By Sarah Mac Donald - 08 October, 2013
The administration of justice is a service which unifies society as well as being a fundamental pillar of democracy, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin has said.
Speaking to representatives of the legal profession and those who administer justice, the Archbishop described their contribution to society as fundamentally linked with the quality of living together as citizens.
He said on Monday that the administrators of justice may have to dedicate much of their time towards addressing and dealing with injustice and attempting to appease divisions and litigiousness.
But he reminded his listeners that their fundamental task was to ensure a functional and functioning framework for the common good, in which every individual could flourish.
In his homily at a Mass to mark the start of the new law term at St Michan’s Church in Dublin, he also warned that criminals who attempt to impose their rule through violence are a threat to democracy and he appealed for a “coordinated response” by the state to stem the spread of “senseless violence.”
The Archbishop called for the perpetrators of violence to be shamed in order to protect Irish society as he paid tribute to the Gardaí’s role in the fight against crime and violence.
“Our nation owes a debt of gratitude to the men and women of An Garda Síochána who daily face the risks of being in the front line against an ever more sophisticated and unscrupulous world of crime and corruption,” he said.
He was strongly critical of the proportion of men and women with mental health problems who end up back in the prison system unable and incapable of addressing their problems. He said this required “an urgent political and social response.”
Addressing representatives of the Supreme Court, High Court and District Court, and diplomatic corps who attended the Mass as well as representatives of the judiciary from Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, Dr Martin admitted that the courts could not be expected to provide solutions to the many social challenges that sometimes find their most dramatic expression in the courtroom.
But he highlighted that the right administration of justice fostered unity and harmony in society and was intended to set out a framework for the common good in which every individual could flourish.
When the administration of justice functions well, it contributes to building up of a healthy society and when dysfunctionality enters into the system it brings “degenerative effects into the very fabric of society,” the Archbishop commented.
Dysfunctionality in the administration of justice is generally a symptom of a deeper malaise within a society he warned.
He also noted that the independence of the judicial system is the first institution which is undermined by totalitarian or corrupt systems and he urged the judiciary to ensure that the vindication of rights does not become the preserve of only those with financial means to mount legal challenges.