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Taoiseach will not intervene in Shatter's row with judges

Opposition TDs today called on Kenny to step in after the dispute broke out this week over judicial independence.

OPPOSITION TDS TODAY called on Taoiseach Enda Kenny to step in and address the dispute that has broken out this week between Justice Minister Alan Shatter and the judiciary.

Yesterday Shatter dismissed comments by a senior judge suggesting that the government is deliberately attacking judicial independence. Hitting back, the minister said that it was “unfortunate” if reductions in pay, brought in by a referendum, were seen as an attack on an organ of the State.

However the Association of Judges of Ireland (AJI) came out in support of the judge yesterday and said his comments at a private dinner were about more than just pay cuts, addressing the passing of legislation without consultation with the judiciary.

During leaders questions in the Dáil this afternoon, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said that a “number of senior justices have articulated their deep concerns” about trends and about initiatives undertaken by the minister.

He said that their independence was now being “torn down” and this had led to a breakdown of relations between government and the judiciary.

“Minister Shatter has great self-belief, he has a sense that he is right on all occassions and we may grant him that on 99 per cent of occassions but on this he is wrong,” Martin said.

He asked the Taoiseach if it was his intention to intervene in the row “to reach out and create a forum” for communication.

Kenny said that the independence of judges was “central to this democracy” and that Minister Shatter had articulated this on a number of occasions.

He said it was “not a case of intervention” and he was instead happy to “continue the extent of the formal and informal interaction” the government had with the judiciary.

Sinn Féin’s Mary-Lou McDonald said that the row between Shatter and the judges is “unprecedented” and accused Kenny of choosing to “look the other way”.

“They say communication has broken down and they attribute it to his [Shatter's] way of doing business,” she said.

She said the minister’s practice of making key changes without “relevant consultation” was one of the main problems and that he “arrogantly rejected any criticisms of his approach”.

Read: Alan Shatter criticises High Court judge comments on pay>

Read: Shatter row: Judges’ group outlines concerns for judiciary independence>

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