People Before Profit TD Brid Smith has been called on to apologise for online comments she made about a High Court judge.
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.
Ms 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.”
Since 1946, Irish workers have had the protection of registered employment agreements which gives them legal rights to rates of pay and conditions.— People Before Profit (@pb4p) June 24, 2020
Yet all of these rights have been removed from workers at the stroke of a pen by one upper class judge.
@bridsmithTD #HighCourt pic.twitter.com/a2JQdfVGu0
She also released a statement in which she criticised the judgement 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.”
Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan accused Ms Smith of a “sinister” and “personalised” attack on a judge.
He wrote on Twitter: “It is sinister to see a judge of our courts under attack in a highly personalised and viscious manner, most especially when such attacks come from an elected member of Dail Eireann.”
It is sinister to see a judge of our courts under attack in a highly personalised and vicious manner, most especially when such attacks come from an elected member of DÃ¡il Ãireann. It is redolent of petty dictators and in effect undermines the very fabric of our democracy.— Charlie Flanagan (@CharlieFlanagan) June 25, 2020
Fine Gael TD Jennifer Carroll MacNeill called on Ms Smith to withdraw her remarks and apologise for the.
She said: ““Deputy Brid Smith’s attack is a new ultra-low in the race to the bottom of this ultra-populism.
“We have seen where this approach goes in the past. We see it today in the disintegration of established democracies in the US and the UK, we see our judicial counterparts in Poland under sustained attack with the concomitant impact on the protection of minorities.
“I am calling on Deputy Smith to immediately withdraw her remark, apologise and publicly state her support for the protection of our independent judiciary and the separation of powers. Nothing less is acceptable.”
The chairman of the Bar Council Micheal P O’Higgins released a statement following Ms Smith’s remarks and said targeting a judge “amounts to an attack on our democracy and is something that all of society should be gravely concerned about”.
The Chairman of the Bar Council has criticised PBP TD BrÃd Smithâs online comments about a High Court judge following his ruling on minimum pay and entitlements for electricians. pic.twitter.com/RQHdl8T17g— Ãine McMahon (@AineMcMahon) June 25, 2020
He said: “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.”
The President of the Law Society of Ireland, Michele O’Boyle, described the comments as “shocking, unwarranted and dangerous”.
“It is entirely appropriate for a politician to disagree with a judge’s decision,” she said. “They have a remedy which is to appeal the decision or seek a change in the law.”
“It is not appropriate, however, for a politician to launch a personalised attack on the impartiality or the integrity of a judge.”
“Such an attack risks undermining the necessary mutual respect between branches of Government required by the Constitution. It threatens respect for the law and even the rule of law which protects all of us.”
“I call on all who respect the rule of law to reject populist attacks on the judiciary and to distance themselves from this latest very regrettable example.”
Ms Smith said she will not apologise or withdraw her remarks.
She said: “I don’t accept the Bar Council’s opinion nor am I impressed by the mock outrage of them, various other barristers, legal experts or the Minister.
“Criticism of the judgment and the judge is not an attack on democracy and such hyperbole serves only to underline my original point; the class bias and accountability of our judicial system.
“I do not accept that these decisions are solely the result of a King Solomon-like learned judge pouring over manuscripts and arriving at his decisions without fear or favour.”