Disquiet in government departments over senior judge’s “unfortunate” comments on judicial appointments and “implicit criticism” of government and Áras

Public comments by the President of the High Court about a shortage of judges and postponement of trials caused serious disquiet in government departments and were described as “most unfortunate” and an “implicit criticism” of the government and Áras an Uachtaráin by senior officials.

Ms Justice Mary Irvine had said the High Court would start the 2021 legal year with seven judges short of what they had been promised only months earlier by the Department of Justice.

Internal records reveal how the Department of Justice was taken aback by the comments and asked why they had not been given a “heads up” on what was coming.

In an email, Oonagh Buckley – a deputy secretary at the Department of Justice – wrote to the CEO of the Courts Service Angela Denning about the comments.

“It would have been useful to have received a heads up about the below as we discussed yesterday,” she told Angela Denning in an email on 1 October.

“As you will appreciate, the implicit criticism of the Aras and the Government is very unfortunate.”

Ms Denning responded to say that she herself had been given no advance notice, meaning she had not been in position to give them any warning.

She wrote: “It is my understanding from the Chief Justice that no criticism of Government or of your department was intended.

“I will speak to the [incoming] Chief Justice at out first meeting after his appointment to see if we can put an arrangement in place so that you at least know that something like this is coming.”