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Decision on number of judges required to be based on report of working group, says Minister 
A Bill introducing a new legal partnership to allow barristers and solicitors jointly provide legal services will be published shortly, Minister for Justice Helen McEntee has told a conference of lawyers. 
The general scheme of the Courts and Civil Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2021 was first published by then minister for justice Heather Humphreys in June 2021. The provisions concerning the introduction of new legal partnerships are intended to address anomalies identified in the Legal Services Regulation Act 2015 concerning the planned introduction of such partnerships. 
Also on Wednesday, Ms McEntee said a decision on the number and type of judges required here over the next five years will be informed by a working group’s report and recommendations, due later this year 
The judiciary and legal professions “need to reflect the new Ireland”, the Minister told a gathering of Irish and international lawyers in Dublin aimed at showcasing the State as a hub for dealing with international legal disputes. 
Chief Justice Mr Justice Donal O’Donnell, in his address on Tuesday to the Dublin International Disputes Week, noted the Republic continues to have the lowest number of judges per capita in Europe. 
In her address on Wednesday, the Minister said one of her priorities is to ensure that the courts are resourced to administer justice “efficiently and effectively”. 
In pursuit of this objective, she established the Judicial Resources Planning Group in April 2021 to consider the number and type of judges required to ensure the efficient administration of justice over the next five years. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development was commissioned to prepare an independent review of judicial resources, including benchmarks against international comparators, and its research will be considered by the group. 
Any further judicial resourcing needs will be informed by the report and recommendations, due in the autumn, of this group, said the Minister. The Government had, in the interim, approved the appointment of additional High Court judges and that court now has 43, six more than in October 2021. 
She outlined her commitment to the enactment this year of the Judicial Appointments Commission Bill, introducing a new merit-based system of appointments. She hoped the new commission “will both serve to underpin the high quality of the Irish judiciary … as well as broadening its membership over time to reflect the diversity of the population as a whole”. 
Ms McEntee said her department is working closely with the Legal Services Regulatory Authority and other stakeholders to give effect to recommendations on widening professional legal education provision and examining other barriers to entry into the professions “so that we can recruit our future lawyers from as wide a pool as possible”. The 2021 Bill, to be published shortly, will introduce a new legal partnership to allow barristers and solicitors to jointly provide legal services, she said. 
The reforms in her justice plan will be matched by a programme of modernisation driven by the Courts Service itself, she said. “We are investing in the Irish courts’ system like never before.” 
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