ALAN SHATTER on JUDGES
Putting aside the question as to the veracity of the Moriarty report in its every detail and eschewing entirely the controversy it has engendered, I refer to the statement of Minister for Justice Alan Shatter (http://www.justice.ie/) and the more generalised remarks he makes about the criticism of judges.
The Minister said that "Our judiciary play a crucial role in upholding the constitutional rights of individuals, rich or poor, without fear of or favour to any one individual or the State itself."
As a human rights activist, attending court over the past eight years, my experience has been entirely different. Put the State in court against any litigant and it will require all the might of the legal profession to defeat the State - even when the law of the land is patently against the State's position.
So, in the case of the State versus Clancy and Others (2006), three separate judges attempted to prevent the lawful defence of the five defendants being admitted for the consideration of the jury. Two of these judges had to resign from the case and the third had to re-consider, under powerful pressure from three Barristers, and eventually allow the lawful defence. The jury unanimously acquitted all five defendants.
Put the State against a lay litigant in a similar scenario.. There are now no powerful Barristers around, no independent press, and ninety nine times out of a hundred, the judiciary will not "uphold the constitutional rights of the individual without fear or favour to the State". The situation is even more draconian when a lay litigant takes a case against a judge or vice versa.
The "public confidence in our judiciary and in our courts", that Mr Shatter refers to, must be earned. If that confidence is ever restored, if ever we see a full and open transparency about the workings of the courts, the judiciary and the Courts Service, if a Judicial Council, independent of judges, is ever allowed to come into being in order to monitor judges' activities within their courts, or if arrogance on the bench is replaced with a modicum of humility, it will truly mark a new beginning.
Otherwise, Minister Shatter's vision of the Irish judiciary will remain a pleasant fantasy.