Tag Archives: Helen McEntee

Tanaiste Leo Varadkar and Minister for Justice Helen McEntee this afternoon

This evening

Minister for Justice Helen McEntee has told the Dáil that she did take on board that Tánaiste Leo Varadkar had commented that Séamus Woulfe would “make a good judge”.

Via RTÉ

Paul Murphy of Solidarity-PBP asked if Taoiseach Micheál Martin was made aware that other names existed regarding an appointment to the Supreme Court.

Minister McEntee said that she had already made clear that she only recommended one name to Mr Martin.

She said she did take on board her party leader’s comment that Mr Justice Woulfe would make “a good judge”.

But it was her understanding that Mr Varadkar was not aware that there were other names put forward for the position.

McEntee tells Dáil she did ‘take on board’ Varadkar comment about Woulfe (RTÉ)

Earlier…

This afternoon.

Dáil at the Convention Centre.

Minister for Justice Helen McEntee is addressing the appointment of Séamus Woulfe as a Supreme Court justice.

She said that a draft memo was submitted to her office by the Judicial Appointments Advisory Board (JAAB) in July with expressions of interests from serving judges.

The minister said the practice in relation to appointments is that only one judge’s name is brought to Cabinet by the Minister for Justice and she said that this practice is important in relation to judicial appointments.

She said an open debate would amount to a “complete politicisation” of the judicial appointments process.

She said it was the duty of the Minister for Justice to propose to Cabinet the best person for the particular judicial vacancy, and the Government then decides and she said that this is what happened in this case.

Watch live here.

More when we get it.

Update:

From top: Martin Kenny, Sinn Féin TD

More as we get it.

Meanwhile…

Stop it, Brennan!

From top: Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald; Independent TD Mattie McGrath

This afternoon.

More as we get it.

Yesterday: Cooling Off

UPDATE:

 

Minister for Justice Helen McEntee

Minister for Justice Helen McEntee has said she is being accountable to the Dáil, despite refusing Opposition demands that she make a statement in the chamber regarding the appointment of Supreme Court Justice Seamus Woulfe and then answer questions.

The minister said she is prepared to answer questions about the appointment through the long-standing process of written queries submitted by Opposition TDs several days in advance known as Ministerial Parliamentary Questions (PQs).

She told a news conference in Dublin that this process is standard practice, which happens every week and has been in place for many years.

Minister says she is being accountable to Dáil over Woulfe (RTÉ)

From top: Minister for Justice Helen McEntee, Supreme Court Justice Seámus Woulfe and Green Party deputy leader and Minister of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media Catherine Martin
This morning.

On RTÉ’s Morning Ireland.

Green Party deputy leader Catherine Martin told Audrey Carville that the Minister for Justice Helen McEntee should not answer questions in the Dáil about former Attorney General Seamus Woulfe’s appointment to the position of Supreme Court judge.

Asked why she shouldn’t, Ms Martin said there’s a process in place for judicial appointments and “that was adhered to”.

Earlier this week, it was revealed that the Taoiseach was not informed or involved in the process of putting Seámus Woulfe’s name to Cabinet and was not aware that at least three other candidates had expressed interest in the role.

Ms Martin said Ms McEntee explained to the Oireachtas Justice committee yesterday, when she gave a statement but didn’t take questions, that one name was brought before Government last July.

Ms Martin said “she [McEntee] considered expressions of interest and one name was brought before them”.

Ms Martin said it would be unprecedented for a minister to be brought before the Dáil to answer questions on a judicial appointment.

She added:

“I believe it would set a dangerous precedent to go into such detail on an individual appointment and I don’t believe that would serve the separation of powers well.”

Ms Carville then asked Ms Martin about the three judges who reportedly wrote to the Government seeking to be considered for the Supreme Court role but whose applications were not relayed to Cabinet before Mr Woulfe was selected.

They had this exchange:

Audrey Carville: “Do you know, though, Helen McEntee made a statement but she didn’t answer questions, For example, the three judges who wish to be considered for the Supreme Court vacancy, do you know how she became aware of their interest?”

Catherine Martin: “That’s something that I’ll be talking to Helen about. I believe, like any appointment, you know, I wouldn’t be surprised if there are other applicants. So, as standard, the Minister for Justice considered expressions of interest from serving members of the judiciary, other judges eligible for the position and the recommendation of JAB (Judicial Appointments Board) and then brought one name forward…”

Carville: “But did those judges contact her directly do you know?”

