Courts Bill, 1979: Second Stage.

I move: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

The purpose of this short Bill is to provide for an increase from nine to 12 in the statutory number of ordinary judges of the High Court. Section 14 of the Law Reform Commission Act, 1975, provides inter alia that, in certain circumstances, the number of High Court judges shall be one more but, since no High Court judge is currently a member of the Law Reform Commission the provisions of the section do not affect the High Court at the present time.

The necessity for additional judges of the High Court, as provided for in section 1 of the Bill, arises from the increased volume of business coming before that court in recent years, coupled with the fact that the full time of one judge has been for some time, and still is, taken up with sittings of the Special Criminal Court. Up to January 1977 the Presidency of the Special Criminal Court had been filled by a retired judge of the High Court but he was then appointed Chairman of An Bord Pleanála and, in order to ensure that there would at all times be a High Court judge available to act as President of the Special Criminal Court, it became necessary to appoint four High Court judges to be members of that court. As a result the High Court has been deprived of the full time of one judge, while the time of another judge is now fully taken up by family law business which has grown substantially over the past three years and which, because of its personal nature, needs to be disposed of with the minimum delay. The increase of two in the number of High Court judges provided by the Courts Act, 1977 has thus been absorbed and the court has not been able to reduce either its arrears of business or the average time-lag between the date of setting down of a case and the date of hearing, which, in the case of jury actions, had grown from seven and a half months in 1977 to ten months on 6 April 1979, the end of the Hilary law term.

The annual number of jury actions set down for hearing in the High Court has risen from 863 in 1972 to 1,861 in 1978 and, despite the fact that 1,555 cases were disposed of in 1978, which is the highest number disposed of by the High Court in any one year, arrears continue to accumulate and a serious position now exists. The situation has been aggravated by the assignment of Judge Costello to conduct the Bantry Bay disaster inquiry, which is likely to deprive the High Court of his services for many months.

It is, therefore, vitally important that additional High Court judges be appointed without delay, otherwise a situation will arise in which the arrears of business and the time-lag between the dates of setting down and of hearing of cases will increase further and result in a situation which the existing complement of judges will be unable to retrieve.

The Bill now before the House is, accordingly, an important one from the point of view of the proper administration of justice and I recommend it to Deputies.

Although this Bill is in a line of similar Bills with similar titles, I believe the title is a misnomer. It has very little to do with the courts and a great deal to do with a number of judges in the High Court. I particularly regret that there was not an explanatory memorandum of some kind with the Bill, although I appreciate that the Bill is very short. Neverthless we should establish that legislation to do with the administration of justice is not merely a matter for discussion among technicians and lawyers. Law is about people and members of the public who wish to obtain a copy of this legislation should be facilitated to the maximum degree rather than implicity discouraged. There should be an explanatory memorandum explaining how the court process works, why it is necessary to increase the number of judges and the action being taken to achieve that outcome. Whenever possible this type of legislation should be accompanied by an adequate explanation, not just for the lawyer but also for the layman who wants to take an interest and desires to know the implications.

This is essentially an administrative matter and I cannot understand why it is necessary to introduce a Bill whenever there is a need to increase the number of judges. Parliamentary time is already stretched and it could arguably be stated that the whole system is falling behind in coping with the demands of the age in relation to the introduction of legislation and the review of existing legislation. Although one would not wish to give carte blanche to the Government to increase the number of judges in the High Court without limitation, surely they should have sufficient responsibility to be able to increase the number of judges by one, two or three within a given period, without having to drag a Bill into the Chamber and have a reasonably lengthy discussion on it. Perhaps it is time for the Minister and the Government to have a look at this and allow themselves some flexibility, without creating a situation in which they could double the number of High Court judges and select them in one “go” which obviously would be fraught with some danger. When we are increasing the number of High Court judges by one or two, I doubt the need for legislation such as this. I should like to think this will be the last time we will have to spend parliamentary time in this way.

In a sense it is a sad symbol of the age that we need to increase the number of High Court judges, or the number of judges generally. I would not like to take it too literally, but it could be interpreted as an indication that crime and the work to be dealt with by the courts are on the increase. I should like to think we could look forward to a time when we might be able to cut down on the number of judges in the High Court and the other courts, not for administrative reasons but because the number of crimes will have fallen. May be that is a naïve hope, but we have a duty to be optimistic. We must have the best motivation for running our society in the future. In our community crime is on the increase. In this case we are responding by increasing the number of High Court judges. We should examine the root cause of that at some stage.

There could be a problem if the number of High Court judges were increased without the necessary increase in staff such as court registrars and other staff servicing such judges. I understand that until recently, and perhaps even at present, one High Court judge was sent home regularly, so to speak, because he could not be serviced due to the lack of registrars. When the Minister is concluding perhaps he will let us know whether the conditions under which the judges are operating are adequate. It is regrettable that the Government did not take this opportunity to be more fundamentalist and radical in their approach to the question of courts.

The title of this Bill is Courts Bill. Therefore it would not be unreasonable to presume that the Government might have included some reference to other reforms which are desirable and necessary. Essentially this Bill is not about the courts but about judges. Therefore the title is misleading. There are many reforms which are worthy of consideration and which would be timely in terms of a Dáil discussion. To the best of my knowledge there has not been any recent discussions along those lines.

I am also concerned to note that civil jury trials are no longer occurring due to the industrial dispute affecting the post. I am not sure what effect this is having on the courts system and in the High Court. On the basis that justice delayed is justice denied I should like to see the Department of Justice exercising their muscle in the other Departments to find a solution to that problem. It is intolerable in the long term.

It is acceptable to mention some matters which might be in the Bill but the Deputy is going very far outside the scope of this Bill.

I have made the point and I do not wish to dwell on it. Surely one of the reasons for the need to increase the number of High Court judges is the extra burden of work and administration. I wonder what the implications of the dispute are at that level. I have made the point and I should like to think it has been noted.

There are a number of other ways in which it might be possible to re-organise and streamline the High Court which might offset to some extent the need to respond by simplistically upping the number of High Court judges. I should like to ask the rhetorical question whether the courts work hard enough and put in enough hours of work. I appreciate that, as in the case of parliamentarians, it would be wrong to believe that High Court judges work only those hours during which the courts are open. Have any permutations been considered, because a variation in the number of opening hours might offset the need for an increase in the numbers of judges? An arrangement about increased jurisdiction for the Circuit Court dealing with fines and so on might lead to a diminution in the workload at High Court level.

