Courts Bill 2015: Committee and Remaining Stages

Section 1 agreed to.

Amendments Nos. 1 to 6, inclusive, are related and may be discussed together. Is that agreed? Agreed.

NEW SECTIONS

I move amendment No. 1:

In page 3, between lines 13 and 14, to insert the following:

“PART 2

QUALIFICATION OF JUDGES

Qualifying legal academic

2. (1) In this Part, “qualifying legal academic” means a full-time, permanent member of the academic staff of an educational establishment mentioned in subsection (2) who has the qualifications mentioned in subsection (3).

(2) For the purposes of subsection (1), “educational establishment” means—

(a) the Honourable Society of King’s Inns,

(b) the Law Society,

(c) a university to which the Universities Act 1997 applies, and

(d) an educational establishment providing education and training for the solicitors’ and barristers’ professions, as prescribed by the Minister on foot of recommendations made by the Authority pursuant to section 12 of the Legal Services Regulation Act 2015.

(3) For the purposes of subsection (1), a qualifying legal academic shall have qualified as a legal practitioner, whether or not that person has practised as a solicitor or as a barrister.

(4) For the purposes of subsection (3), legal practitioner has the meaning ascribed to it in section 2(1) of the Legal Services Regulation Act 2015.”.

The purpose of the amendments is to introduce a route to qualification as a judge called "qualifying legal academic", that is, a full-time permanent member of the academic staff in an educational institution who has been there for not less than 12 years, to join the new eligibility category of solicitors to qualify for appointment as a judge, if the person displays the degree of competence and probity appropriate to and consistent with the appointment concerned.

It is hardly a secret that the amendment would have come from legal colleagues in the university rather than economists. They believe they have a case, although it might be opposed. Some people say legal academics should not be let near the courts as they could cause chaos. However, there is a level of competence and ability which might be of assistance in the appointment of members of the Judiciary and the amendment is proposed in that spirit. Is this a useful proposal as we plan the construction of the Judiciary? It is offered to the Minister of State in that spirit and I hope it will assist him. That is the reason it is being proposed.

I was not one of the legal colleagues who spoke to Senator Sean D. Barrett about this amendment. I have always believed in principle, as have my colleagues who are legal academics, that it would be good to make provision for legal academics to become judges in this jurisdiction, as we have seen happen in other jurisdictions. In one jurisdiction with which I am very familiar, South Africa, there are legal academics serving at the highest level in the constitutional courts. It is something we might consider at a future date. My self-interest precludes me from saying anything further. Certainly, it is not a matter to be dealt with in this Bill as it is, clearly, a far bigger policy issue as colleagues, including Senator Sean D. Barrett, will appreciate. It would require a great deal of consideration before it could be introduced. However, I thank the Senator for proposing it. It is an interesting proposal which is certainly worthy of further consideration.

I can confirm that the Senator is not guilty in this case.

I believe Senator Ivana Bacik would be eminently qualified for appointment as a member of the Judiciary. This is a very good amendment. My only concern is that practical experience should be included also. It should not be confined to somebody who has been an academic for 12 years but has not practised law. If one is to face the public as a judge, one should have experience of a court and dealing with the different difficulties that arise on a daily basis. Other than that, I have no difficulty with the proposition, in principle.

The purpose of the proposed new sections is to amend the law relating to judicial appointments but with only one dimension of the law considered, that is, making legal academics eligible for appointment as judges of all courts by extending to them the qualifying and eligibility provisions which currently apply to practising barristers and solicitors. Effectively, the amendments would equate a legal academic with barristers and solicitors who, subject to having the relevant practice experience, are eligible for appointment to all courts.

