Taoiseach to discuss Séamus Woulfe controversy with opposition leaders

ireland
Pictured in 2018: Chief Justice Frank Clarke and Supreme Court judge Seamus Woulfe. File photo
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Paul Hosford

Taoiseach Micheál Martin will meet opposition leaders later on Friday to discuss the ongoing situation around Supreme Court judge Séamus Woulfe.

Mr Woulfe has been told by the Chief Justice Frank Clarke that he should resign but is refusing to do so following his attendance at the Oireachtas Golf Society dinner in August.

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.

"It is not part of my role to ask, let alone tell, you to resign," wrote the Chief Justice, something which Mr Woulfe rejected.

"I do not consider it in any way appropriate that I should resign," wrote Judge Woulfe.

"I do not think it is fair to criticise me by saying I did not respect such guidelines in circumstances where I was simply not aware."

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Mr Woulfe was appointed a Supreme Court judge in July 2020.

The Irish Times is reporting that a number of senior judges wrote to the Government to express interest in the Supreme Court vacancy filled by Mr Woulfe, but the Cabinet was not told of their applications before he was selected in July.

A spokesman for Minister for Justice Helen McEntee 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.

Mr Woulfe had served as attorney general in the previous government until it left office on June 27th.

It is understood that Taoiseach Micheál Martin and Fianna Fáil Ministers were told that the Judicial Appointments Advisory Board (JAAB) had recommended only one name but were not told other judges had expressed interest in the post.

Impeachment

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.

"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 is "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."

'Partial correspondence'

Labour leader Alan Kelly agreed that the meeting will largely be a "listening brief", he reiterated his call for all correspondence between Mr Woulfe and the Chief Justice to be published.

Speaking on Tuesday in the Dáil, Mr Kelly said that there had only been "partial correspondence" made available.

"It is quite obvious that there is other correspondence between the Chief Justice and Mr Justice Woulfe and that we have only partial correspondence.

"In fact, Mr Justice Wolfe says the publication of all correspondence cannot be good for 'either of us or for the Court or the public interest'.

"In fairness, the Chief Justice states, 'Unfortunately, further serious issues now arise out of both aspects of the transcripts of your interview with Ms Justice Denham and elements of the correspondence between us'.

"Therefore, we have only partial correspondence," Mr Kelly said.

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