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Bar Council chair condemns TD’s comments about judge after minimum pay ruling

People Before Profit TD Brid Smith criticised Mr Justice Garrett Simons in social media posts.

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Brid Smith targeted the judge on social media (PA)

Brid Smith targeted the judge on social media (PA)

Brid Smith targeted the judge on social media (PA)

The chairman of the Bar Council of Ireland has criticised a TD for making comments about a High Court judge online.

Earlier this week, Mr Justice Garrett Simons found a sectoral employment order made by Business Minister Heather Humphreys had been made outside her powers and was unconstitutional.

This meant a law guaranteeing minimum pay in the sector was struck down.

People Before Profit TD Brid Smith put up an image of Mr Justice Simons on Facebook with the caption: “This is Garrett Simons. He’s a high court judge. He earns over 200,000 euro a year. And he’s just put the boot into workers.”

She also released a statement in which she criticised the judgment as “scandalous” and said it “tells us a great deal about the judicial system in this country”.

She wrote: “The irony that a judge earning over 210,000 euro a year can be worried that an electrician on 45,000 euro may be overpaid will not be lost on the workers affected.”

Bar Council chairman Micheal P O’Higgins said a TD personally targeting a judge “amounts to an attack on our democracy and is something that all of society should be gravely concerned about”.

He added: “In every legal case before the courts, there are two sides. It is an inevitability that at least one side will not be entirely pleased with the outcome. It is the role of the judge to apply the rule of law as set down by legislators. Judges do so with complete impartiality and objectivity. We should expect and demand nothing less.

“For a legislator to personally criticise a member of the judiciary, for doing the job society asks them to do, is dangerous and completely unacceptable.”

Mr O’Higgins said the stability and strength of democracy is defined by an independent legal system “who are charged to apply the law, blind to personal preferences or popularity”.

He added: “Ireland is recognised internationally for the quality and independence of our judiciary. That must not be taken for granted. In fact, the judiciary and rule of law is sadly under threat in many countries, even those with established democratic traditions.”

He said the “coarsening” of public discourse on social media is “a depressing reality of the world we live in”, adding: “Using that platform to make populist and personalised attacks on judges – who cannot personally defend themselves – debases politics and endangers citizens who look to the courts for protection.”

PA