Release date: 01/06/2018
Growing interference in the independence of courts and the judiciary a sinister development, says Chairman of The Bar of Ireland
Threats to the autonomy and independence of the courts and judiciary in Poland and in Ireland is a sinister development for Europe, according to the Chairman, Council of The Bar of Ireland, Paul McGarry SC.
Referring both to the recent legislative change in Poland which is widely considered as undermining the independence of its judiciary, and the Judicial Appointments Bill which last night passed through the Dáil, Mr McGarry said that judicial independence is a critical tenet of democracy and that unwarranted political interference in both countries is proving damaging to the integrity of the profession and ultimately in its ability to uphold the rule of law on behalf of citizens.
Paul McGarry SC said; “The right of access to an independent court is one of the primary elements underpinning legal systems of states. It is guaranteed by Article 47 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union.”
In March of 2017, The Bar of Ireland and The Law Society jointly wrote to the Taoiseach outlining their concerns about legislation in Poland, which is this week again coming under significant scrutiny in relation to case of Artur Celmer and theCourt of Justice of the European Union (CJEU).
“This case, now being considered by the European Court of Justice, has demonstrated the impact that interference in the judiciary in one member State can have,” Mr McGarry said. “This is not just an internal matter for Poland, it has consequences for all of Europe and the application of European Law. Polish populist politicians have criticised the Irish judiciary in an extraordinary series of outbursts and the Polish government has now suggested that the existing Irish judicial appointments system is tainted, submitting that our judges are not independent. This would be funny if it wasn’t so serious”
“While it is widely recognised and agreed that some reform of judicial appointments in Ireland is required, the Bill which passed through the Dáil last night is problematic for many reasons already articulated often and by many legal and political observers, not least the European Commission which has stated that insufficient input from the judiciary on the new body to appoint judges will result in legislation which will not be in line with European standards”, said Mr Mc Garry, “The analogy with Poland may not be immediately apparent, but it is worth recalling that the changes in Poland did not happen overnight. This is why we have consistently opposed the new legislation: any interference with the perception of judicial independence, however small, is unacceptable”.
“The upholding of the Constitutional tripartite separation of powers of the Legislature, the Executive and the Judiciary is fundamental to a functioning justice system. Any threat to this is a most sinister development for individual nations and Europe as a whole,” he said.
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