Talk over each other

Martin: “There needs to be more consistency and transparency with this process and reform is needed and the Green Party would be seeking more transparency in relation to this. That is the process that is currently in place and that process would need to be reviewed and I think that the plan is now to move ahead with the Judicial Appointments Commission Bill to establish a single process. And that’s an acknowledgement that the change is needed.”

Carville: “The Taoiseach has said that he wasn’t aware that three actual judges were interested in the Supreme Court job. Did your party leader know?”

Martin: “My party leader, Minister [Eamon] Ryan said he wasn’t aware that it was one name. And that’s where the transparency and greater consulting of party leaders in any coalition needs to take place and that’s where reform is needed for greater transparency.”

Carville: “Do you know if Leo Varadkar knew?”

Martin: “I can’t speak for Leo Varadkar. I can only speak for the Government of which I am part of and, of course, there’s always room for improvement and for more transparency. One name came before Cabinet but maybe there should be greater consultation with the leaders? With the leaders. But Cabinet time itself is not best spent, asking the Cabinet to deliberate on three, or four, or five names. But in the current Government, where we have a three-party coalition, I believe there’s greater room for consultation and transparency around that process.”

Carville: “Yes, wouldn’t transparency be helped by the minister answering questions?”

Martin: “As I said, I don’t believe that that would serve the separation of powers well. I think there’s a risk it would descend into Opposition politics for the sake of Opposition politics and we have to remember the reality of the very adversarial nature of Dail Eireann. A one-and-a-half hour, two-hour questions and answers in this might actually prove counterproductive and I would be worried that damage would be done.”

Carville: “OK, just a final question on this. Are you satisfied it wasn’t a political appointment given, because Fianna Fáil were taking the Attorney General’s job in the new Cabinet?”

Martin: “I’m satisfied that Minister McEntee, as she outlined yesterday, adhered and complied with a process that is in place. But having said that, I believe, and the opinion of the Green Party is, that there’s reform needed here…”

Listen back here in full

Meanwhile, earlier, Morning Ireland presenter Mary Wilson spoke to Dr David Kenny, Assistant Professor of Law at Trinity College Dublin and they had this exchange:

Mary Wilson: “Is there any reason, constitutionally or within this separation of powers, why the Justice Minister couldn’t now take questions and clarify the process that she mentioned in the statement yesterday around the appointment of Mr Justice Woulfe?”

David Kenny: “No, I don’t think there is. It doesn’t seem to me that the separation of powers concern that’s been voiced by the Government is a valid one. The Government has a function in appointing judges and the Government is accountable to the Oireachtas for the performance of its functions. And in terms of explaining considerations that might have been at play, or factors that might have been under consideration, in making a decision that’s now somewhat controversial, it would be seem to me to be entirely appropriate that the minister would be willing to answer questions on that point.

“I think that relying on the fact that judicial appointments advisory board recommended Judge Woulfe as suitable for appointment is also not really an answer to that question. The advisory board performs quite a minimal role in ensuring that people are suitable for appointment. It doesn’t make final recommendations, it doesn’t recommend particular candidates and judicial candidates seeking promotion don’t go through that process. So I think simply saying that the appointments advisory board recommended Judge Woulfe for the role doesn’t really answer questions that the Opposition might have.”

Listen back in full here

Meanwhile…

This morning

Bjorn Janson (above), Deputy Executive Secretary of GRECO – the Council of Europe’s anti-corruption monitoring body – spoke to RTÉ’s Morning Ireland about GRECO’s concern about the manner in which judges are appointed in Ireland.

He said:

“We welcome the establishment of the judicial council in Ireland, this was a major achievement and we now wait for this council to start working.

“…and developing a code of ethics for judges, for institutionalising training for judges, etc. Another thing that remains is about the appointment of judges in Ireland.

“When GRECO was in Ireland, doing this assessment visit back in 2014, we assessed how the system worked and we found out that the judicial appointments board, the JAB, was a good pre-selecting body as such, but it selected a large number of judges and just passed them on, passed on the list to the Government for the decision. Which made this system look a bit political.

“And the objective of GRECO is to establish independence of the judiciary as a preventive tool against conflicts of interest and corruption.

Later he said:

“What was stated in the report by GRECO very clearly was that the selection should lead to a priority of the most suitable candidates and that the whole process should also be transparent so that the Government, it would minimise political appointments in the system.”

