From top: Attorney General Paul Gallagher; former Minister for Justice Alan Shatter
Further to revelations that Attorney General Paul Gallagher acted for private clients, including a former director of Independent News and Media in a case in which the State is on the opposing side…
…Via former Minister for Justice Alan Shatter in the Irish Times:
The lack of complete transparency surrounding the current AG’s continued engagement in private practice since his appointment, the manner in which information has emerged and the official response to it emerging exacerbates that risk.
If the AG intended to maintain any private practice for an extended period of time this should have been made public knowledge at the time of his appointment. The explanation given that his involvement in private practice was prolonged by the Covid pandemic is difficult to understand.
We were in the midst of the pandemic in June 2020 when Paul Gallagher SC was appointed. It’s impact in delaying court hearings readily created additional time for the transfer of court briefs.
The issue is not simply about whether the AG continuing in private practice impacted on his availability to efficiently fulfil his obligations to Government but is also about avoiding conflicts of interest, real or perceived, ensuring public confidence in the manner in which he carries out his role and there being no public perception, however wrong, of the AG or any member of the judiciary’s judgement being affected by conscious or unconscious bias.
As the AG’s input may be sought on reform of defamation law and on bills affecting financial institutions, his representing while AG, for any extended period of time, present or former directors of media companies or any financial institution may be a cause of concern. As his position as AG facilitates his substantially influencing judicial appointments, there could be a risk when he engages in private litigation, litigants on the opposite side may fear unconscious bias could influence the outcome of proceedings to their detriment.
The separation of powers and the rule of law is a foundation stone of our constitutional democracy. The constitution does not address the perceptions of conflict of interest or bias that can result from an AG maintaining a private practice. It is an issue that can be easily addressed by legislation requiring that he or she shall, as Attorney General, be a full-time officer of the State. The need for such legislation is now clear.’ [More at link below]
Previously: Power Of Attorney