Various reforms recently introduced, such as the freedom of information and ethics acts are too complex and in some cases conflict with one another.
The report, from the Council of Europe in which Ireland and 46 other governments are represented, warns that there is too much political interference in the appointment and promotion of judges and has called for changes to maintain their independence.
They also want laws that threaten government ministers, elected politicians and others with six months jail for disclosing confidential information scrapped as it discourages whistleblowing
It notes that Ireland’s reputation has been slipping with Transparency International placing it at its lowest ever ranking among the business community two years ago at 25th, behind Uruguay, Chile and the Bahamas.
The report calls for more stringent rules for politicians on conflicts of interest and asset declarations to include liabilities and those of their closest connections. More streamlined rules and more independent way of assessing politicians’ compliance was needed.
They say all the rules that apply to government ministers should be extended to cover all elected politicians, and to their staff, and it should not be limited to just getting money, but should be extended to cover other advantages.
It raised a red flag over the fact that the clerk of the Dáil or Seanad can dismiss complaints against members without referring it to the relevant committee. They question why complaints are only made public if there is a negative finding.
They are also concerned that a minister can face six months jail for disclosing confidential government information, irrespective of the reason for doing so. This could mean that people are discouraged from becoming whistleblowers.
While the Government pointed to a range of protections, the report believes it is not sufficient and recommends that the whole issue be clarified to ensure whistleblowers are protected.
The report took on board the complaints of the judiciary that the public campaign and referendum on cutting their salaries damaged their standing. There is now a two-tier payment for judges depending when they take up their posts and the constitutional ban on changing their salaries has been scrapped.
A judicial council should be established to deal with such issues in the future, to be involved in appointments of judges, establish an ethical code and judicial training practices.
The report is very critical of politicians’ role in selecting judges and says judges’ promotion “is even more susceptible to political interference” and urges a judicial council to be involved.
The report, from the Council of Europe’s Group of States against Corruption to which Ireland has signed up, monitors anti-corruption laws and practices and focuses on the measures in place nationally to prevent corruption among elected politicians, judges and prosecutors.
It makes 11 recommendations to the Government and has asked it to report in 18 months on the steps it has taken to implement the recommendations.