Seamus Woulfe controversy is ‘grave and serious’

Seamus Woulfe Controversy Is ‘Grave And Serious’ Seamus Woulfe Controversy Is ‘Grave And Serious’
Supreme Court judge Séamus Woulfe has been told by the Chief Justice Frank Clarke that he should resign, but is refusing to do so. File photo
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The crisis surrounding embattled Supreme Court judge Seamus Woulfe is “grave and serious”, Taoiseach Micheal Martin has said.

Mr Martin would not confirm whether impeachment proceedings will be brought before the Houses of the Oireachtas to deal with the controversy.

The Taoiseach is briefing other party leaders this afternoon about the matter.

Mr Martin said the meeting with opposition leaders is to “get a sense” of how they view the matter.

“I have to be extremely careful about what I say because if a motion of impeachment were to happen, I would be juror in that as an individual member (of the Oireachtas),” he told RTE.

“It is very serious, it’s grave.

“The separation of powers is something I hold very dearly and it’s a crucial part of our democracy.


“There’s a reluctance for the political system to embroil itself in the judicial arm of the State.”

The Irish Government received legal advice after the Chief Justice said the judge should resign over his attendance at a controversial golf dinner in Galway.

Opposition parties have called on Mr Martin and Minister for Justice Helen McEntee to make “urgent statements” on the process that led to the appointment of Séamus Woulfe as a Supreme Court judge.

Catherine Murphy, the Social Democrats co-leader, said on Friday morning Mr Justice Woulfe had no judicial experience and the fact that he went straight to the Supreme Court “raised questions at the time”.

Mr Woulfe was appointed a Supreme Court judge in July this year after serving as attorney general in the previous government until it left office on June 27th.

The Irish Times has reported that a number of senior judges expressed interest in the Supreme Court vacancy that was ultimately filled by Mr Woulfe, but the Cabinet was not told of their applications before he was selected in July.

“The process seems very flawed, and it looks to me that the Minister for Justice has questions to answer,” Ms Murphy told The Irish Times, after the story emerged.


A spokesman for the Minister for Justice confirmed she considered expressions of interest from serving judges, and other judges eligible for the position, before recommending Mr Woulfe to Cabinet on July 15th.


The revelations come as the Taoiseach meets with opposition leaders to discuss the ongoing situation around Mr Woulfe and his attendance at the controversial Oireachtas Golf Society dinner in August.

Mr Woulfe has been told by the Chief Justice Frank Clarke that he should resign but is refusing to do so.

The Chief Justice has no legal power to ask for the resignation of Mr Woulfe, but emphatically said that he should in correspondence between the two published on Tuesday.

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald has said that it was “manifestly the case” that Justice Woulfe’s position was “untenable” when the Chief Justice “has no faith in him.”

The question now was how to manage this, she said on RTÉ radio.

“How did this happen? How did we get to this point? How did we land in a mess like this,” she said.

Ms McDonald said she wanted to see the advice from the Attorney General when the party leaders met to discuss the situation.

She would be going into the meeting “with a ready ear and an open mind,” she said.

While opposition politicians have criticised Mr Woulfe and indicated that they may move to impeach the former attorney general, it is understood that Friday's meeting will not come with demands for action from Mr Martin.

Taoiseach to discuss Séamus Woulfe controversy wit...
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"This is a very unique and complicated situation," said one opposition source to The Irish Examiner.

"We won't be demanding anything, but will be listening to the Taoiseach has to say. We hope that we will leave the meeting satisfied that he is taking the matter seriously enough."

Mr Martin told the Dáil on Tuesday that the issue was "very serious".

"It is fundamental to the separation of powers. It is at the very heart of our Constitution so we have to respond in a very serious, sensitive and proper way." – Additional reporting: Vivienne Clarke

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