The first amendment defines a "qualifying legal academic" as a member of the academic staff at the King's Inns, the Law Society, universities and other legal training institutions. The second amendment would make such legal academics eligible for appointment to the High Court, the Court of Appeal or the Supreme Court. The third amendment would make them eligible for appointment as temporary judges. The fourth would make them eligible for appointment to the Circuit Court; the fifth would make the same provision in respect of the District Court, while the sixth would have the effect of including such legal academics among those whom the Judicial Appointments Advisory Board may consider suitable as persons whose names could be submitted by it to the Minister under the appointments procedures set out under the Courts and Court Officers Act 1995.

The amendments, given that they deal with appointments as judges, are outside the scope of the Bill. The Government is conducting a wide-ranging review of all matters concerned with judicial appointments that will allow the necessary full assessment of all aspects of the issue. It is committed to bringing forward legislative reforms in this area and a judicial appointments Bill which is being prepared is the subject of a commitment in the agreed programme for Government. The subject of the amendments, that is, the eligibility of legal academics for judicial appointment, is one of a wide range of matters included within the scope of the review I have mentioned.

Legislation in this area that might have regard to only one aspect of eligibility for judicial appointment is unlikely to complement the overall reform process needed in the area which is balanced and considered and which, as I have mentioned, the Government proposes to bring forward as soon as practicable. The question of appointing academic lawyers is not new. From time to time, calls have been made to tap into the deep academic experience and knowledge of professors of law and similar. Often, these are persons with a great level of expertise in particular areas of the law or who research the law extensively. They teach the subject and, in some cases, they have authored legal texts and engaged in public discourse on matters relating to the law. I am confident the merits or otherwise of such a measure will be fully explored in the context of the judicial appointments review I have mentioned. It was understood on launching the review and the public consultations that it would be worthwhile to consider opening up the eligibility criteria for appointment as a judge, perhaps in so far as the experience of academic lawyers is concerned, but perhaps also to reflect the depth of experience in other areas where great legal expertise is evident without the required practice experience.

The consultation process last year reflected the fact the appointments system, including the Judicial Appointments Advisory Board, while a model of best practice in its day needed reviewing almost 20 years after its establishment. Arising from the consultation process, draft legislative provisions to reform and update the judicial appointment procedures are being prepared by the Department as such legislation is part of the agreed programme for Government. The Minister has indicated that reforms will be brought forward in 2016. On this basis I ask the Senator to withdraw his amendment in favour of fully comprehensive reform of the law in the area of judicial appointments as the amendment is outside the scope of the Bill. I undertake to refer the Senator's amendment to the Department for inclusion as a matter for consideration in the work of the review I have mentioned.

I second what the Minister of State said. We will send our thoughts on these matters to the legal appointments review body. In general, I thank the Minister of State for his open-minded response to the amendments before him. We hope to respond in the same friendly way to the review body and will send stuff from our offices to the body. Once again, the thanks of the House are due to the Minister of State.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment Nos. 2 to 6, inclusive, not moved.

I move amendment No. 7:

In page 3, between lines 13 and 14, to insert the following:

"Age of Retirement of District Court Judges

2. (1) The age of retirement of a judge of the District Court who holds office at the time of the coming into operation of this section shall be 70 years.

(2) Section 72 of The Courts of Justice Act, 1924 is deleted.".

This is with regard to the age of retirement of District Court judges. As the Minister is aware, the retirement age for a District Court judge is 65 years. For all other judges, it is 70 years of age. The appointment of District Court judges may be extended on a year by year basis by a committee consisting of the Chief Justice, the President of the High Court and the Attorney General. If they think it appropriate, after consultation with the Minister for Justice and Equality, the judge can be given an extension of time until a maximum of 70 years of age. This process requires the District Court judge to provide a medical certificate for the committee and be interviewed by it annually from age 65 years to 70. Most judges are aged over 40 years on their appointment. They terminate their legal careers on appointment and qualify for a pension after 20 years of service. Somebody who is appointed in his or her 50s does not get the benefit of a full pension. The reason for this arrangement is unclear and it is now accepted that the process is embarrassing and rather odd to everybody concerned.

