Lord Chief Justice Morgan: “Our system of government depends on mutual respect between the executive, the legislature and the judiciary…”

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]

[Not such a “fragile flower” anymore, then? – Ed]  The BBC report adds

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

As for the “mutual respect” of the public…  [That’s not in the public interest! – Ed]  Indeed.

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  • barnshee

    Gobshites of whatever hue are entitled to their opinions
    This includes politicians and lawyers

  • chrisjones2

    …………….and to be recognized as gobshites and gulpeens by those who elect them, especially when they throw Teddy in the corner because the Big Yin in the sky hasn’t guided the judges to agree with them.

    Still they can put it all down to Satanic intervention, witchcraft or the perversion of the law by the papists in the EU. What has the world come to when a God Fearing Minister or MLA cant stop people contaminating Citizens with homosexual blood genes. Its shackin.

    Next we will be forced to let Lesbians vote and wear dungarees in public.

    Though it has always struck me as strange that our politicians don’t seemed so worried by them Lesbians seducing their weeminfolk as they do by gay men.

  • Lionel Hutz

    In all seriousness whilst it would be fine for the minister to disagree with decision. It crosses the line for minister to say you cannot get a fair hearing in the court of appeal so flippantly.

  • Michael Henry

    Poots- ” Strongly inferred that he would not get a fair hearing “( in Court )-

    This is the next level- First the Union flag only and Orange ones Complained that the PSNI are totally opposed to them -now we have a DUP Minister trying to get on side by implying that the Courts are opposed to him as well- it’s doing the rule of law no favours you know-

  • Mister_Joe

    It was disgraceful for Poots to say that. But in N.I. there is no consequence for anything any politico says or does outside of what is considered to be “normal”. There is precisely no honour which would usually be a resignation matter.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Basically, the judges and lawyers are all fenians. It plays to a certain gallery.

  • Lionel Hutz

    It has largely been the DUP who have brought the executive into disrepute in that way. I’m surprised that there is apparently no backlash at all.

  • Comrade Stalin

    No, elected politicians have responsibilities to the stability of the country, and using their position to make comments which undermine it are simply not on.

    I would also point out that accepting the authority of the police and courts was a condition imposed upon Sinn Féin by the unionists. If the Shinners went around saying that the courts were packed full of Brits who wouldn’t give republicans a fair trial I can guarantee you that unionists would not be simply waving it off as a matter of opinion.

  • Tacapall

    What more could Sinn Fein want, a Unionist government minister admitting to the world you would not get a fair hearing in a British court of law in this part of Ireland.

    Shot, self, foot comes to mind but whats new with the incompetent fool.

  • Jag

    Wasn’t there something a few months back when the Shinners murmured something about the PSNI being political after someone was arrested? Might have been a dream, can’t really remember it now, can’t have been that important.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Accusations of political bias by SF of the police ring a little hollow these days even though they do happen.

  • Morpheus
  • Nevin

    “Our system of government depends on mutual respect between the executive, the legislature and the judiciary.”

    Relationships are tetchy, not only between these parts of government but also within them as illustrated by the robust encounter between the LCJ and the Committee for Justice and the allegations made by Judge Marrinan:

    A judge who lost out on being appointed to Northern Ireland’s High Court has claimed he was the victim of “flawed, unfair and biased” treatment. ..

    He said significant changes were needed to make the Northern Ireland Judicial Appointments Commission (NIJAC) “fit for purpose”.

    In 2010 the Judicial Appointments Ombudsman had this to say following complaints from this judge:

    Completing the moderation process would have ensured a completed audit trail for this part of the recruitment process and the Guidance is explicit that this falls within the responsibilities identified for the Selection Committee.

    Taking these issues into account I upheld this aspect of the complaint. ….

    Responding to concerns which emanate from a perception of possible bias, having sensitivity to appreciating the difficulty of making a complaint and considering the possible ramifications for the competition should have merited a speedy response to the complainant. The Commission should at all times take into account whether any actions or otherwise on its part or its Committees provide a continuing sense of confidence. This is about sensitivity to external perceptions and not about the intentions of individuals or groups within the Commission.

    For the reasons set out above I upheld this aspect of the complaint. [source – www dot nijao dot gov dot uk]

  • Lionel Hutz

    One of the things that hasn’t been mentioned much in the.media is the effect this has on the court of appeal decision when it comes, or rather the commentary about that decision. If the Court of Appeal decides against Poots it will be said that Poots had already said they would circle the wagons. If it decides in his favour some will question whether the pressure those comments had on the court had an effect. Either way, the decision will be seen in a new context and that ultimately is how the rule of law will be undermined.

  • Thomas Girvan

    Could they not put in the advert for these top Judiciary jobs,

    “Applications are particularly welcome from the Protestant community”?

    That is the usual advice from the Equalities Commission, when there is a religious imbalance.