McEntee insists she had enough experience to make judicial recommendations

ireland
National Day of Commemoration Ceremony, © PA Wire/PA Images
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By David Young, PA

The justice minister has rejected any suggestion she was too inexperienced to recommend Seamus Woulfe as a Supreme Court judge.

Helen McEntee confirmed that the former attorney general’s name was the only one she put forward to the Taoiseach, Tanaiste and Green Party leader for approval in the summer, only three weeks after being appointed as minister.

Ms McEntee said she examined the suitability of three sitting judges who had expressed interest in filling the vacant Supreme Court seat, but had decided that Mr Woulfe best suited the role.

“The inference here is that because I was three weeks in that I was not capable of doing that job and I don’t think that’s fair,” the minister told RTÉ.

Ms McEntee continues to face scrutiny around the process that led to the appointment of Mr Justice Woulfe and has agreed to answer Dail questions on the issue.

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However, Opposition parties have criticised her proposal to address the matter during a late night rearranged session of ministerial questions – a format that would require questions to be submitted in advance and a limit placed on the number of TDs that could contribute.

Chief Justice Justice Frank Clarke (left) and Mr Justice Seamus Woulfe (Brian Lawless/PA)

Mr Justice Woulfe has become the focus of controversy since his attendance at the ‘golf-gate’ event in Clifden, Co Galway in August when members of the Oireachtas’s golf society gathering for a dinner organised in variance with Covid rules.

He refused to resign over his handling of the incident despite a call from chief justice Frank Clarke to quit.

While that furore continues, focus has also centred on Ms McEntee amid questions on whether she should have told the leaders of the three coalition parties the names of the all those in the running for the vacant judicial seat.

The minister has insisted all her actions were completely in line with appropriate procedures.

Mr Justice Woulfe’s name was proposed to the minister by the independent Judicial Appointments Advisory Board, which assessed him as being suitable for the job, while the three sitting judges registered their expressions of interest through the attorney general’s office.

Ms McEntee said she had been involved in six judicial appointment processes since becoming minister and on some of those occasions she recommended one name to Taoiseach Micheal Martin, Tanaiste Leo Varadkar and Green Party leader Eamon Ryan and on others she had proposed a number of suitable candidates.

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“In this instance I gave forward the name I recommended that I thought was the best person for the job and I need to be clear on that, I looked at all of the names – this is not someone who was randomly selected by me,” she said.

The minister said she took a “number of weeks” to examine all of the potential candidates in the frame.

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