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Ireland Fianna Fáil set to make fresh effort to block judges bill

07:40  14 december  2019
07:40  14 december  2019 Source:   independent.ie

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a man wearing a suit and tie: Blocking move: Fianna Fáil justice spokesman Jim O'Callaghan. Photo: Tom Burke Blocking move: Fianna Fáil justice spokesman Jim O'Callaghan. Photo: Tom Burke

Fianna Fáil is to mount a fresh attempt to block controversial legislation to overhaul how judges are appointed after the Government guillotined debate in the Seanad.

Justice spokesman Jim O'Callaghan said he plans to put down amendments to the bill when it returns to the Dáil in the new year.

"We will continue to oppose it. It is still a very bad piece of legislation, notwithstanding the amendments made in the Seanad," he said.

It comes after claims of a row between Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan and Fine Gael's Seanad justice spokesman Martin Conway after the Government lost two votes on the bill this week because no Fine Gael senators were present. Mr Flanagan was said by some onlookers to have given Mr Conway "a dressing down" after the lost votes. "I found it quite distressing to watch," said one onlooker.

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Fianna were small, semi-independent warrior bands in Irish mythology. They are featured in the stories of the Fenian Cycle, where they are led by Fionn mac Cumhaill (Finn MacCool). They are based on historical bands of aristocratic landless young men in early medieval Ireland.

However Mr Conway, who along with Mr Flanagan sat through more than 100 hours of the long-running debate, denied this. He said he was upset the Government had lost votes on "one of the most frustrating pieces of legislation" he had ever dealt with. "I felt terrible," he said. "I just was gutted that there was no one there when two amendments were moved. I was upset but I wasn't in tears. There was no row with Charlie Flanagan."

It is understood there was a brief dispute with the minister, who Mr Conway had initially heard to say: "You'll have to explain this to the Taoiseach."

However, Mr Flanagan had actually said: "Somebody better explain this to the Taoiseach."

A source close to Mr Flanagan insisted he and Mr Conway are "the best of buddies".

The bill passed all stages of the Seanad after the Government successfully guillotined debate. It had been stalled in the upper house for more than a year and subject to a filibuster led by Independent senator Michael McDowell.

The bill has been championed by Transport Minister Shane Ross and is supported by Fine Gael, Sinn Féin and a number of Independents in the Dáil and Seanad.

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