I propose to take Questions Nos. 146 to 152, inclusive, together.
As the Deputy will recall from his time in Government and his involvement in the decision-making process for judicial appointments, nominations for judicial appointment are decided by the Government on a proposal from the Minister for Justice. The Government decided on the nomination of the person to whom the Deputy refers at its meeting on 15 July 2020.
As I have stated previously, shortly prior to the Government being formed Minister Ryan and I, as party leaders, were notified by the Tánaiste that the person to whom the Deputy refers had been recommended as a suitable candidate by the Judicial Appointments Advisory Board (JAAB) and would likely be recommended to be nominated by the Government for appointment to the Supreme Court.
The important point in my view was that the person in question had been recommended by the JAAB which is an independent board, established under the Courts and Court Officers Act 1995 to identify persons and inform the Government of the suitability of those persons for appointment to judicial office. The JAAB, which is chaired by the Chief Justice and includes the Presidents of the Court of Appeal, the High Court, the Circuit Court and the District Court, conducts its procedures independently under the Courts and Court Officers Acts 1995 and 2002. The JAAB forwards information on candidates to the Minister for Justice who brings a proposal for nomination for appointment to the Government. The practice is that the Minister for Justice makes one nomination per vacancy to the Government.
In the case of the vacancy to which the Deputy refers, the Memorandum considered by the Government at its meeting on the evening of 15 July 2020 was submitted by the Minister for Justice, in the normal way, earlier that day.
As I have said previously, I was not aware that there were other applicants for the vacancy and, therefore, I could not and did not discuss with the Tánaiste or with other Ministers that there were other judges or the identity of those other judges who had applied for the position.
My Department was not made aware of the existence of or the identity of other applicants for the vacancy to which the Deputy refers prior to the appointment a person to that vacancy. It is not the practice that information on the details of applicants for ordinary judicial vacancies in the Courts are made known to my Department. My Department would have become aware that there was a recommendation from the JAAB for the appointment in question – but not the identity of the individual – when the Memorandum for the Government on the proposal for appointment was circulated for inclusion on the Government’s agenda.
The following was received from the Department under Standing Order 54 on 4 December 2020.