Security of remuneration is a key feature of judicial independence. Article 35.5 of the Constitution as originally enacted prohibited the reduction of such remuneration while the judge continued in office. Following the economic crash of 2008, this provision became one of some controversy, as judges were initially exempted from legislation providing for the compulsory reduction of public service pay. Although the vast majority of judges paid an equivalent pension levy on a voluntary basis, the existing constitutional guarantee was seen by some as anomalous in an era of enforced austerity. The government therefore placed a proposal to amend Article 35.5 of the Constitution before the people in a referendum held in November 2011, which was passed.
The new Article 35.5 provides:
- The remuneration of judges shall not be reduced during their continuance in office save in accordance with this section.
- The remuneration of judges is subject to the imposition of taxes, levies or other charges that are imposed by law on persons generally or persons belonging to a particular class.
- Where, before or after the enactment of this section, reductions have been or are made by law to the remuneration of persons belonging to classes of persons whose remuneration is paid out of public money and such law states that those reductions are in the public interest, provision may also be made by law to make proportionate reductions to the remuneration of judges.
The remuneration of judges was accordingly reduced following the enactment of the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest Act 2011. The salaries of all judges appointed prior to 01.01.2012 have been significantly reduced. However, these represent a transitional arrangement as the salaries of judges appointed, or to be appointed, after 01.01.2012 are lower still.
The following are the reduced salaries payable to judges appointed prior to 01.01.2012, inclusive of pension related deduction:
- Chief Justice: €227,168
- President of the High Court: €211,088
- Judge of the Supreme Court: €198,226
- President of the Circuit Court: €191,794
- Judge of the High Court: €186,973
- President of the District Court: €146,885
- Judge of the Circuit Court: €141,892
- Judge of the District Court: €123,881
The following are the salaries payable to new appointees to the bench from the 01.01.2012 inclusive of pension related deduction:
- Chief Justice: €204,657
- President of the High Court: €190,184
- Judge of the Supreme Court: €178,608
- President of the Circuit Court: €172,820
- Judge of the High Court: €168,481
- President of the District Court: €132,401
- Judge of the Circuit Court: €127,908
- Judge of the District Court: €111,698
Moreover, the following are the percentage reductions in salaries which have been effected by the introduction of the above salaries from 1st January, 2012.
- Chief Justice: 30.84%
- President of the High Court: 30.79%
- Judge of the Supreme Court: 30.74%
- President of the Circuit Court: 30.71%
- Judge of the High Court: 30.69%
- President of the District Court: 28%
- Judge of the Circuit Court: 27.96%
- Judge of the District Court: 24.50%