The level of some fines may have been set 18 or 20 years ago and this may mean a disproportionate workload is falling on the High Court in the settlement of cases which could validly and reasonably be dealt with by a lower court. The argument behind that would probably point to some kind of index-linking or regular review of the levels of fines in so far as one is willing to accept the idea of a monetary fine as being a just imposition. What I am really saying is that the jurisdiction of the lower courts could be extended and therefore the High Court might not have to be the subject of this type of Bill which crops up now and again.

Has the Minister any other proposals for reform of the High Court or the courts generally? Can any of the reports of the Law Reform Commission be expected to find a response at Government level in the near future? It would be far more useful to the Dáil, and more constructive and publicly advantageous, if we had comprehensive legislation making a fundamental review of the courts and the High Court rather than having a very slim and essentially administrative Bill such as the Courts Bill, 1979.

There is no essential objection to the Minister's proposal. Whether it is the right response, whether it is a very superficial response, whether a far more comprehensive Bill should be introduced, whether it goes far enough in its immediate response to the situation, are all matters for debate and argument. I should prefer to have more weighty legislation setting out more fundamental issues so that we could spend parliamentary time in the most useful fashion possible. In deference to those of us who are not of the legal fraternity but who nevertheless have a full and equal right to a full knowledge of all the implications of this type of legislation, the explanatory memorandum should be made available as widely as possible. Otherwise we run the risk of creating a Department of Law rather than a Department of Justice.

Having said that, I wish to keep our options open regarding possible amendments at a later Stage of the Bill, but there will not be any essential objection from us to the proposals in this Bill.

I support the Bill on behalf of my party. During the past year we have been alarmed about the inordinate delays in the disposal of cases before the High Court, delays that are due to circumstances which by and large are outside the responsibility either of the Court or of the Government. This situation has been developing for longer than a year. In recent years we have witnessed the emerging of the pattern whereby the services of High Court judges have been availed of in increasing measure for what one might refer to as extra-curricular activities but activities that are in the public interest, whether they relate to the Special Criminal Court, to the Law Reform Commission, to the Special Tribunals of Inquiry, to the Criminal Court or to An Bord Pleanála.

Likewise we have been pleased to note that the High Court has become more involved in the extremely complex and time-consuming area of family law litigation. This development has been inevitable. It is to be welcomed, but it puts a substantial workload on the High Court judges, whose workload anyway has been very substantial in recent years. For the most part, without commenting on the various judgments given, the judges have been subject to much pressure in relation to case work. There is nothing more disastrous in terms of fatigue and of pressure generally than to have a substantial backlog of work, but this situation is frustrating too for the litigants. Therefore, in the interest of democracy and of the discharging of the role of the High Court in our legal system we welcome the proposals in this Bill. Presumably in due course the emoluments of High Court judges will be increased, but that would be a matter that would come within the ambit of the Devlin review later this year.

Seven per cent.

They may be looking for more than that but one way or the other any question of increased emoluments for them will come within the ambit of the Devlin review.

The Labour Party have been concerned greatly with the extreme timelag between the setting down of cases and the dates of hearing. It would be highly dangerous not to rectify that situation because to allow it to continue would be to allow the legal system to be brought into disrepute. Personally I have some strong views regarding the performance of the legal system as a whole vis-à-vis the courts system, the role of the family law courts and the role of barristers and solicitors, but it is not my intention to air those views now except to say that in this whole area there is a need for massive reform. Perhaps some time we may have a Minister for Justice who will be prepared to come to grips with the serious anomalies in our legal system especially in relation to the presentation of cases and in relation to the role of barristers and solicitors, many of whom become High Court judges ultimately. But that is a matter which could provide us with a substantial debate here. With that reservation I welcome the decision of the Government to improve the administration of the High Court so that cases may be expendited, because there is nothing worse for litigants or for democracy than to have a situation of inordinate delays in the disposal of cases.

(Cavan-Monaghan): I, too, welcome this Bill because I am confident that it will lead to a more expeditious discharge of business in the High Court. It is obvious from the Minister's brief that the High Court has fallen into arrears, especially in relation to jury actions. It takes almost 12 months from the date on which an action is set down until its hearing. One would expect, for a number of reasons, the volume of work in the High Court to have increased. First, Statutes passed by the last administration providing rights in the family and updating family law have led to one judge being occupied almost full time on this branch of the law. That shows how much needed were the reforms put through by the previous Government. Secondly, there has been an enormous increase in the number of cars on the roads and we are told that there has been an increase between 1972 and 1978 of more than 1,000 jury actions per year. If the Minister's brief is correct, that increase is attributable for the most part to the increase in the number of running-down accidents. We know, too, that money is not as valuable as it used to be and that the jurisdiction of the Circuit Court at £2,000, a sum that was considered to be substantial in terms of awards for damages when it was introduced, represents no more now than what would be a decent garage bill, not to mention a bill for personal injuries. Therefore it is not surprising that the volume of work in the High Court has increased substantially and that the Government should seek to appoint more judges.

Some years ago the policy was to appoint the minimum number of judges, but that approach was wrong. The expeditious disposal of people's business in the High Court and the elimination of delays are much more important than the increased salaries involved in the appointment of further judges. Delays in court cases bring the law into disrepute and lead to unnecessary frustration among the general public. I am not suggesting for a moment that all the delays occur in the courts. There are delays all along the line—in solicitors' offices, in the Bar Library and in receiving reports from expert witnesses.

All those matters cause delay. There are delays in running down actions which are unavoidable. Legal advisers may have to wait for a period until the result of the injuries is clear in order to be able to value them. There are delays in insurance companies' offices. There are delays right across the line. If we are to add to all of those delays a delay of 12 months or more from the date the action is set down for hearing until it is reached we have an intolerable position. The law is brought into disrepute and the litigants are completely frustrated.

Is the Minister of State in a position to be able to tell us what is the position in regard to accommodation for those judges? I do not know what the up-todate position is in the Four Courts. I have not been there for several years but I believe the accommodation is far from satisfactory. I understand that further buildings have been acquired by the Office of Public Works but a few years ago the accommodation in the Four Courts was hardly able to serve the judges who were then administering justice in the High Court. Where will the three new judges be accommodated? I hope the Minister will tell the House what exactly is the position. It is necessary, from the point of view of the Judiciary that reasonable accommodation for the Judiciary, the jurors and the litigants be provided as a matter of urgency.