As the Minister of State is aware, the Council of Europe has established the Group of States against Corruption, GRECO. Ireland joined this group in 1999 and has been subject to four evaluations by it since. The fourth evaluation round relates to members of parliament, judges and prosecutors under various headings. With respect to the retirement age of District Court judges, GRECO noted:

While Supreme Court, high court and circuit court judges retire at the age of 70, district court judges retire at 65. However, a district court judge may be continued in office for successive periods of one year until the age of 70, if allowed by a special warrant. The GET [GRECO evaluation team] heard criticism in respect of these differences which were described by some as an historical anomaly, heard no justifiable reasons for the discrepancy, and suggests that all judges be subject to the same retirement regime.

All the amendment asks is that judges of the District Court be treated in the same way as other judges and have their retirement age extended to 70 years.

My understanding of the amendment is that its desired effect is to standardise the retirement age of District Court judges with all other judges to a fixed retirement age of 70 years. I have been informed the Minister has been in consultation with the Judiciary on this matter and agrees the retirement age of District Court judges should be raised to 70 years, but I do not believe the amendment would achieve this or that any such amendment should be inserted in the Courts Bill 2015.

The position is that District Court judges are required to retire at 65 years of age and may, subject to annual review, be permitted to serve until age 70. Supreme Court judges, Court of Appeal judges, High Court judges and Circuit Court judges retire at the age of 70 years with some exceptions. These exceptions relate only to those serving judges who were judges before the reduction of the age of retirement from 72 years to 70 under the Court and Court Officers Act 1995. The relevant provisions include section 30 of the Courts (Supplemental Provisions) Act 1961 which provides that the age of retirement of a District Court judge shall be 65 years. Section 2 of the Courts of Justice (District Court) Act 1949 provides that a warrant may be made by a committee comprising the Chief Justice, the President of the High Court and the Attorney General to allow a judge to continue in office for an additional year if the judge is not suffering from any disability which would render him or her unfit to continue to discharge efficiently the duties of the office. Subsequent warrants may be made to allow the judge to remain in office until he or she attains the age of 70 years.

The Minister is inclined to agree that an annual review system for District Court judges between the ages of 65 and 70 years is, when compared to other judges, anomalous and unsatisfactory. There are no grounds for believing that all judges should not be subject to the same retirement regime. To this end, I have been informed that the Minister has instructed the Department to review the relevant statutory provisions and bring forward a comprehensive amendment at the earliest possible opportunity. I anticipate such provision can be brought forward early in 2016. Changing the retirement age to 70 years would require amending the sections I have mentioned. Amendment of other provisions may also be required, for example, to section 1 of the Courts (No. 2) Act 1988. This section makes provision for warrants to be made retrospectively. Additional provisions also require consideration.

There would be implications for the pension arrangements of judges arising from a change in the retirement age which would need to be carefully considered and the relevant scheme and pensions legislation are being considered. In this connection, I would be most reluctant to bring forward or accept any amendments in this area until all of the implications are fully assessed. As I have indicated, I anticipate this work, which is at an advanced stage, will be concluded in the near future. Section 72 of the Courts of Justice Act 1924 was repealed by the provisions of the Court of Justice (District Court) Act 1946 which was, in turn, repealed and replaced by the provisions to which I have referred in the Courts (Supplemental Provisions) Act 1961.

Apart from the technical difficulties to which the amendment gives rise and the fact the subject matter of the amendment is outside the scope of the Bill, the overriding position is that the substantive issue which the amendment seeks to address is the subject of review by the Department and relevant comprehensive measures are being prepared, while the administrative implications, for example, on pension matters are also being examined. I ask the Senator to withdraw the amendment on the basis that its intention can be fully reflected in a comprehensive fully analysed set of provisions which, as I indicated, are in preparation.

