Shane Ross 'fundamentally endangering basic principle of democracy', Martin claims

The Chief Justice says discussion of the judiciary is 'misrepresented and inaccurate'

Shane Ross 'fundamentally endangering basic principle of democracy', Martin claims

Sports Minister Shane Ross speaking to the media in the Aviva Stadium, Dublin | Image: Rollingnews.ie

The Fianna Fáil leader Micheal Martin has accused Transport Minister Shane Ross of undermining the independence of judges.

Mr Martin's comments follow criticism by the Chief Justice Susan Denham that the position of judges is being misrepresented.

Her statement came after Minister Shane Ross's claims that the judiciary was holding up the introduction of a judicial council - which judges have actually been seeking for years.

Mrs Justice Denham told National Judges Conference judges themselves have been requesting a change in the judicial appointments system.

"It is a fundamental principle, that each of the great organs of State owes respect to the other. Inaccurate discussion and misrepresentation of the position of the judiciary has been a feature of recent public discourse", she said.

"Amongst other factors, it is surprising that it has been stated that the judiciary are fighting change - when the opposite is the case – the judiciary have been advocating change, but it has not yet been advanced".

The Chief Justice said that the recently established Judicial Appointments Review Group met with Government ministers - including Transport Minister Shane Ross.

Chief Justice Susan Denham (centre) speaking earlier this year | Image: RollingNews.ie

"At this meeting ministers and officials were reminded of the long and ongoing efforts of the judiciary on the need for reform in the areas of judicial appointments and a Judicial Council.

"The meeting heard that it was the judiciary that had taken and maintained a proactive stance in relation to reform and change".

Last week, Transport Minister Shane Ross said that he would like to see a register of judges which outlines each member's individual interests.

But speaking in the Dáil last week, the Taoiseach said he distanced himself from the comments of Minister Ross.

Mr Ross also said that he would like to see a judicial council set up - a forum which Justice Denham said would contribute to the well-being of judges, the administration of justice and the benefit of society.

The Chief Justice said she is committed to continuing to press the Government on the issue of a Judicial Council, and remains optimistic despite the complexities involved in working with the Government.

Micheal Martin told Newstalk Breakfast Mr Ross's comments are threatening to undermine a core part of democracy.