Thursday, 19 November 2020
Ceisteanna ó Cheannairí - Leaders' Questions
Catherine Murphy (Kildare North, Social Democrats)
I also want to raise the issue of the appointment of a Supreme Court judge and the process around that. The Government obviously has a role in the appointment of a judge but it is the responsibility of the Opposition to hold the Government to account. We should not be blocked in doing that. As has been pointed out already, there has been precedent in the discussion in this Chamber of an Attorney General who was appointed to the Court of Appeal only in recent years. We know that the vacancy arose in 2019 and that the Judicial Appointments Advisory Board met earlier this year in March.
We are aware that the role of JAAB is to vet for suitability and state who is appointable. It is not the role of the board to recommend appointments, nor does it put candidates in pecking order where there are multiple applications, yet the Taoiseach has told us repeatedly that there was one recommendation made to the Cabinet and that the recommendation came through the JAAB process. We are aware that judges do not go through the JAAB process, as we have already heard this morning, but we are aware that three judges specifically applied for the role. They are, in theory, considered by way of a parallel process. We are aware that most previous vacancies filled in the Supreme Court have been filled by those who have served as judges in lower courts. Was the Chief Justice taking it at face value that a parallel process would equally be considered when the appointment was being considered? Can the Tánaiste outline how the parallel process is handled and weighted, if judicial experience is to be considered? Who would have been involved in considering the two processes? What criteria would be followed? Did the Tánaiste ask whether, or know, three judges had applied? Did the former Attorney General know there were other applicants? If he did and was an applicant himself, did he declare a conflict of interest at any point in the process? I know it post-dated the appointment of the new Attorney General.
The Taoiseach has said constantly that there was one recommendation, which came through JAAB. He has been very specific about that. He uses the phrase, "one recommendation comes through JAAB". Is that the process? Does the Tánaiste concur with the Taoiseach? What happens to those who apply through the other process? Are they really considered? What status is given to the experience of people who have served as judges in respect of this process? How do we get the best outcome in filling the positions? Will the Tánaiste focus on what the Taoiseach has said during the week, that is, that there was one process and one name came through that process? Does he concur with that?