I believe that a lot more could be done to facilitate litigants, particularly plaintiffs who have to travel long journeys from places like Kerry, Donegal and even Cavan. Many of those people have to travel 150 miles to 200 miles to have their cases heard. I know the situation has improved somewhat recently by holding the High Court in the larger cities. We do not have free legal aid in civil matters and that means very often that plaintiffs who have not watertight actions, who may either win or lose, have to travel a long distance to come to Dublin. The plaintiff's solicitor in cases like this has to organise all the witnesses, some professional, such as engineers and medical men, to be in attendance.

Those actions are listed in order of setting down. The first priority in arranging a list seems to be to ensure that the judges and the courts are kept working and that the list will not break down on any day. Because of the practice of last minute settlements in the Round Hall of the Four Courts, very often after juries have been called, the practice of making sure that there is a full day's work involves listing more cases than can reasonably be heard. Four cases are often listed for one court and unless there are three settlements the fourth one cannot get on and unless there are two settlements the third one cannot get on. There should be a more humane approach to this and an officer of the court should vet the actions and see where the people come from. Litigants who have to travel long distances should be given a priority listing so that they will be heard on the day they come to Dublin. Litigants who have to come to Dublin often have to stay one night and even two nights and this has sometimes very queer effects. A plaintiff might be coerced into settling an action which he would otherwise litigate and perhaps get more out of a settlement.

We appear to be getting outside the actual scope of the Bill which deals only with the appointment of additional judges.

(Cavan-Monaghan): We are going to provide more judges and we have to pay them. I want to see how they are best used. I believe this is relevant. This Bill gives very considerable scope. It deals with the appointment of judges. Surely we are entitled to discuss how best judges can be employed.

The Chair agrees with the work they do but we cannot go into a lengthy debate on matters which are really for another Bill.

Is there another Bill due?

The Chair is not responsible for other Bills.

(Cavan-Monaghan): I do not want to quarrel with the Chair, but, with all respect, when we are appointing new judges we are incurring expenses and I want to say how best they could be used to facilitate the people who are in the end paying the piper. It is the taxpayers who pay those people. More consideration should be given in running down actions to facilitating plaintiffs who have not the benefit of a free legal aid system. Their actions should be heard the day they come to Dublin.

Some people might think that judges do not work hard enough. Their work cannot be measured in hours. A judge presiding in a court, concentrating every second he is on the bench for four hours a day has done a good day's work. The Chair in this House would find it impossible to chair a meeting for several hours without a break. The judge presiding in a court has a very difficult job. It is not possible to measure his work by four hours or eight hours. He is doing specialised work which cannot be done for long hours.

The Minister mentioned jury actions. They have increased enormously, from 863 in 1972 to 1,861 in 1978. I am one of those people who believe that the jury system of trying cases is the best system. I would be against any proposal to abolish jury actions and the jury system in the High Court. Over the years the wisdom of juries has been proved to be sound and their decisions reasonable. If the occasion arises I shall go into this matter in more depth. It would be a matter for another Bill when I shall deal with it in more detail.

There is one other matter with which I want to deal. We in this country have been blessed with the judges who have been appointed over the years. The system of appointing judges has been questioned from time to time. I do not propose to go into that here. Suffice it to say that I believe that our judges have upheld the best traditions of the Judiciary in that they act with the utmost impartiality and, when they go on the bench, do their utmost to discharge justice; certainly they forget about their past. At the same time judges are human; they are human beings and, being human beings, suffer from the shortcomings of human nature the same as the rest of us. It has often struck me that one judge might be more suited for sitting in one court than another judge. We hear it said in racing parlance that there are horses for courses, and I think there are judges for courts. There could be and, indeed, have been, judges who are constitutionally unsuited for the particular task entrusted to them. These same judges might be ideally suited to presiding in another type of court. Of course, it does not occur to a person that he is not constitutionally or temperamentally suited to a particular task. As a matter of fact it could very well be that the more unsuitable a person was for the task entrusted to him the more enjoyment he might get out of discharging that task. What I am coming to is that I believe there is power available for the appointment of judges and the allocation of judges to the various courts. In my lifetime as a lawyer I believe that that function has been discharged far too lightly, if at all. I believe that the whole judicial system would be improved very considerably if the allocation of judges to particular courts was not regarded as a lifetime allocation. I believe that the administration of justice would run more smoothly, that litigants would be much more satisfied and would leave court much more satisfied whether they won or lost if the judges were moved about from one type of court to another within the same jurisdiction. I do not mean that judges should be moved up and down from the Circuit Court to the High Court but I believe, particularly in the High Court—where there are different duties to be performed—the allocation of a judge to one type of duty should not be taken as a lifetime appointment. I do not think any judge should be offended, or that it should be regarded as downgrading, if he were changed from one court to another. There is a very human element in the discharge of one type of function as against another; for instance, some types of jurisdiction within the High Court deal with more sensitive areas than others. I hope I have made myself clear. I believe my legal brethren will know what I am talking about. I know that the authority exists to do what I am suggesting and it should be exercised.

I have felt for many years what I am now expressing. I just did not have the opportunity of expressing it because an appropriate occasion did not arise. I say it now and I strongly recommend that particular attention by given to courts presided over by judges and the type of task they are asked to undertake. We have been blessed with our Judiciary over the years. They have been impartial and fearless; they have allowed nothing except consideration of the administration of justice to influence them. But they are still human and suffer from all the shortcomings from which we human beings suffer. Many of us suffer from shortcomings of which we are not aware. I am suggesting that the judicial system would be better helped, would operate more smoothly and to the satisfaction of the people to whose complete satisfaction it should operate, those litigants appearing before it, if my suggestion that judges should not be regarded as having a lease of life in any particular court was implemented.

I read the Minister's introductory remarks. I have listened to Deputy Fitzpatrick. Unfortunately I missed Deputy Keating's contribution. However, Deputy Fitzpatrick has helped me curtail my remarks because I am in agreement with a lot of what he said.

I would ask the Minister to consider the situation obtaining in regard to family law cases coming up for hearing in the country. I have not had an opportunity of seeing how they operate in Dublin. From my experience family law cases in the country come up for hearing at the same time as other cases. Here I am referring to some cases that are District Court cases when all are listed together. For instance, they may be cases in regard to dangerous driving, motor taxation, dog licences and so on, all normally listed for 11 a.m. All cases, including family law cases, are listed for 11 a.m. The family law cases are called and are heard in camera——

I have allowed a lot of latitude. Surely we are not going to discuss the workings of the District Court. This Bill deals only with additional judges for the High Court. If the Deputy can relate it to the High Court, well and good.

