The Association of Judges in Ireland (AJI) was formed on the 18th of November 2011. It is a representative body and represents the interests of its members. Although it does not represent the judiciary as such, the AJI’s membership comprises the vast majority of the judges in the Supreme Court, the Court of Appeal, the High Court, the Circuit Court and the District Court. The AJI’s mandate is set out in detail in its Constitution and includes the protection and enhancement of judicial independence, the improvement of the administration of justice and the promotion of a better public understanding of the role played by the judiciary both within the justice system and as an arm of government.
The background to the foundation of the AJI was the development, over the months that followed the change of government that occurred in March 2011, of a perceived difficult relationship between the judiciary and the executive, from the perspective of many members of the judiciary. Concerns had developed that traditional channels for communication between the executive and the judicial branches of government, respectively, and long established protocols for consultation between the executive and the judiciary about matters of mutual interest, were in some instances being by-passed or ignored by the executive.
There was a perceived serious risk of the independence of the judiciary being diluted or compromised. In addition, many judges believed that the judiciary were being treated unfairly and inequitably in respect of pension and taxation provisions. It was also identified as matter of particular concern that, in the absence of an independent judicial council established by statute, no mechanism existed for the judiciary as a whole to convey its point of view on matters of concern to it. The AJI was founded as a vehicle to facilitate its members in addressing such issues, both those of urgent and immediate concern, and those that might arise in the future.
The AJI was founded on the 18th of November, 2011 at the 2011 National Conference of the Judiciary hosted by the Committee for Judicial Studies at Dublin Castle. On that occasion some 113 members of the Irish judiciary, drawn from every jurisdiction, and representing approximately 77% of total number of serving judges in Ireland, signed the Constitution of the Association of Judges of Ireland as founding members. Membership is voluntary but has grown to the point where the AJI now represents in excess of 90% of the serving judiciary. In addition, a number of retired judges have joined the AJI as Honorary Members.