Belfast Telegraph

Voters to decide on judges' pay

Voters are to have their say on whether judges' pay should be cut when they go to the polls to elect a new president.

Justice Minister Alan Shatter said the Cabinet had taken a major decision to ask the public to reform rules on salaries for the judiciary.

The vote for the next president is expected to take place in late October.

"There can be no question, no doubt, that the independence of the judiciary is the cornerstone of our constitutional democracy but it is important that the judiciary is seen by the rest of the community to be playing its part in recognising the economic difficulties of this state and the particular difficulties that are attached to the public finances," he said.

"In no sense should the general public believe that the judiciary are an elite or are immune from the economic cataclysm that has hit this country."

Mr Shatter insisted any amendment will not be designed to single judges out for pay cuts.

Attorney General Maire Whelan has been tasked with preparing for the referendum which will ask voters to amend Article 35.5 of the Constitution.

If passed, it will enforce pay cuts on judges at the same level as others in the public service on similar salaries and allow further reductions if more are pushed through by Government.

The rule barring political interference in judges' pay was inherited from the original Free State Constitution to remove the threat that government could penalise a judge if a controversial ruling was handed down.

The reform was one of the commitments in the Fine Gael-Labour Programme for Government which also stated that judges would be subject to a new system for their expenses.

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