63. Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Minister for Justice and Equality why the Judicial Council Bill and the issue of the reform to judicial appointments have not been progressed through the Houses of the Oireachtas during this Government's term of office to date. [42460/15]


Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): The Deputy will appreciate that this question concerns two separate matters.
The Government continues to be committed to bring forward a Judicial Council Bill but for reasons the Deputy will be familiar with, has had to give way to other pressing priorities in the legislative area. The Government Legislative Programme which was published on 22 September includes the Judicial Council Bill amongst those Bills which are expected to be published in the period from the commencement of the current Dail session to the start of the next session. The Bill has been the subject of extensive consultation with the judiciary, and my Department is working closely with the Office of the Attorney General to bring it to an early conclusion. I remain committed to advancing this legislation within a speedy timeframe.
As regards judicial appointments, a consultation process relating to the system of such appointments was conducted in 2014 with the intention of instituting reforms to enhance the current system. The need to ensure and protect the principle of judicial independence was a significant factor in initiating the consultation process. Further, while the Judicial Appointments Advisory Board process was a model of best practice in its day, almost 20 years from its establishment it was considered worthwhile to review the operation of the entire judicial appointments system to ensure it reflects current best practice, that it is open, transparent and accountable and that it promotes diversity.
There was a significant response to the call for submissions and, arising from the consultation process, draft legislative provisions to reform and update judicial appointment procedures are being prepared by my Department. The review, and reform of this area which is of critical importance to the functioning of our system of justice, provides an opportunity to determine how to best respond to the expectations and needs of a modern State. I anticipate that legislation in the matter will be published in 2016.