A major row has erupted in the Seanad after Fine Gael moved to guillotine the controversial Judicial Appointments bill.

The Government has been accused of being "sinister", "pulling a stunt" and tearing up a commitment not to use the mechanism to cut short any Dáil or Seanad debates. 

The leader of the Seanad has said the bill to reform how judges are appointed is to be guillotined. 

The Judicial Appoints Commission Bill - which proposes a Commission with a lay majority and a lay chair to nominate judges - has been stuck in the Seanad despite 100 hours of debate. The opposition has been accused of filibustering the bill.

During the Order of Business, Fine Gael Senator Jerry Buttimer told the house that Committee stage debate would conclude this afternoon. 

However, the Government has lost a vote and the debate will now continue. 

The Taoiseach has defended the attempt to cut short the debate in the Seanad, and said that was not a fan of the guillotine approach. 

However, Leo Varadkar said there comes a point where it has to be used.

Fianna Fáil Senator Catherine Ardagh  formally objected to the Seanad leader's "curtailment" of the debate on Judicial Appointments Bill.

She said: "It is really disgraceful that you are treating the Seanad in that way. Obviously this chamber deserves due respect. I think that this is the first time that you have used this mechanism. The reasons and rationale are quite sinister."

Independent Senator Michael McDowell said "the opportunity is being taken today to avail of the visit of Speaker Nancy Pelosi to pull a stunt on behalf of this government."

He said that the he is conscious that "the Taoiseach has told the Oireachtas in the past that he was ending the use of the guillotine and today that is a commitment that has been torn up, or attempted to be torn up."

The Bill which has the support of Sinn Féin is being opposed by a majority of opposition parties and Independents. It has also been strongly opposed in legal circles.

Independent Senator David Norris criticised Sinn Féin for being "complete silent on the abuse of democracy in this house today by the use of the guillotine on the Judicial Appointments Bill. This is all because of their tawdry little deal with Government."

"I have to say Sinn Féin have fallen a long way from the times when in their mistaken stupid way, they were at least idealistic. Now they have joined the ranks of the other political parties."

The bill, which has been a legislative priority of Minister for Transport Shane Ross, will establish a new body with a lay chairperson to select judges for appointment.

Mr Norris issued a broadside against that minister this morning. He said: "We blame Shane Ross. One of the worst ministers this country has ever seen."

Independent Senator Frances Black said she is concerned about the Government using the guillotine as it is not good practice.

Independent Senator Victor Boyhan described it as a disgrace, and a breach of commitments made by the Taoiseach. 

"It's unacceptable and unparliamentary conduct," Mr Boyhan said. 

Labour Senator Ivana Bacik said it was very disappointing to see the Government "use a procedural device which they swore it wouldn't to do this". 

She said Fine Gael members "have not only not been supportive of the bill, but expressed criticism on the record of the bill and its provisions... making the point they are unconstitutional and will, if passed, lead to an unwieldy and deeply flawed new processes for appointing judges," she said. 

Independent Senator Gerard Craughwell appealed to Mr Buttimer to do the "honorable thing" and urge the Government to scrap the bill.  

There were angry exchanges between opposition senators and Mr Buttimer defended the move. 

Additional reporting Edel McAllister, Mícheál Lehane