66. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality the process of selecting persons for judicial appointments; her plans to change this system; if further appointments will be made prior to these reforms being introduced; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17647/16]
Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): Judicial appointments are made by the President acting on the advice of the Government. Such appointments are dealt with by the Judicial Appointments Advisory Board which was established pursuant to the Courts and Court Officers Act 1995. Under section 16 of the Act, where a judicial office stands vacant or before a vacancy in a judicial office arises, the Advisory Board submits to me, as Minister for Justice and Equality, the names of the persons recommended for appointment. I then bring the names to Government which decides on the person(s) to nominate to the President for appointment.
The Deputy will be aware that the Programme for Government has significant commitments in relation to change in the area of judicial selection and appointment and I will be bringing proposals to Government for a General Scheme of a Judicial Appointments Bill to update and reform the Courts and Court Officers Act 1995 as soon as possible. In this context my Department is currently conducting a comprehensive review and analysis of all matters concerning the system of judicial appointments to ensure that it reflects current best practice. As part of this review, a public consultations process was conducted in 2014 to which there was a significant response with substantive and wide-ranging views received about the law and practice in respect of judicial appointments.
As the Deputy will know, any new proposed legislation in this area will also be the subject of full consultation and pre-legislative scrutiny so there will be ample further opportunity for interested persons and groups to express their further views in relation to the matter.
There are currently eight vacancies in the various courts and further vacancies will arise before the end of this year. I am currently considering the best approach not only in relation to filling the existing vacancies but also in terms of bringing forward the reform legislation. The Deputy will appreciate that while I cannot be definitive in respect of this issue today, I can say that the Government is likely to determine the approach to be taken on this matter in the coming weeks taking all of the relevant matters into account.