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Judicial Appointments

Dáil Éireann Debate, Thursday - 13 June 2013

Thursday, 13 June 2013

Questions (4)

Niall Collins


4. Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the total number of new specialist judges to be appointed under the new personal insolvency regime; the number appointed to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28438/13]

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Oral answers (33 contributions) (Question to Justice)

The Deputy will be aware that, under the Constitution, judges are appointed by the President on the advice of the Government. Applications are dealt with by the Judicial Appointments Advisory Board established pursuant to the Courts and Court Officers Act 1995.

The Personal Insolvency Act 2012 amended the Courts Acts to allow for the creation of a cadre of specialist judges of the Circuit Court to facilitate the speedy consideration of insolvency applications by that court. As I explained when introducing the legislation, although it provides for a maximum of eight specialist judges the Government has decided to nominate six judges at this time. Any future increase in the numbers will depend on the volume of work that arises. In this regard it is my intention that these new judges will also be given jurisdiction to deal with applications to the Circuit Court under the forthcoming assisted decision-making (capacity) Bill 2013 to be published shortly.

As the Deputy may be aware, in order to save Exchequer funds, the 2012 Act provides that eligibility for these new judgeships should be initially confined to serving county registrars with the necessary legal qualifications and practice experience. In accordance with the legislation, I received recommendations from the Judicial Appointments Advisory Board which considered applications from serving county registrars for the posts. In accordance with constitutional procedure, the Government has this week nominated six persons for appointment by the President as a specialist judge of the Circuit Court.

The evolution of the personal insolvency legislation has been very slow in meeting all its critical deadlines. Since the tabling of this question we have had the appointment of the specialist judges. Given that we know the shortcomings of the system and the legislation in that it gives the banks a complete veto on proceedings and given that the Minister and the Government have ignored that aspect of the process, which we think will completely encumber the process, what is the expected launch date for the personal insolvency service? We still have issues around the regulation and the operation of the personal insolvency payment scheme, PIPS. We have just had the announcement that the judges are being appointed. The process is dragging on and on, and I think the Minister will agree with me on that. We are not moving along at any degree of pace or with any degree of the urgency that is required. We are missing all the timelines all the way along. Can the Minister give us some degree of clarity or certainty as to when cases can be received, cases will be processed and people can test the legislation, which has an inherent bankers' veto built into it?

The Deputy should stop throwing stones because he likes to think that people outside this House forget that his party was in government for a continuous period of 14 years and over that period it destroyed the economy and the financial base of the State, contributed to the creation of a property bubble-----

The Minister cheered it on the whole way.

-----to ten of thousands of people borrowing beyond their means and to the collapse of the banking system-----

That is not true.

Only half a minute remains for the reply.

-----and, ultimately and totally, it failed.

The Minister is not addressing the question.

Is the Minister going to address the question or is he going to give his revisionist version of history?

Deputy, please take your seat. Only 30 seconds remain for the reply.

Yes. I would reply if the Deputy-----

The Minister is not replying. He has not answered any questions today.

Apparently the Deputy feels he can voice criticisms but he-----

For nine of those 14 years that the Minister was a Member of this House - he will remember that he was thrown out for five of them - he never ever voiced any criticism-----

The Deputy's party was in government.

-----all he wanted was less taxation and more spending.

The Deputy's party was in government.

That was the Minister's position and the position of his party during that time.

Deputy, resume your seat, I am standing. I will suspend the Dáil. I am not going to witness this sort of interchange.

We might get more information if the place was empty.

Deputy, please. The Minister has 30 seconds to reply to the questions.

During those 14 years the Deputy's party failed to introduce any legislation to reform our insolvency laws.

The Minister failed during that time to introduce any legislation either.

We have enacted the insolvency legislation.

The bankers' veto.

We have put in place the architecture necessary for the insolvency agency. We have appointed the head of the insolvency agency. Most of the regulations applicable have been put in place.

When will it be up and running? That is the question.

The specialist judges are now appointed. The regulations in relation to the personal insolvency practitioners will shortly be published and the legislation will, and I know the Deputy will find this a source of personal disappointment,-----

-----be up and running in July as we promised.

In accordance with Standing Orders, as the author of the next listed question is not here we will move on to Other Questions.

Question No. 5 lapsed.