On this issue, the retirement age in Ireland must rise. As life expectancy increases, the pension burden to which the Minister of State referred will increase. That is why the troika recommended raising the retirement age. It is an acknowledgement of the way the world is going in that 70 is the new 50. People live longer; they live healthier lives and, particularly in the case of lawyers, in the constituency Senator Ivana Bacik and I represent, the saying would be that lawyers mature well and mathematicians peak when they are 25 years old or thereabouts.

All the red wine.

However, as lawyers probably improve with age, there would be nothing lost by keeping them there. Moreover, Senator John Crown always draws attention to how we have a very popular President and highly successful Minister for Finance, both of whom would be ineligible were any of these rules to be applied. They are highly successful people who are highly esteemed in society. In any case, there also is the general issue of age discrimination. Consequently, I am glad the Minister of State is reviewing this matter and Senator Diarmuid Wilson's amendment is important. It should be on the agenda and I understand there are discussions in the other House about abolishing compulsory retirement altogether, as it is age discrimination. It is an easy way to do it, whereby one can state that when a person has reached a certain age, he or she is out. Were one obliged to devise alternative measures as to whether they were capable of doing their duties, that would involve much larger human resources and personnel departments and perhaps disputes. However, having compulsory retirements is a rather blunt way to create vacancies for the next generation and to get rid of the present generation and they rapidly are becoming a thing of the past. I am delighted the Minister of State's Department is reviewing them.

Having heard the Minister of State's response, I am delighted the principle is agreed. All Members are in agreement that it is anomalous that District Court judges retire at 65 years when other judges continue until they are 70 and that in practice, it is a yearly review procedure. I am glad to hear this is being addressed in other legislation. As Senator Sean D. Barrett noted, there are other more general proposals about retirement age. Yesterday, the Joint Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality launched a unanimously agreed report about ending mandatory retirement age altogether. It is an excellent report and I urge colleagues to read it, as it again makes some of the points made here on this issue.

To conclude, it is true that at the Bar, in particular, and in the profession of solicitor, one sees people practising well beyond the standard age of retirement. One sees colleagues at the Bar who went into the barrister practice having retired from other professions, some of whom are practising into their 90s. It appears to be a career that is noted for longevity, but I am certainly glad to hear the principle is agreed.

The Minister of State is welcome. I have a feeling I am biased in the case of this amendment as I had my 79th birthday last week and was rather pleased with it.

Happy birthday.

However, I have not been forced to retire. I acknowledge I am under threat of divorce unless I retire shortly. Therefore, I will be retiring. However, during the week I spoke about a man to whom I had spoken on Tuesday, which was his 99th birthday, namely, Dr. T. K. Whitaker, a famous former Member of this House for two terms. He also was Chairman of the Central Bank and Secretary General of the Department of Finance. This is a man who, at 99 years, is fluid, able to express himself and so on. He has been involved in many aspects of society in Ireland, but I refer to seeing someone at that age who is capable, competent and able to do all the interesting things he does at present. Consequently, I believe it is wrong to have a finish at 70 years. While people should have an option to finish at 70 years if they so wish, to insist on their finishing at 70 is not on. I had a large number of employees and when they came to the age of 65 years, one objective within the Superquinn company was to encourage them to stay on and come back, albeit perhaps not full-time. They often came back just for a few days or a few hours each week to train new people coming up. However, it impresses me when I go back into the company and meet people in their 70s who are highly competent. They could be bakers, butchers or something else. One lady who retired just last month was 88 years of age and she was well capable of doing the job. Consequently, I disagree entirely with the objective of insisting there must be a compulsory retirement age. While there certainly should be the ability to retire, it should not be compulsory and it should be possible to maintain one's job.