I can. The Minister dealt with the situation in his speech.

As far as it relates to the High Court and to the number of judges in the High Court.

The Minister referred to family law which is taking up the time of one judge. I am trying to make a serious contribution but am so restricted by the Chair that it is not worth my while bothering.

The Chair does not wish to restrict the Deputy at all but he will agree that all we are dealing with in this Bill is the appointment of additional High Court judges.

I would refer the House to the Courts Act, 1977 which this Bill is amending. That Act deals with the whole aspect of judges in the High Court, in the Circuit Court and in the District Court.

This short Bill only deals with the appointment of additional High Court judges.

I have taken Deputy Enright's point and I have an answer for it.

That is fair enough.

I am glad to be able to bring to the attention of the Minister the fact that this situation exists and I would ask the Chair for some latitude. My point applies equally to all the courts. All the cases listed for the High Court are listed for 11 a.m. and the people involved in family law disputes, whether in relation to maintenance or assault, must wait in the body of the court. The court clerk will call a couple into the court chamber and the case is heard by the justice and dealt with and then the next couple are called. This system literally advertises the fact that a family dispute has arisen. Family law cases should be dealt with separately and not along with ordinary run of the mill cases. A certain amount of confidentiality should be preserved in this type of case but at present it is not being preserved and I would ask the Minister to rectify this state of affairs.

I raised the question of the number of High Court judges with the Minister for Justice at Question Time some time ago. I was aware of a backlog of jury actions and of non-jury actions. I was told that the average length of time before a case could be heard was nine months. My attention has since been drawn to the fact that it takes at least ten months and that the postal dispute is aggravating the situation and that cases are not being heard for 12, 15 and 16 months. This type of delay is most serious for people who are injured and who are living on social welfare benefits. These people, despite the best advice, are pressured into accepting soft settlements because they cannot afford to hold out any longer. An increased number of judges will go some way towards meeting the situation and I could not expect the number to be increased beyond 12. However, I would ask the Minister to continue to monitor the situation. There were 1,555 cases disposed of in 1978 which, as the Minister said, is the highest number of cases dealt with by the High Court in any one year. However, the arrears continue to accumulate and I would like to know if the arrears numbers more than the cases dealt with. Will the Minister elaborate on the arrears? We must make a positive effort to reduce the number of cases outstanding because the delays are causing hardship to people who can ill afford to suffer further hardships. I know that the fact that the Special Criminal Court is in session and that Judge Costello is in Bantry compounds the situation. At present there is no one on the Law Reform Commission. However, we need people to hear these cases.

Deputy Fitzpatrick touched on the arrangements in regard to the lists of cases. I was involved as a witness in a case a short while ago and I arrived with engineers, architects, doctors and so on for a High Court case in which neither was in a position to pay additional costs. The case adjourned at about 11.20 a.m. although people had travelled from all over the country to attend the hearing. Everybody there left the court with a diminished respect for solicitors, barristers and everybody else connected with courts when they were told that the case was being adjourned for two weeks irrespective of the fact that both parties to that case would have been happy to accept the findings of the court.

An effort should be made to have preliminary discussions, involving counsel and solicitors on both sides, on the call-overs of lists so that more cases could be disposed of. I am confident that if such preliminary consultations could be arranged many more cases could be settled and a lot of delays avoided. Perhaps there would be expenses attached to such preliminary sessions but a lot of the general aggravation about delays would be avoided and the High Court backlog would be reduced considerably. Some such arrangements will have to be made to bring High Court lists more up to date. These consultations should be arranged from inside and the arrangements should be made in the near future because otherwise outsiders, possibly the Department, will have to intervene and that would not be the most satisfactory way from the point of view of litigants.

Another way to avoid delays and to reduce the cost to litigants would be if the High Court went on circuit to many more centres than at present when High Court judges attend in Galway, Cork, Limerick and sometimes in Kilkenny. The extra judges being appointed by this Bill should be requested to move to more areas and in effect to have all the year round sittings. If this could be arranged it would be to the benefit not only of the parties involved in litigation but also professional witnesses such as surgeons, doctors, engineers and architects. Doctors would then be able to stay in their hospitals until half an hour before the listed hearings.

The Deputy is broadening the scope of the debate. These matters may be discussed on a future Bill. This Bill does not deal with court procedures, only with the appointment of additional High Court judges.

I am trying to suggest improvements in the way the courts operate. I ask the Minister to consider these points very seriously to the benefit of all concerned. I should like also to draw the Minister's attention to the serious lack of accommodation in the Four Courts. A situation arose not long ago when High Court judges had not rooms in which to hear cases. This should not arise, particularly in the case of highly-paid judges. I appreciate that much of the judges' work could be done in their private homes, such as reading materials, preparing judgments and assessing evidence, but it is serious when a High Court judge arrives at the Four Courts at 10.30 a.m. to find that there is not a room available in which he can hear cases listed. I appreciate that accommodation is being prepared in an effort to avoid a recurrence of such a situation but it must be remembered that when the additional judges are appointed further accommodation will be needed. We must ensure that another backlog of cases does not build up. It is a very serious situation when a judge does not have accommodation to hear cases. Of course, that is only part of the reason why there is such a serious backlog of cases.

Another matter needing attention as far as the High Court is concerned is in relation to the shortage of stenographers. I do not know why that shortage exists but it appears that there is a serious shortage of people who are skilled in shorthand note-taking.

The Deputy is going outside the scope of the Bill.

(Cavan-Monaghan): There is little point in appointing judges if we do not have the staff to service them.

That may be so but it is not relevant to the Bill.

Up to now we have had a shortage of judges and accommodation but now that we have both it must be remembered that it will be necessary to supply additional stenographers to take a note of the evidence in the courts of the new judges. The Department of Justice should be made aware of that shortage so that they can make every effort to service the 12 judges we will have when we pass this Bill. I am anxious to be helpful and not to score debating points.

While I welcome the provision in the Bill to appoint additional High Court judges I am disappointed that the opportunity was not availed of to appoint more district justices. Because of a shortage of such people arrears have built up in many courts, particularly in the major centres of population. It should be remembered that, following the decision to grant free legal aid in family law cases, many more cases are likely to come before such courts. In this regard the Minister should consider appointing people who are qualified in the area of family law to the bench.

We cannot go on to discuss the District Court.