Listen back here

Sinn Féin’s Pearse Doherty (left) this afternoon calling for Minister for Justice Helen McEntee to come before the Dáil to answer questions about the appointment of Supreme Court Justice Seámus Woulfe

This afternoon.

The Dáil responds to revelations the Taoiseach was not informed or involved in the process of putting Seámus Woulfe’s name to Cabinet and was not aware that at least three other candidates had expressed interest in the role.

More as we get it.

Sinn Féin demand Helen McEntee faces Dáil over Woulfe appointment (irish Examiner)

Earlier: Drinks Cabinet

From top: Tánaiste Leo Varadkar; former head of the National Association of General Practitioners Dr Maitiú Ó Tuathail; Minister for Justice Helen McEntee

This morning.

Minister for Justice and Fine Gael TD Helen McEntee spoke to Mary Wilson on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland about The Village reporting over the weekend that, back in April 2019, the then Taoiseach Leo Varadkar leaked a confidential agreement reached with the Irish Medical Organisation to his friend and then head of the National Association of General Practitioners Dr Maitiú Ó Tuathail.

Mr Varadkar has since admitted that he shared the document with Dr Ó Tuathail on a date between April 11 and 16, 2019. He has denied that he acted unlawfully but admitted that his actions were not best practice.

In a statement released last night, Dr Ó Tuathail said:

“We received a copy of the finalised, agreed and announced programme for chronic disease management from the then Taoiseach in mid-April. This was seen as a continuation of the decision by the Government to consult with the NAGP and its GP members and keep them informed throughout.”

“We could not adopt a position on the programme for chronic disease management as a union, without full access to the details that it contained.”

During this morning’s interview, Ms McEntee told Ms Wilson that the agreement was reached on April 3, 2019, and that it had been widely circulated by the time Mr Varadkar shared it with Dr Ó Tuathail.

But she conceded it was not actually published in its entirety at that point.

Mary Wilson: “Minister, for clarity, was the agreement published?

Helen McEntee: “So the entire document itself was not…”

Wilson:Was not published…it was not in the public domain?

McEntee:It was not. However, what I do need to stress is that the deal had been reached, that the majority, if not all of the sensitive information, the information that the IMO themselves were then essentially campaigning with their GPs on had been agreed. It had been signed off by Cabinet, so any suggestion, and there seems to be a suggestion that this document was given for some sort of a) personal gain but also that there could be changes made, this did not come back to Cabinet. And everything that was agreed, the detailed information was already being campaigned on…”

Wilson: “Ok. But why, if as you say,…

McEntee: “To try and bring GPs on board.”

Wilson: “…it was all agreed, i’s dotted, t’s crossed, why was it then that the Tánaiste, who was the Taoiseach at the time, and the Minister for Health, why were they not calling in the NAGP, in a formal setting, walking into Leinster House, to have a look at this document. Why was it going, a document marked ‘confidential, restricted circulation, going by courier, to the head of the NAGP’s home?

McEntee: “So, again, and I go back to what you said at the very beginning and the Tánaiste himself has said the manner in which this was delivered could have been done better, it was not best practice, however, what he was doing and it’s important to say, that, you know, this wasn’t the first contact, there had been engagement with the NAGP throughout these negotiations but, as I said, the IMO, as the main representative organisation, the decision was taken to negotiate with them and, as I said, I do think a great deal was done by the IMO for their member. But this represented all GPs, it wasn’t just those who were represented by the IMO…”

Wilson: “Minister, in that case…”

McEntee: “That would have to understand this, that would have sign up. And so the commitment that was given to the NAGP, to keep them informed, again and I do accept and the Tánaiste accepts this, and I’m sure that he’ll say this again tomorrow when he answers questions, when he makes his statement and he was very clear that he would do that. The manner in which it was delivered could have been better. It was not best practice but the intention was clear.”

Wilson: “And yet Minister by the end of April, the NAGP members, it wouldn’t appear they had sight of this agreement?

McEntee: “Well, I suppose I can’t, I can’t say what happened after the document was given. The intention was that this was to ensure that GPs understood what they potentially were or were not signed up to so I can’t…”

Wilson: “A confidential, restricted circulation document.”

McEntee: “So, all of the information that was being, so to speak, decided upon. All of the sensitive information, the financial information, the nub of the details as I’ve said, the most sensitive of information was already out there. This was already signed off by Cabinet, this was already been campaigned on by the IMO, for the members to try and bring GPs on board.”

