The BBC reports that, after waiting 8 months for a reply, Northern Ireland’s most senior judge, Lord Chief Justice Declan Morgan, has made public a letter of complaint he sent to the Northern Ireland First and deputy First Ministers about comments made by a NI Executive Minister in the Assembly. From the published text of the letter in the BBC report
Dear Peter and Martin
RULE OF LAW
Regretfully, I am writing to you about comments made by a Minister which I believe are detrimental to the rule of law in Northern Ireland.
In November the Assembly debated the issue of blood donations by gay men who had been sexually active. A challenge to a decision of the Minister, Edwin Poots, that there should be a lifetime ban on donations by such men had succeeded in a related judicial review in the High Court some weeks earlier. During the course of the debate, the Minister strongly inferred that he would not get a fair hearing should he appeal to the Court of Appeal. While I have no difficulty with judicial decisions being the subject of informed comment and criticism, I think it entirely unacceptable for a Minister to suggest that the Court of Appeal in Northern Ireland is biased or unfair. Such a statement is not only untrue, it is inevitably damaging to public confidence in the administration of justice and ultimately the strength of our democracy. [added emphasis]
“Regrettably, this is not the first time that I have had to raise such concerns, which only adds to the seriousness with which I view the matter,” the letter states.
“Our system of government depends on mutual respect between the executive, the legislature and the judiciary.
“That is something which I wish to promote. [added emphasis]
“These comments by Minister Poots, however, are damaging to the constitutional relationships and are not in the public interest.”
Eight months later and, apparently, the NI First and deputy First Minister have been unable to agree even a boilerplate response to the Lord Chief Justice of Northern Ireland…
[Best not to set a precedent! – Ed] Well, it is important that “cohesion” is maintained…