The revelation of the gross disparity in the community make up of the Judiciary will raise serious questions in regards to parity of esteem, especially given the broad Catholic and Nationalist community have long demanded quotas in order to ensure fair cross community representation.
In recent months we have seen calls for a return to 50-50 recruitment in the PSNI in order to increase the number of Catholic officers, yet the huge disparity in the Judicial system, which on the face of it appears to be a cold house for legal professionals from a Protestant background, has not found itself placed under any significant scrutiny.
All but one of the 14 High Court judges have been appointed to their current positions post the devolution of policing and justice, which also saw the appointment of a Catholic Attorney General and the hugely controversial appointment of the former solicitor for IRA On The Runs and many senior Provisionals, Barra McGrory QC as the Director of Public Prosecutions.
The post devolution of policing and justice period has seen a huge crisis of confidence in the policing and justice system within the Protestant, Unionist and Loyalist community- with an open distain for the Public Prosecution Service and what was seen as unbalanced prosecutorial decisions- and many will look at the fact that at least 72% of our most senior Judges come exclusively from a Catholic and Nationalist background as evidence of a justice system that is disproportionately weighed in favour of one community.
The Judges are not themselves politically neutral in their personal outlook, with a number having been politically active in Alliance, SDLP and linked through association to those involved with Sinn Fein. Some of the Judges regularly participate in non-neutral political events within the Nationalist community, such as the Pat Finucane lecture, yet it is hard to think of any such judicial engagement with the unionist community.
The fact that such a hugely disproportionate number of senior judges come from one community raises a number of serious questions around the judicial selection process, but furthermore poses a challenge to those nationalists that demand parity of esteem in public bodies, will they echo such demands when it comes to the Judicial system?
The most senior Judges in Northern Ireland comprise the Lord Chief Justice, 3 Lord Justices of Appeal and 10 High Court Judges. They are listed HERE by their judicial position and date of current appointment.
The Lord Chief Justice’s Office has been offered the opportunity to respond.