Wilson: “But we still come back, minister, we still come back to that fundamental question: Why then was this being put in an envelope, confidential, restricted circulation, sent by courier, by the Taoiseach, and he says now it was not best practice, to the head of the NAGP.”

McEntee: I can’t answer that for you. I…”

Wilson: “Isn’t that a question that needs answering though?”

McEntee: “And I think the Tánaiste will answer that and I have to say he was very quick to say that he had no problem in making a statement in answering these questions. He has said that that manner in which it was delivered could have been done better and I have no doubt that if he is asked that question that you’ve just asked me, he will explain it. But I cannot answer that. But I do know that he will answer any question that he is asked tomorrow in the Dáil when he makes his statement.”

Wilson: “He is the leader of your party, he is the Tánaiste, he was the Taoiseach at the time. Is trust a casualty here?

McEntee:On my part, no. And I say that on the basis of a) that I have worked with him for many years and find him to be an honourable person in every element of work that he does….”

Later

McEntee: “…a very clear commitment was given to the NAGP to keep them informed. There had been engagement with them throughout the negotiations and yes, the manner in which it was delivered could have been done better but the motivation here was a) to fulfil a commitment made by Government. And b) to ensure that as many GPs signed up to this as possible.

“The detail on which and, you know, I have to point even to a tweet I saw yesterday from an IMO council member who said that they were submitting articles on deep details to medical newspapers, they were presenting this deal to GP groups, they were phoning dozens of GPs, hundreds of GPs had the information that was in this document.

“The intention here was to try and get more people on board to sign this contact.”

Later

McEntee: “…the fine details had been published, it had been welcomed, Cabinet had agreed it, so you know, at this stage, hundreds of GPs had this information and the only intention and motivation here was to ensure that a very good deal…”

Wilson: “Briefly minister…”

McEntee: “…had been negotiated by the IMO…”

Talk over each other

Wilson: You are the Minister for Justice, would you leak a document in this way?

McEntee: Well I haven’t, you know, is the answer. Again I have to say this is information that was widely known by hundreds of GPs and hundreds of…”

Wilson: “But you still wouldn’t?”

McEntee: “…people…”

Wilson: “You still wouldn’t, even a document that you say was widely known, you wouldn’t do that?”

McEntee: “But, again, you have to ask what has actually happened here…”

Wilson: “No, no, it’s a simple, it is a simple question. A document, you say it was widely circulated, but it was still a confidential document, would you have leaked it in this way?

McEntee: Well, I think the manner in which it was done could have been done better so if I was in that position, whether I would have done it differently, in terms of how it was delivered but this was a commitment, this was a commitment made to the NAGP. You’ve asked if I’ve ever leaked a document. That’s separate. This was a commitment to the NAGP to try and make sure that they understood what their members were potentially voting on.”

Listen back in full here

Rollingnews

This morning.

At the Convention Centre, the Minister for Justice Helen McEntee spoke during the second stage debat on the Health (Amendement) Bill 2020 and told the Dail that the intention of everyone in the Dàil is to reduce the spread of Covid-19.

She then spoke about the new Garda powers and fines that are being deployed during Level 5 lockdown, saying:

“Covid-19 remains a very real threat to all of us and, in particular, to our most vulnerable citizens. It is a critical time for our country and we have a responsibility to comply with public health guidelines and the regulations for the good of everybody.

“While the vast majority of people continue to comply with restrictions, it is very clear that too many people are acting in a manner which enables the transmission of the virus and therefore additional measures are needed. The fixed charge system being proposed will help, we hope, to change behaviour.

“This is important to note however that the Government’s objective here is not to catch people, it’s not to fine people who are adhering to guidelines or even those who make mistakes because we all make mistakes.

“The objective is to prevent the kind of behaviour that endangers others. We do not want to see large numbers of fines issued for non-compliance.

“Even with these new enforcement powers, An Garda Siochana will continue to comply with the policing policy which has earned the support of the vast majority of the public during the pandemic…

“…The new fixed penalty notices will allow for a more proportionate system of fines. The legislation before the House today will also make it an offence to organise an event in a private home such as a house party that is in breach of public health regulations. However, as we’ve outlined, An Garda Siochana will not be given any extra powers of entry into a private dwelling. It is presumed that the occupier of the home in which the event is taking place, is the organiser unless it is proven otherwise.

