Taoiseach will meet party leaders over Séamus Woulfe controversy

ireland
Taoiseach Micheál Martin is set to discuss the Séamus Woulfe controversy with Opposition leaders.
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Digital Desk Staff

With additional reporting from Vivienne Clarke

Taoiseach Micheál Martin is set to meet Opposition leaders to discuss the Séamus Woulfe controversy.

Chief Justice Frank Clarke has told Mr Justice Séamus Woulfe that he should resign over his involvement in the Golfgate controversy and there is a groing feeling that the Government will be forced to intervene in the Supreme Court problem.

Mr Martin will seek an all-party consensus to deal with the problem.

According to The Irish Times, it is widely expected in Government and Opposition that a vote in the Dáil and the Seanad will see Mr Justice Woulfe removed from office.

The judiciary crisis moved into the political realm yesterday as politicians discussed the possibility of an impeachment process.

Attorney General Paul Gallagher briefed the Cabinet yesterday on the “serious constitutional issues” brought up by the disagreement between the Chief Justice and Mr Woulfe over the latter's attendance at the Oireachtas golf dinner in Clifden and his response to the controversy.

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The Constitution states that a judge can be removed from office by votes of the Dáil and Seanad for “stated misbehaviour or incapacity”.

Correspondence

The Government issued a statement following the weekly Cabinet meeting in which it said it would review the correspondence between Mr Justice Clarke and Mr Justice. This correspondence was published on Monday night.

“The members of the Government, who are also members of the Oireachtas, are acutely aware of the sensitivity and seriousness of the issues and the need to ensure that the constitutional framework is fully respected by all concerned. This includes avoiding inappropriate public comment,” the statement said.

“The Government agreed that it will continue to reflect on these issues.”

The Irish Times report that there is a growing feeling in Leinster House and Government circles that it will be very difficult for Mr Justice Woulfe to remain as a member of the Supreme Court due to the views of other members of the court and the Chief Justice's stance on the matter.

It is understood there was no support for Mr Justice Woulfe at Cabinet.

Meanwhile, a senior lawyer has said that while Justice Seamus Woulfe may have been “sin binned” for three months, he cannot be forced to resign and could return to the bench in three months.

Senior Counsel Michael O'Higgins told RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland that the fact that Justice Woulfe was not going to be listed as a judge for three months, implied that in three months “he will be sitting as a judge.”

In three months there may be more perspective on the issue and what had happened. “Maybe the damage which has been described as irreparable might yet heal.”

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Mr O’Higgins said there was no prohibition to a second inquiry being conducted. The first inquiry, conducted by an esteemed judge, had concluded that no law had been broken and that it was disproportionate to deny him his livelihood.

It was difficult to see how an impeachment could be triggered when that would have to be based “on a stated misbehaviour”, he added. Justice Woulfe had already been subjected to a full and impartial inquiry.

The Chief Justice had imposed the penalty phase and Justice Woulfe was to be “moth balled” for three months with the implication that in three months “he would be sitting as a judge.”

 

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