I am entitled to point out where I consider the Bill to be correct and I am also entitled to point out what is lacking in the Bill. Unless I raise such matters during the course of the Second Stage debate I will be precluded from bringing in amendments on Committee Stage.

Not necessarily.

I suggest I am in order in calling for the appointment of more district justices to deal with family law cases. At present it appears that such cases are rushed through the courts and not given the necessary careful consideration. The Minister should appoint people who are specialists in family law and who can also show compassion, kindness and patience. The Bill, as far as it goes, is excellent but needs my outlined amendment.

The increase in the number of High Court judges is most desirable. I am expressing an opinion as a layman. The last two speakers have been legally trained, are familiar with court procedure and with attendance on behalf of their clients in the District Court, Circuit Court and High Court. Can the Minister of State give us the real reason for the long delay in presenting cases in the High Court? Presumably the main reason, as this Bill indicates, is the lack of High Court judges. This delay in hearing cases is causing annoyance and aggravation to both plaintiffs and defendants who are anxious to have their cases disposed of in the High Court.

The District Court may be looked upon as the poor man's Supreme Court because he cannot go any further on financial grounds. The Circuit Court is one of the most useful and valuable courts. Cases are usually appealed from District Court to Circuit Court and from Circuit Court to High Court for a decision. There are many workmen's compensation claims awaiting decision by the High Court. It is difficult to understand the delay in hearing a libel case against a newspaper or a slander case in which a High Court decision is deemed desirable. There are a greater number of cases to be dealt with at District Court level and at Circuit Court level. The pressure of the long list of undecided cases should be taken off the High Court. Many cases on this list are brought by local authorities, by Government bodies, and by semi-State bodies. With more commonsense exercised these could be disposed of much more easily and quickly, without wasting the valuable time of the limited number of High Court judges.

It is easy to say "We are proceeding to the High Court" when those saying so have not to spend their own money. I deplore, from my own experience, actions being brought by an individual which are deemed to necessitate a decision by one of the limited number of High Court judges. The local authority, semi-State or State body have money at their disposal, as against the limited funds available to the individual to contest his case fairly and squarely in the High Court.

Before cases reach High Court level they should be processed and their numbers pruned by a judge of the High Court. I have seen cases where the valuable time of the High Court has been taken up unnecessarily, a number of witnesses have been brought from all over the country and the case takes weeks and weeks to decide—for example, a case in which Bord na Móna and a constituent of mine were involved. Anyone with commonsense or intelligence would have known the manner in which this case would be decided, but because of a certain stubbornness of the individual, and mainly because he had not to fork out the money—it was taxpayers' or ratepapers' money rather than the hard-earned money of the people advocating a High Court decision—the case went to the High Court. Some reorganisation is required to have cases, particularly involving local authorities and so on, speedily dealt with.

The general public has no idea of the amount of work a High Court judge has to perform. He is on the bench from 10.30 a.m. until 4.30 p.m. or 5 o'clock and they think his work is then finished, but his work has only then begun. He has evidence to consider. He is pledged to perform his duty with the utmost impartiality, honesty, integrity and courage, and without fear or hindrance from any section of the community. Here I join with Deputy Tom Fitzpatrick in saying that we are very fortunate—in recent years, perhaps not always because not all judges are angels; they cannot be angels, any more than all politicians can be, human nature being what it is—in having, on the whole, a first-class Judiciary. Every judge sitting in the High Court has discharged, is discharging and will discharge his duty conscientiously, honorably, nobly and in the interests of fairness and justice. Justice is imparted after the fullest consideration of all the facts submitted in evidence.

Under this Bill we are increasing the number of High Court judges but I suggest, as a layman, that this number should not be less than 14. In a couple of years a similar Bill will have to be brought before this House for a further increase in the number. High Court judges have other responsibilities as well as deciding the variety of cases before them. In judicial inquiries and commissions the guidance and valuable assistance of such talented legal men are invaluable. We are very fortunate in having such legally trained men who have administered the law fairly and honestly. The success of our legal system has been due mainly to the integrity of the judges, and I say this with special reference to the Supreme Court and to the High Court.

I presume the Government will give careful consideration to the people about to be appointed. It is essential that the qualities and the personality of the person to be appointed as High Court judge be fully examined by the appointing authority, namely, the Government. For that position a person should have patience, understanding and sympathy. He should be able to balance the views of the intellectual as well as those of the most ignorant citizen who comes before him. I do not think in any walk of life that there is such a need for patience and understanding, particularly an understanding of human weakness. A judge has grave responsibility for administering justice and impartially administering the law and this vests great authority and power in him. When the High Court adjourns at 5 p.m. many of the judges have to work in their own homes signing legal documents, advising on legal matters, keeping in touch with county registrars and others as well as examining thoroughly the volume of evidence before them.

I should like to express the hope that an effort will be made to keep abreast of the demands on the court for quick decisions. There is little use in making this plea to the Government because once a person is appointed a judge he is free of the Government and everyone else. Unlike the Taoiseach, the Ministers and the most humble Member of this House who can be shifted by a very easy process, as we have seen in recent years, a High Court judge cannot be dismissed. I can only avail of this opportunity here to express my comments to the people about to be appointed judges. If possible they should give their decisions immediately and not reserve decisions for a considerable time. I know there may be cases where, for instance, a site has to be examined or evidence has to be examined further and in such cases it may be desirable to reserve judgement. However, this can put a lot of worry and mental strain on the participants in the court cases. On too many occasions decisions have been reserved or cases adjourned, even in the High Court, without any visible justification for the adjournment. I realise that the presiding judge knows all the facts but there appears to be a lack of information between the judge, the legal participants and particularly the plaintiff and defendant. Often they do not know why a judgment is reserved or why a case is adjourned until the next sitting.

The High Court is perhaps the most vital and important court. All the High Court judges should come together to try to clear the backlog of cases and try to determine if some cases might be disposed of other than by court sittings. Many cases could be settled if there was reason and understanding without having to take up the time of the court, thus avoiding inconvenience and mental strain to the people involved. There are workmen's compensation cases listed for the High Court and some of them have been there for many years without being disposed of. The time of the court should not be wasted on such cases and an effort should be made to have them disposed of satisfactorily.

I do not know if we have any women High Court judges. I am sure there must be some women in legal circles whose talents are equal to those of the men and doubtless the Government would be favourably disposed towards them. Irrespective of the outcome of a case there is always a financial loss. A greater effort should be made to have cases settled outside court if possible. The Court should only be used as a last resort. There are trivial cases awaiting decision and, because of the position they hold on the list, they are holding up urgent cases that require the attention of our High Court judges.