“An Garda Siochana will also have additional powers to give direction in relation to events in private homes. These are firstly the powers to direct someone who is intending to enter a dwelling for the purpose of attending an event organised in contravention of the public health regulations or someone who is about to enter a dwelling for that purpose, who is attempting to enter the dwelling for that purpose, they will be asked to leave the vicinity in a peaceful and orderly manner.

If a member of An Garda Siochana suspects that an event in breach of the public health regulations is taking place in a private dwelling, he/she may direct the occupier to require and cause all those attending the event to leave the home or venue unless they are resident in the home.

“For the purpose of issuing such a direction, a member of An Garda Siochana may attend at the main entrance to the event and require the occupier to provide their name. A person who fails to comply with a direction from a member of An Garda Siochana commits the offence and is liable on summary conviction of a fine not exceeding €1,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding one month. They may appeal the conviction against the sentence to the circuit court.

“….Operation Fanacht is focused on supporting public compliance with these public health measures, the Garda Commissioner has announced that there will be continued high-visibility patrolling by Garda members across the country. Again the focus here is not to try and catch people out, to penalise them, it’s to encourage people to adhere to the public health measures.

“Gardai will continue checkpoints on main routes. In recent weeks that has involved 132 large-scale checkpoints a day on main arterial routes around the country. In addition, thousands of mobile checkpoints a week on secondary routes and towns and villages and they will continue to be high visibility.”

Earlier: For Your Own Safety

RollingNews

From top: Rally against rona restrictions at Custom House Quay, Dublin 1 last month; Minister for Justice Helen McEntee

This morning.

Radio One’s Today with Claire Byrne.

Minister for Justice Helen McEntee spoke to Claire Byrne about the new powers given to gardai.

She said the Criminal Justice Enforcement Power bill will ensure gardaí have the powers they need to “act swiftly” to deal with pubs who have breached Covid-19 regulations.

But, the host asked. what about protests?

Not all protests (this being RTÉ).

Specifically ‘anti-mask’ protests.

Claire Byrne: “How do you police those protests now because people are allowed to protest, as they always have been. But if you are protesting, in a large gathering now, with no face coverings. What is the Garda role in those situations?”

Helen McEntee: “Well, I think, I mean it is very difficult and obviously, the gardai, this isn’t the first instance where we have had large protests or where we have people gathering and whether or not wearing face coverings. Now the face coverings, it’s obviously very clear that it’s mandatory when you’re in public transport, when you’re in shops and we’re advising people to wear them outdoors and for the vast majority of times, particularly where they’re in large gatherings, there are public order offences, that gardai can again use at their behest…”

Byrne: “If you’re outside at at an anti-mask protest, you don’t have to wear one but you shouldn’t be at a large gathering?”

McEntee: “You shouldn’t be at a large gathering, no. And I mean we’re very clear with that. There shouldn’t be any large gatherings. What we’ve introduced now though, and which is a penal provision, is where there are large gatherings of over 15 people. So that hadn’t been the case up until Friday where we introduced these new, and where the minister fined into regulations anybody organising, so it’s not the people who are attending, anybody organising an event where there are over 15 people, in an outdoor setting, can face prosecution and can be fined up to the €2,500 or face a prison term.”

Later asked if it should be made mandatory for gardai to wear facemasks at checkpoints, when they lean into people’s cars, Ms McEntee said:

“This is an operational matter and I suppose this is something that the Garda Commissioner and his team would advise on so it’s really not something for me to get involved in. I do think, and if you look at even, even if you see two guards in a car, you often see them wearing face coverings because they’re clearly from two different households. I think in the vast majority of cases, gardai are wearing them but again that’s very much an operational matter.”

Listen back here

Rollingnews

This morning.

Slane, County Meath.

New Minister for Justice, Helen McEntee has her first meeting with Garda Commissioner Drew Harris at  the down-at-heel Slane Garda station.

Someone‘s playing the poor mouth.

FIGHT!

Meanwhile…

The new minister said people should consider not entering a premises if it is too crowded and leave if they have been somewhere for an extended period of time.

“It means exercising judgement and self-control for your own sake, as well as the collective good,” she told the Irish Independent.

Ms McEntee’s comments follows images of crowds of people gathering outside pubs.

Justice Minister urges public to use ‘self control’ to stop spread of Covid after concerns raised over pub crowds (Irish Times)

Saturday: Worth The Wait

Rollingnews