Irish Judges well trained in EU law but there is room
for improvement – Hayes
MEP Brian Hayes has today said that although Ireland is currently a leader in the training of its judges on EU law, it is crucial that we continue to make progress.
“According to the Commissions’ 2016 report on judicial training, the percentage of Irish judges trained in EU law is around 55%, ranking Ireland 5th place across the EU. The EU average is 28%, so clearly the Irish judiciary and the Irish courts service have made significant progress. But we should not sit back and assume that everything is perfect or that across the various courts in the country that the knowledge of and understanding of EU law is evenly understood.
“For example, the Human Rights Education for Legal Professionals programme known as ‘HELP’ which serves as the Council of Europe’s platform for the judicial education of legal professionals on the ECHR and fundamental rights is not being utilised. So far, it has received €1.6 million in EU funding for its ‘HELP in the 28’ programme which has already benefited 16 member states. Ireland, however, remains one of the 12 EU countries that have not availed of the plan due to the limited budget of the Council of Europe. If the Commission is to reach its stated goal of engaging half of all legal professionals in EU judicial training by 2020, then further financial support on its part is required.
“Ireland must also further integrate itself within the objectives of the European Judicial Training Network. The EJTN maintains that the responsibility of funding EU legal training institutions falls to national governments and so if we are to integrate and expand EU legal competence among judges further, the Irish government must be willing to contribute in turn. In Ireland’s case this would mean further contributions to the Committee for Judicial Studies which this year will operate on a budget of €300,000 for all of its training activities. The EU legal ‘training’ it provides to judges is normally in the form of seminars, however, which raises separate questions about how extensive and practical it is in reality.
“Moreover, it is vital that if such training is to be applicable down the road, we must ensure that it becomes a continuous endeavour, not a once off novelty. To achieve our goals we must promote the idea that being trained and up to date on EU legislation is a responsibility among judges in all levels of the courts.
“If progress slows or stalls on this front we may expect to see further injustices such as the recent home repossession rulings whereby circuit court judges neglected to apply relevant EU human rights legislation due to lack of training in EU law. This case sheds a worrying light on the disparities of EU legal knowledge within the different courts. When I asked the courts service for a breakdown on judges trained per court jurisdiction I was told that such information was not available.
“Having judges on all levels trained on the European Convention on Human Rights and the EU charter on Fundamental Rights would be an invaluable asset for the protection of Irish citizens. Moreover, across Europe issues around xenophobia, radicalization and data protection are proving detrimental to fundamental rights. For this reason we need mutual trust in legal systems and a common judicial culture across the EU where personal rights and freedoms are protected at local and European level. Ireland has the opportunity to spearhead this effort and to strengthen the integrity of her judiciary while setting an example for other states along the way.