I support my colleague, Senator Diarmuid Wilson, on the amendment he has tabled and have a question for the Minister of State on foot of his statement here. Is there a particular timeframe the Department has set by way of a review of this retirement age and of keeping it to 65 years? It unquestionably is anomalous when one has one cohort of judges who must retire at 65 years and then apply for a late retirement option. Members would be happier if they knew whether the review had started and by when it was intended to conclude. Senator Ivana Bacik mentioned the report of the Joint Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality and I certainly will read it. I have a specific interest in this issue and the Minister of State and I also have discussed compulsory retirement in previous debates. The point also has been well made by Senators Sean D. Barrett and Diarmuid Wilson that people wish to work beyond the age of 65 years. The State pension has been moved to 68 years for most people and by the time any Member gets to retire, it probably will be 70 years-plus, given improved life expectancy. Can Members be provided with an indication as to the nature and the timeframe of the review? Has a deadline been set for publication of the review and where will it go from there?

As has been stated, the principle behind the amendment is accepted; it is just the mechanisms around it on which we may be in disagreement. I am informed the review is due to move forward in the early part of 2016.

I accept what the Minister of State has said in good faith. It is something that should have been rectified in the past and the Bill gives me the opportunity to raise it again. I am glad that it is under review and accept the Minister of State's word on this matter.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 8:

In page 3, between lines 13 and 14, to insert the following:

“Qualification of Judges

2. A judge of the District Court who has served as such a judge for a period of not less than 2 years shall be qualified for appointment as a judge of the Supreme Court, Court of Appeal or the High Court.”.

Again, this amendment pertains to eligibility for appointment of a judge of the District Court to the High Court or to the superior courts. As all Members are aware, District Court judges have vast experience as they are the members of the Judiciary who hear the greatest volume of cases, including criminal, civil, family, child protection and care, licensing, firearms, regulatory and foreign evidence hearings among others. To be appointed to the District Court, a solicitor or barrister must have not less than ten years experience to be considered for appointment. Traditionally, solicitors were mainly appointed to the District Court but this has changed and now judges who qualified as solicitors have been appointed to the Circuit Court, the High Court and the Court of Appeal, as well as to the District Court. This has been effected under the Court and Court Officers Act 2002. Many District Court judges also are barristers.

District Court judges, under section 20 of the Courts of Justice (District Court) Act, hold office by the same tenure as High Court and Supreme Court judges. The unusual position is that all legal professionals, either solicitor or barrister or Circuit Court judges, are eligible for appointment to the High Court. The only legal professional of similar standing and experience who is not so eligible is a District Court judge. In other words, a barrister or a solicitor can be appointed to the District Court and District Court judges, in turn, can be promoted to the Circuit Court. However, a District Court judge cannot be appointed from the District Court to the High Court or the Court of Criminal Appeal and I suggest this is completely unacceptable. It is not clear whether this was deliberate policy or an oversight that should be remedied.

In modern times and internationally, it is accepted that the best practice for developing the Judiciary is to have promotion between the different courts. This is happening in Ireland of late in that judges from the District Court have been appointed to the Circuit Court and, likewise, judges from the Circuit Court have been appointed to the High Court and from the High Court to the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court. I refer back to the Group of States against Corruption, GRECO, in the context of this issue.

Among other recommendations, it recommended in November 2013 that the current system for the selection, recruitment, promotion and transfer of judges be reviewed with a view to targeting appointments at the most qualified and suitable candidates in a transparent way without improper influence from the Executive or political power. I very much welcome that recommendation.

On the specific amendment, it is ridiculous that a person who has been appointed as a District Court judge is precluded from promotion to the High Court, the Court of Criminal Appeal or the Supreme Court.

I agree with Senator Diarmuid Wilson on this issue. It does not make sense that a solicitor can be appointed directly to the High Court, as in the case of Mr. Justice Peart, but if the same solicitor had been appointed to the District Court one month previously, he or she could not have been appointed directly to the High Court. To the best of my knowledge, a solicitor must have ten years experience to be eligible for appointment to the Judiciary. I am not sure what the position is in the case of the Bar. This appears to be an oversight, unless it is the case that a shorter period of qualification is required before appointments can be made to the District Court. I am interested in hearing the response to Senator Diarmuid Wilson's query.

