judges that are appointed reflect the people that they serve,” said McEntee, speaking to reporters this morning.

“I would expect the Chief Justice who will chair the commission will take that into account and will follow the legislation.

The new commission will be required to publish a ‘diversity statement’ to ensure that future judges reflect the diverse Irish population.

McEntee said that she would like to see more female judges being appointed, saying that half of the Irish population is female so it should be reflected on the courts.

50% of our population are women so I think if we’re going to reflect the people that we represent, or if judges are going to reflect us, then we should see greater equality.

“We’re starting to see that I think in recent years.”

McEntee added that the Commission itself must be gender balanced.

The Commission will operate by recommending three candidates for any one vacancy within the judiciary.

For additional vacancies, two more candidates can be recommended for each vacancy.

Applicants will undergo an interview process with the JAC before they can be recommended.

Under the proposed legislation, the only people who would be able to be recommended by the Government to be appointed as a judge would be people recommended by the JAC.

The Minister did say that the Government would have an “element of discretion” when choosing recommended judges, due to the constitution stipulating that the Government approves judges rather than an external body.

The Commission will propose three names, they won’t be numbered. That’s for the very fact that the Constitution sets out the government will appoint judges.

“If you were to change that it would essentially be the commission appointing judges.”

The nine member commission will be comprised of the Chief Justice, the President of the Court of Appeal, two judges nominated by the Judicial Council, four members appointed by McEntee and the Attorney General, who will not have a vote.

Under the proposed system, any candidate will be required to prove that they have undertaken judicial training or are undergoing “continuous professional development”.

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