793. Deputy Alan Kelly asked the Minister for Justice if her office has received a request from the President of the High Court for provision to be made for the appointment of additional judges to the High Court; if so, when she plans to take action on foot of this request; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16478/21]
Minister for Justice (Deputy Helen McEntee): I can confirm that the President of the High Court has requested the appointment of a number of additional judges to the High Court. This would require enactment of new legislation to increase the cap on judicial numbers, and is currently under consideration in consultation with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform.
In considering increasing the number of additional judges a number of factors are taken into account including the demands across the various courts, the impact on the overall justice system, the current workload and work methods, and the costs arising, including the ancillary staff that each additional judge requires.
Meanwhile, any judicial vacancies that arise in the courts continue to be filled in a timely manner. There are currently no vacancies in the High Court.
A working group is currently being established, in line with an action of my Justice Plan 2021, to progress a Programme for Government commitment to consider the number and type of judges required over the next few years. The necessary preparatory work is well under way, including sourcing an appropriate research project to provide the necessary evidence base for deliberations. This work is expected to be finalised shortly, and I will bring proposals to Government in April. The research and planning work will be an important opportunity for the judiciary and other stakeholders to inform and contribute to the development of an evidence base for ensuring that the right number of judges, with the right skills can be deployed in the right manner in future, to benefit all citizens seeking timely access to justice.