The desired effect of the amendment is to provide for the eligibility of District Court judges for appointment to the High Court, the Court of Appeal or the Supreme Court. I have been informed that the Minister has been in consultation with the Judiciary on this matter and is inclined to agree that District Court judges should be eligible for appointment beyond the Circuit Court. However, this is not an appropriate amendment and no such amendment should be inserted in the Courts Bill. Dealing with the District Court judge promotion question without more broadly addressing arguably equally pressing judicial appointments issues, as the Government is committed to doing under the agreed programme for Government, would be an unwise step. The Minister's preferred approach is to defer the issue for consideration in the context of wider reform of the law on appointments, a matter to which I will return.

Section 5(2)(a) of the Courts (Supplemental Provisions) Act 1961, as inserted by section 4 of the Courts and Court Officers Act 2002 and relevant amendments in the Court of Appeal Act 2014, provides that a person shall be qualified for appointment as a judge of the Supreme Court, the Court of Appeal or the High Court if he or she is, for the time being, a practising barrister or solicitor of not less than 12 years standing who has practised as a barrister or solicitor for a continuous period of not less than two years immediately before such appointment. Section 5(2)(c) of the 1961 Act provides that a judge of the Circuit Court who has served as a judge for a period of not less than two years should be qualified for appointment as a judge of the Supreme Court, the Court of Appeal or the High Court. Therefore, such a judge is not precluded from consideration by the requirement that the person be a practising barrister or solicitor at the time of appointment to the higher courts. As there is no provision equivalent to section 5(2)(c) in respect of District Court judges, they cannot qualify for appointment to the higher courts as they were not considered to be practising at the time of appointment. A similar provision would, therefore, be required to make District Court judges eligible for appointment to courts higher than the Circuit Court. Transitional provisions and other consequential amendments may also be required.

I am aware that the Judiciary is of the view that District Court judges should be eligible for appointment to the High Court. As I have indicated, the Minister agrees with this view and careful consideration needs to be given to the question of whether District Court judges should be eligible for appointment to the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal. Judges of certain European and international courts are also eligible for appointment to the superior courts. For example, a person who, during the period of two years immediately before the appointment concerned, was a judge of the Court of Justice of the European Communities is eligible for appointment to the High Court or the Supreme Court. This provision also applies to a judge of the European Court of Human Rights, the International Criminal Court and certain other European and international courts.

The Minister accepts that there appears to be no good reason that, of all the various categories of judges, the only group specifically excluded from the possibility of appointment as a judge of the High Court or above are District Court judges. She has asked her Department to prepare relevant provisions to make District Court judges eligible for elevation to courts higher than the Circuit Court. However, this is being done in the context of a full, ongoing review of the entire system of judicial appointments. The Government is committed to introducing legislative reforms in this area and a judicial appointments Bill which is being prepared is a commitment in the agreed programme for Government.

The subject matter of the amendments, namely, the eligibility of District Court judges for judicial appointment, is one of a wide range of matters included in the scope of the review to which I referred. As part of this review, a consultation process on the system of judicial appointments was conducted in early 2014. There was a significant response to the call for submissions, with substantive and wide-ranging views received on the legislative framework that provides for eligibility for judicial appointments and the process of appointments. Legislation in this area which may have regard to only one aspect of eligibility for judicial appointments is unlikely to complement the overall reform process required in this area which must be balanced and considered and which, as I stated, the Government proposes to introduce as soon as is practical. On this basis, I ask the Senators to withdraw their amendment in favour of a fully comprehensive reform of the law in the area of judicial appointments which will include changes in the eligibility conditions for serving District Court judges. The amendment is outside the scope of the Bill. The position is similar to that on the previous amendment in that while it is sound in principle, the issue as stake is the mechanism by which the objective is to be achieved.