I salute these men for their understanding, their interest in the institutions of the State and their high standards of honesty and integrity. I say that from my experience of present day judges, but I did not always hold the same view. All judges cannot be angels, nor can all Members of this House, but because of human frailty many of them may be inclined to give way to their feelings. As I said, our judges are devoted to justice and fair play.

My only complaint is that too many cases come before them which should not be before them at all. Perhaps this is because legal people are anxious to take a good pluck of the goose before the cases come to the Four Courts. If there is the slightest doubt about the success of a case, there is a grave responsibility on our legal people to advise their clients about the high costs involved in bringing cases before the High Court and the Supreme Court. After unfavourable decisions many people who attended the High Court as plaintiffs or defendants would have been happier if they had been legally advised not to take their case to that court.

I hope the appointments to be made under this Bill will expedite matters. In my view this Bill was introduced to clear up the backlog of cases and to accelerate the work of the Supreme Court and the High Court. I support this Bill and have no objection to the appointment of the additional judges. As a layman I think there should be at least 14 judges. Some steps should be taken to bring the High Court on circuit more frequently, if a courthouse and office facilities are readily available. This is already happening in Galway and Cork.

I fully agree with the purpose of this Bill: that there should be an increase in the number of ordinary judges in the High Court. The backlog of work makes one wonder if the increase from nine to 12 is adequate. There are a number of cases waiting to be heard literally for years. This leaves a lot to be desired.

I have often wondered at the method of appointment of High Court judges and judges in general. It is relevant at the present time that I should say this, because the Constitution states that there must be clear separation of the Oireachtas from the Judiciary. The fact that the Government of the day have such an important say in the appointment of our judges makes a mockery of that and leaves a lot to be desired. I deplore political appointments. That is very wrong for democracy and for the proper working of our Judiciary. So many decisions affecting the laws of the Oireachtas go before the judges that I feel it is important that they should be absolutely impartial and the fact that the Government have a say in their appointment casts serious doubt and suspicion on their judgments.

I recognise that this is a small country and that problems can arise, but there must be some way to appoint judges other than by a Government. As I said, it is wrong that the Government should have a say in the appointment of judges because it is a complete negation of the idea that there should be complete separation of the Oireachtas from the Judiciary. Because of that, in my view, we are doing a great deal of harm to our democracy. I am amazed this has not been mentioned previously and that there has not been a public outcry at such appointments. To expect judges suddenly to become impartial is asking too much of human nature.

I would favour an interview panel which would appoint people to the bench purely on merit and not on political affiliations. It is very important that I put this view forward. This subject should be discussed more often. There has to be a change if we are to see the Judiciary totally separated from the Oireachtas. I would be very much in favour of that separation and hope the Government might see their way to doing this, as their predecessors did with An Bord Pleanála, a separate body set up to deal with planning problems. All Members will agree that this important body is operating efficiently and no charges can be levelled at it because of that. In the same way a panel should be set up to appoint judges and the Government of the day should not have any say in their appointment. I look forward to the day when this happens and hope there will be a public debate on it.

I support this Bill but wonder why only three extra judges are being appointed. What is the justification for that number? In my opinion we are not serving the cause of justice by appointing only three extra. There should be at least five having regard to the volume of work before the courts. It is the ordinary members of the public who suffer the delays and frustrations of this backlog, whose cases are delayed for a very long time because the judges cannot cope with the volume of work. I would like to hear the Minister of State explain why. Will we have to come in here again in two years' time to ask that the number be increased? Why not do it now to cope with the number of cases before it?

I would like to join with other Deputies in welcoming this Bill. There are one or two points I would like to make. I strongly endorse what Deputy Flanagan said about the dangers which arise from judgment being reserved in a case for an undue length of time. One can obviously see that a judge may not wish, having heard the case, to give his judgment straight away but surely there must be some limit on the time within which he should be able to give his judgment. I have heard reports of delays of a truly inordinate length by a judge in relation to him giving judgment in a number of cases with which he has been charged. That should not happen because one must recognise that if any judgment is given it is possible to appeal it in the case of a lower court and at least the matter can be brought to some conclusion. But if judgment is merely reserved no progress whatever can be made by the parties. When one considers the very large amounts of money involved and possibly the very great injuries that people may have suffered which require compensation it behoves judges to make sure that if they do have to reserve judgment—and nobody disputes the right that they have to do so in certain cases—it should only be for a minimum length of time. Would it be possible to get information, through the Minister of State, about the length of time judgments have been reserved in individual cases? Is it possible, for instance, to obtain, by means of parliamentary question or by answer here, information on the maximum length of time for which a judgment has been reserved in the High Court? Possibly one might be told that because of the separation of powers between the Oireachtas and the judiciary the Minister of State would not be in a position to obtain that sort of information. If he were, it would be very interesting and useful information which the public are entitled to know as they are paying the cost of the Judiciary and of other public services. They are, therefore, entitled to know how this work is being carried out and information about the length of time for which judgments are being reserved by particular judges could perhaps be justly made available. However, if there is a constitutional bar to this being done in this House on the grounds that the Judiciary is constitutionally separate from the Executive and legislative arms of government, then obviously the information cannot be made available and if that is so, naturally I and every other Member of this House would accept it.

I would like to draw attention also to another matter relating to the courts and that is the interest rate on court judgment debts. At present if a person obtains judgment against somebody who owes him a substantial amount of money no interest whatever is obtained on the debt up to the date of the court hearing. A person is merely entitled to the money even though he might have been out of his money for a very long time and may have been paying interest on borrowed money in the interim. On the date of the judgment all he is entitled to is 4 per cent on the debt. If the going market interest rate is anything from 15 to 20 per cent, that is four or five times as much as he is entitled to get on the judgment debt. So he is clearly losing out because if the debt is still not paid up at the time when the debtor's property might be seized——

We should not be having a detailed discussion on the functioning of the courts.

This is not really a matter of the functioning of the courts; it is a matter for the Government to change the law. Under the Debtors Act of 1841, 4 per cent is the maximum which may be charged. This Act has not been changed for over 100 years and it is about time it was changed. A report was made to the Government in 1969 by the Committee on Court Practice and Procedure recommending that this figure of 4 per cent which had been standing at that time for 120 years should be raised to a realistic level based on current rates of interest. The Government should be in a position to introduce legislation to implement those recommendations. This is genuinely an urgent matter because people abroad are not prepared to deal commercially with this country in many cases.

