Wednesday, 2 December 2020

Questions (129)

Alan Farrell


129. Deputy Alan Farrell asked the Minister for Justice the number of judicial vacancies at present; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40666/20]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

There are three judicial vacancies in our national courts at present: 1 Supreme Court, 1 Circuit Court and 1 District Court.

As I outlined to the House last week, it has been the practice to maintain a vacancy in the Supreme Court due to the reduction achieved in waiting times in that court in recent years. However, this arrangement is kept under review, having regard to emerging pressures, planned retirements, etc.

The vacancies in the Circuit and District Courts will be filled as soon as possible. The Government is committed to ensuring adequate resources for the Courts to provide access to justice for all citizens and to filling judicial vacancies at the earliest opportunity generally.

Judicial appointments are made in accordance with Articles 13.9 and 35.1 of the Constitution, by the President acting on the advice of the Government. As with all judicial vacancies, a request is made to the Judicial Appointments Advisory Board (JAAB) for a list of suitable candidates for appointment and the names of all those who applied. The JAAB recommendations, along with any expressions of interest from serving judges, and all eligible judges for appointment, are considered. I then, as Minister for Justice, submit a Memorandum for Government to the Cabinet Agenda at which point Cabinet agrees on a nominee for appointment by the President.

The Programme for Government contains a commitment to reform the judicial appointments process and I intend to bring forward new legislation to do this very quickly. I will shortly seek the approval of the Government for a new General Scheme of a Judicial Appointments Commission Bill 2020 to provide for the establishment of a new Commission to replace the Judicial Appointments Advisory Board.

The Programme for Government also contains a commitment to establish a working group to consider the numbers and types of judges required to ensure the efficient administration of justice over the next five years. Preparatory work within my Department is under way and I anticipate that this group will be established soon.