Class politics is far from dead by Pat McArt

Judge Garrett Simons went to Trinity Law School. He was appointed a Judge of the High Court in Dublin by the current outgoing government back in 2018. 

On Thursday last he made a ruling which found that legislation allowing for legally enforceable pay and conditions to be set for thousands of workers, particularly the lower paid roles, was unconstitutional. 

Usually things like this pass unnoticed but in an usually outspoken attack People Before Profit TD, Brid Smith said his ruling was an example of judgements that prioritise property and employer rights over workers’ rights. And then came the kicker: she said these (judgements) originated from the class bias of the judiciary that was composed of ‘a particular section of our society’.

Since then the skies have all but fallen, such as has been the outcry from  the establishment classes in legal, media and political circles led by the Fine Gael Minister for Justice, Charlie Flanagan who not only has written to the Bar council to put on record, I presume, his disgust at the remarks and also to the Ceann Comhairle seeking some sort of sanction against the TD for what he described as a ‘highly personalised, inappropriate and inflammatory attack on a High Court Judge’.

I am not qualified to comment on the competency of Judge Simons’s abilities or on his decisions, but to suggest that Ms Smith’s comments on the substantive issue – that judges seem to be mainly from one section of our society  – is downright ridiculous. 

As a young reporter I used to have to cover the courts and it was apparent to me from the off that it was very much an upper class forum. I recall very clearly the wigs, the archaic language, the judges many of whom spoke with accents straight out of Ross O’Carroll Kelly land. They loved it. It was an exclusive club that showed little willingness to change, to move into the 19th century much less the 20th. 

And I soon became aware of the fact that many of our SCs. and BLs. went to Clongowes Wood, Belvedere College, Blackrock College etc, highly expensive private schools that were not exactly the preserve of boys or girls from the council estates of Dublin or Donegal or anywhere else.

Brid Smith is not for backing down. She has described the reaction as ‘hysterical’ pointing out what she had said in the Dail and on social media was a matter of public record and based on information that was ‘readily out there’.

I couldn’t agree more. 

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