1 June 2017 

The Tánaiste and Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald has published the Judicial Council and Judicial Appointments Commission Bills. Both are major reforms to the judiciary in Ireland.  

The Tánaiste said: “The Irish judiciary is has been one of the great successes of the Irish state. Its enduring independence has provided a constitutional structure that has enabled this state to withstand enormous political and economic threats to its existence and stability. The Irish judiciary is consistently among the top ten most independent judiciaries globally. These two Bills will underpin public confidence and guarantee the quality of our judicial system is maintained.” 

Speaking about the Judicial Council Bill 2017, the Tánaiste said: “The need for a Judicial Council has long been recognised, both domestically and internationally. The Bill provides for the establishment of a Judicial Council which will promote and maintain excellence functions and high standards of conduct among judges. A Judicial Conduct Committee will be established which will consider complaints against judges and refer them either for informal resolution or for formal investigation. The Committee will also prepare draft guidelines concerning judicial conduct and ethics for adoption by the Council. Short of invoking Article 35.4 of the Constitution, which relates to the process whereby a judge may be removed from office, commonly referred to as “impeachment”, there is no mechanism available which allows for the investigation of complaints of a less serious nature. This Bill will provide that mechanism.” 

“The Bill will provide for the establishment of a Judicial Studies Committee to facilitate the continuing education and training of judges with regard to their judicial functions. A Sentencing Information Committee will also be established to collate information on sentences imposed by the courts, and to disseminate information from time to time to judges and persons other than judges.” 

Speaking about the Judicial Appointments Commission Bill 2017, the Tánaiste said: “This is a key commitment in the Programme for Partnership Government 2016, and also represents the outcome of a consultation process on judicial appointments undertaken by the Department of Justice and Equality in 2014. It will replace the existing Judicial Appointments Advisory Board with a new Judicial Appointments Commission that will have a more substantial role and broader functions. 

“The Commission will have a lay chairperson accountable to the Oireachtas and a lay majority selected by the Public Appointments Commission. It will also include the Chief Justice and all of the Court Presidents directly involved in the selection and recommendation of person for appointment.” 

Both Bills are available on the Oireachtas website via the links below 

Judicial Appointments Commission Bill 2017 - http://www.oireachtas.ie/viewdoc.asp?DocID=36330&&CatID=59 

Judicial Council Bill 2017 - http://www.oireachtas.ie/viewdoc.asp?DocID=36329&&CatID=59