The Irish government has announced that judges in the Supreme, High, and Circuit courts will no longer be obliged to wear the traditional wigs. The change to this tradition, which dates from the 17th century, has sparked interest around the globe.
On Thursday, the Superior Courts Rules Committee, made up of representatives of the judiciary, lawyers, and the Courts Service, announced their decision.
Cutting the wigs will save the government nearly $3,000 (€2,200) per wig. The traditional wigs are tailor-made for each judge. The wigs are made of horsehair in London.
According to reports in the Irish Times, Ireland and the UK are two of the few countries in the world where they still wear wigs in court. However, a recent reform in England and Wales has reduced the wearing of wigs to ceremonial occasions.
The story of a shift from tradition and Ireland’s austerity cuts seems to have caught the international press’s eye as it bounced around the world this week.
National Public Radio seemed most concerned about BBC America’s “Law & Order: UK” and its wigs. They said “Imagine what this kind of change might do to ‘Law & Order UK.’ BBC America has almost made "the wig" a character of its own.”
CBS focused on the budgetary cuts being made in Ireland in an effort to regain a grip on the ailing economy. Their headline read, "Ireland's judges lose their wigs in austerity move”. Similarly, the BBC’s headline read, “Ireland to scrap judges' wigs to save money."
However, the fact that the traditional wigs have such a long history in Ireland and the UK seemed to strike a chord. AP led with “After 350 years, Irish judges throw off their wigs”.
The move to make the wigs optional could also be seen as way of modernizing the court or making the setting a little less formal. On Friday, another rule came into force. Now Irish judges shall be referred to as, “Judge”, rather than the Irish language version, “A Bhreithim.”