Fianna Fáil's justice spokesperson Jim O'Callaghan has launched a sharp attack on Minister Shane Ross, claiming that the Judicial Appointments Commission Bill 2017 is "a vanity project for Minister Ross".

Speaking during this afternoon's report stage debate on the bill, Mr O'Callaghan said: "It's extraordinary that the Minister for Transport is prepared to sit through all of the report stage amendments.

"I have no objection to Minister Ross speaking on second stage or coming in at the end when the bill is passed or defeated. But to have him sitting here when we have a crisis in the transport system in this country, for all of the amendments and it underlines what this is - it's a vanity project for Minister Ross."

Responding to criticism from Mr Ross, the Fianna Fáil TD added: "He said I speak as parts of a vested interest on behalf of the Law Library.

"I am not going to apologise to a stock broker for the fact that I am a barrister. I am extremely proud to be a barrister."

"When I come in here I speak on behalf of Fianna Fáil and my constituents in Dublin Bay South.

"As well as launching an extraordinary attack on the judiciary, by stating that their appointments are rotten, he then went on to make an even greater attack on the lay members of JAB [Judicial Appointments Board].

"So now the villains are the politicians who appoint judges, the judges who are on JAB who advise as to the recommendation of judges and the lay people who are on JAB. Why don't we just realise there is only one solution to this problem - let Shane Ross pick every judge in the country."

Responding, the Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan said despite the tone of this afternoon's debate he does not believe "there is much between" both sides.

He said this was about modernising the way judges are appointed to allow for a greater level of transparency.

The Dáil is going to have to work its way through more than 100 amendments to the bill, which is expected to take some time to debate.

A few months ago, Attorney General Seamus Woulfe found himself at the centre of a controversy when he referred to the bill as "a dog's dinner".

Additional reporting Micheál Lehane