Is the Deputy advocating that it should be in this Bill?

I am. It is about time that the Government took action to raise the rate of interest to a realistic level so that there will not be an active disincentive to people to pay their just debts which have been found to be owed by the courts of this land. I would ask the Government to introduce either an amendment to this Bill or legislation to deal with this matter as quickly as they possibly can. There is one last point I would like to make about the general question of civil legal aid.

The Deputy may not discuss that.

There will be a motion in the House tomorrow on that subject. I am grateful for the constructive manner in which this very important Bill was met by the Members of this House. I am particularly grateful to the practitioners on the Opposition benches. They are people who are respected in the legal profession and know what they are speaking about and it is most helpful that they should bring their considerable experience to bear on a Bill of this nature. This is not in any way to undervalue the contributions made by other Deputies. I consider that if it was left entirely to lawyers to discuss a Bill involving the legal profession then the discussion would in some way lose its merit and its value and I am grateful to the laymen for their contributions too.

I will first deal in a very general way with this debate and I will then return to the various points made by Deputies and it will be my intention to deal specifically, item by item, with the queries raised.

One of the important aspects of this general discussion is to remember that our system of Government is founded on the separation of powers. Article 6.1 of the Constitution classifies "all powers of Government" as legislative, executive and judicial and of course these powers "derive, under God, from the people" and are "exercisable only by or on the authority of the organs of State established by this Constitution." Further, the separation of powers is not a rigid one because the obligation devolves on all divisions to promote the objects of the Constitution. Deputies will be well aware that in the preamble to the Constitution the people set out that they sought to promote the common good with due observance of prudence, justice and charity "so that the dignity and freedom of the individual might be assured, true social order attained, the unity of our country restored and concord established with other nations". The sentiments embodied in that preamble and other relevant Articles of the Constitution concerning how the State is governed are as valid as they were when the Constitution was first enacted by the people in 1937.

The Judiciary are in a unique position in our law in that a person appointed to the Bench cannot be removed except by resolution by both Houses of the Oireachtas. There has been no instance where the impeachment process has been brought forward. This is a great tribute to the work and integrity of our Judiciary. If the position of a judge carries with it great immunity and privilege, it also carries a high level of responsibility and the requirements of a high degree of zeal and dedication in the performance of judicial functions. Deputies who are lawyers will appreciate that on assuming office every judge must make a solemn declaration that he, or in time according to Deputy Oliver Flanagan she, will execute the duties of his or her office "without fear or favour, affection or ill-will towards any man", and that he will uphold the Constitution and the law. He must carry out this from the day he takes office and every day of his life thereafter.

Our Constitution has a system of judicial review which is wide ranging. It is more far-reaching than the American example from which, no doubt, it was taken. We have a system whereby Bills can be sent by the President to the Supreme Court to test their possible repugnancy to our Constitution. Administrative actions are subject to a wide degree of judicial review. This has been an expanding sphere of judicial activity over the last 15 years. Naturally decision are handed down from time to time which do not suit the Government of the day. However a Government with due regard for the democratic processes, and this has been shared by every Government in the history of the nation, will take an adverse decision in the spirit in which it is given, having regard to the judicial powers contained in the Constitution and the role each has to play in seeking to promote as best it can the common good. Of necessity there is an inevitable, though slight, tension between the executive process and the judicial one. It does not fall to the lot of either to praise the other very often. I am taking this opportunity of doing just that and detailing, in reply to queries made by members of the Opposition, the strenuous workload which judges have in the High Court.

It is my intention to place on the record of the House the statistics of the case workload of the High Court since 1972. I do not know whether you wish me to read it out but I am sure the Opposition will agree that it is a considerable detailing——

It can be circulated with the Official Report.

I appreciate that.

(Cavan-Monaghan): No case has been made from any side of the House that the judges are underworked.

I did not say that. It is by way of supporting the views of Deputies opposite and preventing criticism of our Judiciary that it is important to have in the Official Report the case load of the High Court since 1972.

Circulate it with the Official Report.

I am grateful to the Opposition for allowing me to circulate these figures with the Official Report.

It is only what is said that will appear in the Official Report.

The House can rule its own procedure and if Deputy Andrews proposes to——

If the procedure——

If Deputy Andrews wishes to give a document to a member of the Opposition he is entitled to do so, but it does not appear in the Official Report.

The House is the ruler of its own procedure.

It can be laid in the Library. It is only what is spoken in the House that appears in the Official Report.

In the year ending 31 July 1972 there were, awaiting hearing, 300 cases at the start of the year, 863 cases set down during the year and the total to be dealt with, 1,163. Cases disposed of during the year were 702, adjourned at the end of the year, 461, and the average delay from setting down of the case to the hearing of the case was nine months.

Deputy Fitzpatrick made a good point in this regard. It does not begin and end with the setting down and hearing of the case by the High Court. There is a lot of preparatory and paperwork to be done. One has to meet one's client, discuss the case with him whether he is plaintiff or defendant, set up the paperwork which has to be sent to counsel and await their consideration of it. It then comes back to the instructing solicitor. That takes a long time. It is not all about setting down the case in the High Court to the date of hearing. A lot of preliminary work has to be done which involves solicitors and counsel, the client and, in some cases, doctors, engineers and so on. These are additional delays not brought about by the practitioners themselves but by the general process of the law. That brings me to the figures for 1978 and I am speaking about jury actions.

(Cavan-Monaghan): We had those in the opening statement.

If I may give the 1975 figures it would show the considerable increase between 1972, 1975, and 1978. In 1975 awaiting hearing at the start of the year there were 860 cases, set down during the year, 1,124, total to be dealt with, 1,984, disposed of during the year, 1,303, and adjourned at the end of the year, 681 cases. The delay from date of setting down to date of hearing was five months at that time. It went up in 1978 to nine months. As Deputy Enright said, the postal strike has increased the delay considerably.

Matters such as family law were mentioned by Deputies opposite. The whole sphere of family law, which was hardly known 15 years ago, has now expanded greatly requiring a judge sitting full-time in a family division of the High Court. The necessity to establish the rights of equality for women in regard to the family home and matrimonial property requires the assistance of the court to resolve the inevitable disputes that will occur in dealing with this aspect of the law. The Guardianship of Infants Act has led to a great increase in applications affecting our children. There has been the operation of the Planning Acts and the powers of section 27 of the recent Planning Act to enforce planning controls by the High Court. This has led to a great expansion of the work of the High Court in addition to all the other matters mentioned.

