Attorney General slams Judicial Appointments Bill

Fianna Fáil has called for the legislation to be scrapped

Attorney General slams Judicial Appointments Bill

File photo of Attorney General Seamus Woulfe, 14-07-2018. Image: Sam Boal/RollingNews

The Government has insisted it is “fully committed” to the planned Judicial Appointments Bill.

It comes after the Attorney General sharply criticised the legislation.

At a speech in Dublin yesterday evening, Seamus Woulfe described the legislation as a “dog’s dinner.”

Addressing the Association of European Journalists, Mr Woulfe said many of the amendments to the bill made by the opposition were “contradictory, inconsistent and unconstitutional.”

The judicial appointments legislation was a key demand for Independent Minister Shane Ross during government formation talks.

Mr Woulfe’s comments will put him at odds with the Independent Alliance - which hopes to get the legislation passed as soon as possible.

File photo of Jim O’Callaghan outside Leinster House, 21-02-2018. Image: Leah Farrell/RollingNews

Dogs dinner

This morning, Fianna Fáil justice spokesperson Jim O'Callaghan said Mr Woulfe was correct in his criticism – and called for the legislation to be scrapped.

Deputy O’Callaghan told Newstalk that the “reason it is a ‘dog’s dinner’ is because the chef is Shane Ross.”

“I think the comments of the Attorney General need to act as a wake-up call for the Government,” he said.

“The Government needs to realise that this is deeply flawed legislation.

“They need to go back to the drawing board in respect of it and it would be wrong to try to push through this deeply flawed legislation.”

Important

A Government spokesman has said the Taoiseach last night held talks with Mr Woulfe as well as the Ministers for Transport and Justice on the bill.

He said the bill is “an important piece of reform and modernization” adding that the Government “hopes that all parties will work together to assist its passage.”

However, speaking at the Green Party Annual Convention this afternoon, party leader Eamon Ryan said the bill was “deeply flawed.”

He called for legislators to go back to the drawing board, warning it will “not get through” the houses of Oireachtas as it stands.

“If you have an Attorney General saying, in effect, it is not constitutional – which is the import of his words,” he said.

“Not just should Fine Gael stop it, Fianna Fáil should not vote for it; it will not get through and we start again.

“I believe it is a deeply flawed bill.

“I think the instincts coming behind it, coming from Minister Shane Ross are counter to the interests of this country.

“Our judiciary has served us well; having an independent judiciary has served us well.”

Judicial appointments

The Attorney General took particular aim at one amendment which he said effectively ‘abolished’ the office of the Attorney General from the judicial appointment process.

The Oireachtas committee voted in favour of the amendment by a 5 – 3 majority.

He said legal professionals generally viewed this as an "absolutely crazy thing to do."

Mr Woulfe has warned that it is now unlikely the bill will return to the Dáil next week as demanded by Minister Ross.

“I am sure, under new politics, a deal will be done involving various government ministers and opposition parties,” he said.

“We await, with interest, over the next few days, how that will pan out.”

The Government expects the legislation to return before the Dáil after the Easter break.