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New Chief Justice rejects €38k pay rise

Chief Justice Susan Denham says the judiciary does not oppose a referendum allowing their pay to be cut – and has refused a pay rise of €38,044.

Image: Eamonn Farrell/Photocall Ireland

Updated at 20.35

IRELAND’S NEWLY-APPOINTED Chief Justice has said today that she will not accept a pay rise of more than €38,000 upon taking office.

Justice Susan Denham stood to receive a pay rise of €38,044 as the current salary set for the role of Chief Justice is €295,916 – in comparison to the salary of an ordinary judge of the Supreme Court (€257,872).

However, Denham requested her salary should remain the same, pending any changes that may occur in judicial salaries in the future.

Earlier today, Denham said that Ireland’s judges are not opposed to the holding of a referendum allowing their pay to be cut – and that they are not opposed to ‘playing their part’ in cutting Ireland’s spending.

In a statement released after her appointment by President McAleese this lunchtime, Chief Justice Susan Denham remarked that judges are “very aware of the current crisis”, given the number of financial cases currently coming before the courts.

Justice Denham remarked that she would not upset the usual convention of judges refraining from engaging in political debate, although noting that “in a world of instant communication and commentary the concept of silence may seem unusual”.

“It is an inherent part of our democratic tripartite system of government,” the justice commented, adding:

It is critically important that judges administer justice and give an independent decision.

Justice Denham’s comments will be interpreted as a bid to try and ease relationships between the judiciary and the government ahead of the October referendum, which is to be held alongside the Presidential election.

Earlier this month Shatter became embroiled in a row with the judiciary over its decision to publish a 12-page memo, criticising the wording of the proposed referendum, on the Courts Service website.

That memo has since been removed from the News and Announcements section of the Courts Service website, though the PDF copy of the document is still live and can be accessed through earlier links.

Justice Denham was officially appointed this morning on the advice of the government, which decided upon the appointment last Tuesday. The seven-year term of the previous chief justice, John Murray, ended last Friday.

In full: the statement of Chief Justice Susan Denham

I am very honoured to have been appointed to the position of Chief Justice. It is an office with heavy duties and responsibilities. I am very conscious of the distinguished men who have held the position previously, it will be a challenge, and I will do my best.

I look forward to continue working with my colleagues in the Supreme Court, and with all my friends and colleagues throughout the Judiciary.

In this time of national financial crisis it is particularly important that the three branches of government retain their integrity and strength and work together for the benefit of Ireland. I look forward to working with the Government, in accordance with constitutional conventions, in the years ahead.

In particular the time has now come to develop a Judicial Council in Ireland, to support the Judiciary in their difficult task, whilst providing assurance to the public that all judges maintain our traditional high judicial standards; with the growth in the number and complexity of cases coming before the Supreme Court and the Court of Criminal Appeal, the State would be well served by a Court of Appeal; and we need to develop a 21st century infrastructure for the Judiciary of Ireland.

One of the important constitutional conventions to which I have referred is that judges refrain from engaging in matters of public controversy or political debate. In a world of instant communication and commentary the concept of silence may seem unusual but it is an inherent part of our democratic tripartite system of government. Indeed, in these difficult times the need for an institution of independence and thoughtfulness, with an obligation to maintain the rule of law, is greater than ever.

We are living through a national crisis, and while we can be thankful that our children and grandchildren are not going off to war, and that famine is not stalking the land, we are in the midst of a financial storm which has shaken families throughout the country, and imposed enormous stresses upon individuals, families, and communities.

We shall persevere and prosper, but judges are very aware of the current crisis as the effects of the financial storm come before our courts every day: a trail of tragedy, fraught families, separating spouses, lost jobs, homes under siege, serious financial woes, companies being wound up, and stories of millions and billions of euro lost in the ether. In these areas, as in all others, it is critically important that judges administer justice and give an independent decision.

Judges are not immune from the effects of the economic crisis. Judges are not, nor have they ever been, opposed to playing their part in sharing the financial pain required of everyone in this difficult time. In particular, the Judiciary has never opposed, and do not oppose, a referendum.

The people of Ireland have been well served by the Judiciary since the State was founded. This tradition continues in these troublesome times. It is an honour to serve in the third branch of the Government of Ireland, with such colleagues, and to hold the position of Chief Justice.

Previously: Susan Denham to become Ireland’s first female Chief Justice >

Additional reporting by Jennifer Wade

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Gavan Reilly

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