Some Deputies mentioned that crime, unfortunately, has increased dramatically over the past ten years. This is a sad fact of life and of the affluent society in which we are living. The opportunity for the criminal becomes greater the wealthier the society in which we live becomes. It is a trite saying that the Judiciary must conduct their affairs "without the sword". Nevertheless, in our democratic system we observe and respect the rule of law and therefore the orders and judgments of our courts are respected and obeyed. However, the obligation devolves on the Oireachtas to make sure that the courts are properly serviced from the point of view of having sufficient personnel to dispose of cases with reasonable expedition. Deputies will be satisfied that even though the courts may be short-staffed from time to time—and it has been suggested that they were, although I am glad to say that that position has been resolved—no litigant who, providing his legal advisers co-operate, seeks to get his case on speedily is held up unduly. I speak at this time subject to the reservation that, unfortunately, the postal dispute has intervened to hold up many civil jury trials last term and in the current term.

Deputy Desmond mentioned remuneration and so on. The Review Body on Higher Remuneration in the Public Service Sector found that the time spent by judges on the bench is short by comparisons with normal hours of work at any level in industry, commerce or elsewhere in the public sector, with the exception of the teaching profession at all levels. Nevertheless the time thus spent was found not to be a fair indicator of the time required for the job. Deputy Fitzpatrick addressed himself to that, as did a number of other Deputies. A judge sits for four hours, two in the morning and two in the afternoon, and that in itself requires considerable concentration. In addition the judge has to prepare his judgments, to refer to his library of legal text books and so on. It just does not begin and end with a court sitting; quite the contrary. At paragraph 516 of the review body's report it is pointed out that: "Judges at all levels must keep abreast of developments in the law in the way of legislation, judgments, decisions and so on." In the higher courts in particular it is necessary to keep abreast of such developments in other countries as well. By definition the superior courts—the High Court and the Supreme Court—would be required to keep in touch with international judgments which in some instances are outside Ireland. At paragraph 517 of the report it is stated:

Preparation of judgments, especially in the case of High and Supreme Court Judges is a very important and time-consuming function. Because of their nature, and because the more important judgments are reported and go to law libraries and universities at home and abroad, great care must be exercised.

That might apply in some small way—I think in a big way—according to the views of Deputies to the constructive observations made by Deputy Flanagan and Deputy Bruton on reserved judgments. First of all, it is desirable to avoid reserving of judgments altogether, but in the event of a judgment having to be reserved that judgment so reserved should be dealt with quickly. It is not often that a reserved judgment has to wait for a long time; it is only in exceptional cases that that happens. It is well to remember, too, that when judges reserve judgments the reason for their reservation of judgments may be that the case itself was long, that it was complex and that at the conclusion of that case the judge is immediately into another case in the law list and consequently may have five or six cases going, if I may use a crudity, at the same time.

I spoke earlier about the increase in the volume of crime. Ever since 1972 it has been necessary to maintain a Special Criminal Court to deal with certain scheduled offences. These in the main are committed by members of subversive organisations. This is the first Special Criminal Court to be staffed exclusively by members of the Judiciary and a great debt of gratitude is due from the community to all the various members of the Judiciary who have served on that court from its inception. It has been a great bulwark in the preservation of the freedom and liberty of all of us. It has, too, preserved the rule of law from the point of view of making sure that the institutions of State are not tumbled down. On the other hand, it represents the best that can be done, short of a jury trial, to preserve the rights of an accused.

It is, of course, always a matter of regret in a democracy such as ours, where trial by jury is such an inbuilt feature of our legal system, that that should be abrogated in respect of the trial of certain types of offences. It is a matter of regret, too, that that situation has had to continue since 1972. The alternative would be the likelihood of dealing a mortal blow to the preservation of the rule of law through the intimidation of jurors and witnesses, and thus the bringing about of false and perverse verdicts. It should nevertheless, be in the forefront of the minds of all of us to bring about a situation in this country on both sides of the divide whereby the need for a court such as the Special Criminal Court no longer arises. Until that day it will be necessary to keep the court in being. On behalf of all Members of the House here and on behalf of the Government I express again our appreciation and our thanks to the Members of the Judiciary who have served on that court. The fact that it required the presence of a number of High Court judges who serve on a rota basis is another factor which has been putting strains on what I might call the ordinary work of the judges of the High Court.

It is necessary that we preserve the high standing of the Judiciary by recruitment of the best to positions in the High Court. Deputy O'Connell made the point that an independent body should be set up to examine applicants for the High Court. Over the years in the time of the Coalition Government something in the region of nine judges were appointed to the Supreme Court and to the High Court. I am not quibbling about that. The system has worked very well. The people who have been appointed by the various Governments over the years have never been found wanting in the service of the Judiciary.

Does the Minister wish to finish this before 7 p.m.? We have to break at that time for Private Members' Business.

I would like to finish the whole Bill, but Deputies may wish to raise some points on Committee Stage. I understand that Deputy Enright has a point in relation to District Courts that may necessitate an amendment.

(Cavan-Monaghan): I would like to facilitate the Minister, but he has not dealt with a number of valid points.

I accept that point.

All that the Chair is interested in at the moment is Second Stage.

I said that I would deal with the subject in a general way. This I am doing and I am concluding on that. Then it will be my intention to deal specifically with each point made by each Deputy.

(Cavan-Monaghan): The Minister is doing very well.

The point made by Deputy O'Connell in relation to the method of appointment of High Court judges is a reasonable observation. He drew an analogy with the independence of the Planning Board; which has been working extremely well in relation to planning appeals from local authorities. They are an independent board and they appear to be independent. However, the situation in relation to the appointment of judges of the High Court by successive Governments has not been found to be defective. Consequently, it should be continued until such time as a better system is found. No better alternative has been proposed. The success of the system of appointment by successive Governments of people to the High Court can be seen in the quality and integrity of those people who have held positions as High Court and Supreme Court judges, and indeed Circuit Court judges and District Court justices over the years. They have never been found wanting in integrity and none of them has been found guilty of wrong-doing. The only method of removing members of the High Court is by a joint resolution of the Oireachtas, something which has never happened in the history of this country. It is good to be able to say that.

It will be my intention to conclude on my general observations and then to deal, as I have already stated, with the valid points raised by the Deputies during the course of this very important debate.

Debate adjourned.