I thank the Minister of State for his reply. I do not agree the amendment is outside the scope of the Bill. This is courts legislation which proposes to increase by two the number of High Court judges who can be appointed. The amendment is relevant. It is a matter of whether the Minister of State is minded to accept it. It is unacceptable to suggest that because someone has been qualified as a solicitor or barrister for 12 years, he or she is more qualified to serve in the higher courts than somebody who has had a minimum of ten years experience as a solicitor or barrister and is thus eligible for appointment as a District Court judge. The amendment specifically provides that a judge of the District Court who has served as such a judge for a period of not less than two years would be qualified for appointment as a judge of the Supreme Court, the Court of Appeal or the High Court. It is specific in this regard. It is ridiculous to suggest, as I have interpreted the Minister of State's comments, that a solicitor or barrister with 12 years experience is more qualified than a District Court judge who has served in the court for a minimum period of two years. The Minister of State has provided an excuse for not accepting this reasonable amendment. I ask him to comment further.

I support the position outlined by my party colleague, Senator Diarmuid Wilson. The Minister of State spoke about deferring the decision on this matter, which does not make sense, especially as he has admitted that there appears to be no good reason to preclude a District Court judge from appointment to a higher court. He referred twice to a commitment in the agreed programme for Government. Is he referring to the current programme for Government or were his comments based on an assumption that this matter will be taken further? The Government's programme has practically finished.

Fianna Fáil may be in coalition with-----

That is highly unlikely.

Will Senators, please, make audible interruptions?

I can hear Senator David Norris.

Yes, but I cannot hear the interruptions.

This is a courts Bill which deals with appointments. There is no logical reason not to accept the amendment as it would improve the legislation. There is time left in the legislative programme to allow an amended Bill to pass through the Dáil. This is a simple, straightforward amendment and there is no reason to put off addressing the issue until a full, ongoing review has been completed. When will the review be concluded? The Minister of State agreed with the thrust of the amendment, which is welcome.

When will the review be completed? To what commitment in An Agreed Programme for Government is the Minister of State referring? Doing what is proposed would improve the legislation. We all agree the current arrangement should not apply. As Senator Diarmuid Wilson outlined in the amendment, "A judge of the District Court who has served as such a judge for a period of not less than 2 years shall be qualified for appointment as a judge of the Supreme Court, Court of Appeal or the High Court". It makes absolute sense and the amendment should be accepted. I am interested in hearing the Minister of State's response.

I thank the Senators for their contributions. The issue at hand is agreed and the principle behind the amendment is accepted, but it is a question of how we achieve what is proposed. A judicial appointments Bill is being prepared and due to be introduced to the Houses of the Oireachtas early in 2016. That is the vehicle by which we feel this issue might best be addressed.

It would have been preferable had the Minister of State accepted it, but I understand the position he is in. We all agree that the current arrangement is ludicrous and should not apply. The Minister of State said the review is ongoing. Is there a deadline? Irrespective of whether the Government falls and irrespective of who will be in the next Government, I assume there will be a team of people working on this issue. Is there a date by which that team must report on the overall review? Will it be ongoing for another five, ten or 15 years?

I am told it will be ready early in 2016, which is when the Bill to which I have referred will be introduced.

I thank the Minister of State for that response. At what stage is the review? It must be advanced somewhat if there is an end date early in 2016. Early 2016, to me, means the end of April, at the latest. How far advanced is the review and what will happen when it is completed? Will it be presented to the Joint Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality? Where will we go from there?

I am informed it is at an advanced stage. It must be presented to the Government in the form of a scheme of a Bill. Early 2016 is still my response.

On that basis, I will take the Minister of State at his word. I hope we will both be back in these Houses after the general election. I hope to be back in this one. Perhaps the Minister of State will be with me; I do not know. Since I hope we will have an update early in 2016, I will not press the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Section 2 agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment, received for final consideration and passed.