Ross denies rift with Taoiseach as cabinet considers Judicial Appointments Bill

Fianna Fáil’s justice spokesman says Fine Gael only agreed to aspects of the bill "in their pursuit of power"

Ross denies rift with Taoiseach as cabinet considers Judicial Appointments Bill

Sport Minister Shane Ross speaking at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin | Image:

The Transport Minister has denied he was ever at odds with the Taoiseach over the appointment of judges.

The cabinet is expected to approve a summary of the Judicial Appointments Bill at this morning's meeting.

The proposed bill will stipulate that a new judicial appointments body be set up to select a shortlist of candidates for the bench - before forwarding the selections on to government.

The proposed new body would have a non-legal majority and would be led by a chairperson from outside the legal profession.

Last month, Transport Minister Shane Ross said the judiciary leads a “charmed life” and claimed they cannot be removed from office.

He called for the introduction of a “register of interests” so that it is clear when judges have vested interests in a case.

When reminded that judges already take an oath to consider every case "without fear or favour," he suggested, "they might forget it."

Speaking in the Dáil, Enda Kenny moved to distance himself from the comments and insisted it is "absolutely not the case" that judges might forget their oaths.

On his way into this morning’s cabinet meeting, Minister Ross said there was no dispute with the Taoiseach over the bill:

He said the new bill could end any “cronyism” in the selection of judges with a majority of members of the proposed new appointments body outside of the judiciary.

He said the bill will end the “iron grip” of the judiciary over the appointment of judges:

The bill is expected to be opposed by certain parts of the judiciary and Fianna Fáil’s justice spokesman said the party will not support the bill.

“We think it is a very backward step. In fact we think Fine Gael agree with us. We think that as part of the negotiations with Shane Ross they tried to persuade him that his policy was inappropriate,” he said.

“They did not succeed in that and in their pursuit of getting into power they agreed to this. The only person who seems to be advancing this proposal of a lay majority and a lay chairman is Shane Ross.”

The government blocked an alternative Fianna Fáil Bill on appointments in the Dáil last week. 

Should Fianna Fáil vote against the Bill when it comes before the Dáil, the Government will be left needing the support of a large number of other Opposition TDs to get it over the line.

Minister Ross's plan to introduce a judicial register of interests could now be included in a separate bill on judicial conduct and oversight which is expected early next year.