Attorney General Should Be Removed from Judicial Selection Process Advises Human Rights and Equality Commission

Commission Makes Recommendations to Minister and Oireachtas on Proposed Judicial Appointments Law

The Attorney General as the Government’s Chief Legal Advisor should not have a role in the process to appoint new Judges, the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (‘The Commission’) has told the Minister for Justice and Oireachtas Members in a recommendations paper published today.

The Commission has provided its recommendations on the General Scheme of the Judicial Appointments Commission Bill 2020 the Minister for Justice and the Oireachtas Justice Committee.

The Commission sets out its view that the draft law should be revised to require as far as practicable gender balance, and diversity in the make-up of the Judicial Appointment Commission (JAC), both in members from the judiciary and among lay members.

The process to appoint judges should be advertised in an accessible way, based on objective criteria and should see mandatory interviews and judicial skills tests to select candidates. Among the objective criteria would be an ability to understand and deal fairly with all persons and communities served by the courts.

The Commission is clear that the previous practice of at least 7 candidates being provided to Government without any order of priority for appointment is entirely out of keeping with international human rights standards on judicial independence. The legislation being drafted, the Commission recommends, should clearly set out that the number of candidates that the JAC recommends to Government should be significantly reduced and ranked.

Other recommendations from the Commission include:

  • The removal of the requirements that legal academics must hold permanent positions and have four years post qualification as a solicitor or a barrister.
  • The Commission welcomes the formal requirements for recusals in cases of decision on judicial appointments, but recommends that robust practices be put in place to ensure transparency and independence.
  • Draft law be revised to include time-limits and rules relating to reappointment of all lay members and members nominated by the Judicial Council, in line with provisions governing appointments to Policing Authority and the Commission.

Speaking today, Sinéad Gibney Chief Commissioner of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission stated:

“A diverse judiciary can better represent society and better serve court users.

“The Commission wants to see a new Judicial Appointments Commission detail its inclusion measures to pursue greater diversity, and in this way set out a clear statutory mandate for ongoing work in this area.

“Independence of the judiciary is an essential element of the public’s perception of the judiciary and confidence in the judicial system. Perceptions can affect an individual’s decision to bring cases to court or refrain from legal action. The highest human rights standards must apply to ensure judicial independence and impartiality.”


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Brian Dawson, IHREC Communications Manager,

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Editor’s Note

The policy statement from the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission is available at the following link:

The Commission has published these legislative observations in line with its mandate to keep under review the adequacy and effectiveness of law and practice in the State relating to the protection of human rights and equality, and to make recommendations to the Government to strengthen and uphold human rights and equality in the State.


Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission is an independent public body, appointed by the President and directly accountable to the Oireachtas. The Commission has a statutory remit set out under the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission Act (2014) to protect and promote human rights and equality in Ireland, and build a culture of respect for human rights, equality and intercultural understanding in the State.

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission is Ireland’s national human rights institution and is recognised as such by the United Nations. The Commission is also Ireland’s national equality body for the purpose of a range of EU anti-discrimination measures.