Tag Archives: Seamus Woulfe

From top; Supreme Court Justice Séamus Woulfe; Labour TD Brendan Howlin

This morning.

On Today with Claire Byrne on RTÉ Radio One.

Former Labour Party Leader Brendan Howlin discussed Sáamus Woulfe’s appointment….

Brendan Howlin: ” I’ve been privileged to serve in three coalition governments, two with Fine Gael. I know these things work and the notion that, for example, if we were in Government with Fine Gael that a minister would make such a strategic decision about an appointment of this nature, a really important appointment of the highest court in the land, without clearing it, politically, with the partners in government is absurd. It just wouldn’t happen, never happened.

“And I don’t believe, from what we’ve heard now, that it happened in this instance either. Unless the two other parties in Government, Fianna Fail, and remember Fianna Fail had the Taoiseach’s position and the Attorney General’s position when the decision was made. That they simple acquiesced to it and the fact that they weren’t involved, any way at all in it, is just not credible. So the Greens too, I would have assumed, even as a junior partner in a three-party coalition, there is a structure where everything, before it goes to Cabinet of a very serious nature, is cleared.

“In essence, just so that people understand how Cabinet works: Cabinet is by and large more a decision-making body than a debating chamber. You don’t go shoot the breeze and talk about things and merits and demerits. By and large, things come to Cabinet for a decision when they are politically agreed and something as important, as the appointment of a member of the Supreme Court would have to be [inaudible] by all the component parts of Government.”

Claire Byrne: “So the conversations would have happened before the recommendations were made to Cabinet?”

Howlin: “There’s no doubt about that. I mean, you see, the Minister for Justice, I think performed stoically and valiantly yesterday. And she’s right to say that the Minister for Justice would always bring one name to Government. But behind that, that decision would have been largely made at that point.

It would be the acceptance of the agreement of the parties in Government and would have been brought to Government. That’s the way it works…..”

He added::

“If the Government actually came clean and said this is actually what it is, that some would regard as a grubby and political deal and we decided because Fianna Fail were going to get the new Attorney General’s job, that we have finalise the position for the outgoing Attorney General and that’s the deal. That would be both legal and constitutional. Now we might have something to say about it being ethically acceptable but it’s legal and constitutional currently.

The problem for the Government is that it is concocting another version of events, that somehow all of this was left to one individual, newly appointed minister for justice to make the decision on her own.

“I’m saying anyone who know the process knows that that is not credible and that it would be better if the Government said ‘yeah that’s the way we did it on this occasion…’.”

Later

Howlin: “Why would it be left to a newly appointment minister to determine from, we now know, five serving senior judges, plus the outgoing Attorney General with no judicial experience, and the other list which is the panel of all eligible judges, to determine that by herself without reference to anybody when we know that there are more vigorous processes now for decisions that would not be as important in the law. That would be unbelievable.”

Meanwhile….

This morning.

Also on Today with Claire Byrne

Dr Laura Cahillane, lecturer in law at the University of Limerick, said:

“Even if this was, say a naked political appointment, there’s not much you can do about it because the current process actually allows for that to happen. And that is the problem because even though this mightn’t be problematic from a legal perspective, it is problematic from a moral perspective, from a legitimate perspective and even from the perspective of the independence of the judiciary. So this is why this process needs to be urgently reformed in order to ensure fairness and transparency.”

Asked about Minister McEntee claiming that Tanaiste Leo Varadkar told her that Seamus Woulfe “would make a good judge”, Dr Cahillane said:

“I suppose people will have to draw their own conclusions in relation to what happened there but what I’m really confused about is the fact that apparently the minister hadn’t yet received the names of the judges who had expressed interest at that stage. So there was already conversations ongoing about who was potentially going to be appointed but yet apparently the whole list of candidates were not given to her at that stage. She also said that she didn’t receive those expressions of interest until she had already indicated that a nomination was to be made to Cabinet. So I’m quite confused as to the process there and when exactly did the expressions of interest from the judges were received and when they were considered.”

Later

“….the impression was given…that somehow that JAAB was saying that this was the most suitable candidate, now the thing is the Act, the 1995 Act, does actually use the word ‘recommend’, the problem is that, in practice, that’s not what JAAB does…”

Earlier: King Henry VIII, The Benchers And Séamus

RollingNews

From top; Chief Justice Frank Clarke and Supreme Court Justice Séamus Woulfe; Deputy Bríd Smith

Yesterday.

At the Dáil at the Convention Centre.

Solidarity–People Before Profit TD Bríd Smith discussed the inner workings of the Irish bar during questioning of Minister for Justice Helen McEntee over the appointment of Séamus Woulfe as a Supreme Court Justice.

Deputy Smith Said:

“One of the most amusing statements today came from the Minister, who said the great strength of the Judiciary is its non-political character. I was in knots of laughter when I heard that comment.

In essence, many Deputies are expressing outrage that the Government used a vacancy on the Supreme Court to appoint a politically connected person because that person was politically connected rather than because he was the best or most suitable person for the job. I have a newsflash; all our top judges are, effectively, political appointees.

When Fianna Fáil is in government, we get judges with Fianna Fáil connections; when Fine Gael is in government, we get judges with Fine Gael connections; and the odd time, if Labour is the extra wheel, we might get one of their mates. This time we have Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael in government and Fine Gael got to appoint the judge.

Perhaps the outrage expressed is because this is a glaring example of a political appointment, as opposed to the more normal and subtle way of appointing judges via the old boys’ network. Is the outrage because the person appointed was not a barrister? [Woulfe is a barrister; perhaps judge was intended] The normal route to the court is through a judicial system dominated by a very small and self-perpetuating elite.

The judicial system and barristers are drawn from a small pool, largely controlled by the Honourable Society of King’s Inns, set up by none other than Henry VIII to ensure controlled access to the Bar, and initially to keep out Catholics. This is the only place where somebody can become a barrister.

Judges are not exclusively but are overwhelmingly barristers. The Honourable Society of King’s Inns is the only place that trains barristers but there is no statutory basis for this in any law made democratically by us. It owes its origins to Henry VIII and was set up to ensure that a small, well vetted elite controlled who could become a barrister or who would be kept out. It is still doing that.”

She added:

“Inside the Honourable Society of King’s Inns there is another secret society, known as the Benchers. There is an inner bench and outer bench. Anybody who is made a judge automatically becomes a member of the Benchers. They have secret dinners about which nobody finds out. These happen regularly. I wonder if some of the outrage is caused by the fact that Séamus Woulfe was not even a Bencher.

The idea now is the Minister for Justice has appointed a candidate because he was a Fine Gael activist. We are now in for a bigger shock, so we should get the smelling salts ready. Here is another newsflash. There is no such thing, in reality, as the separation of powers.

We have a political system dominated by Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, with a splash of Labour and this time around the Greens have been thrown in. We have a judicial system dominated by the friends of Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, with the odd Labour appointee. In expressing outrage about such a fiasco.

I say to the other party leaders, including Deputies Mary Lou McDonald, Alan Kelly and Catherine Murphy, that next week they will have a chance to demonstrate outrage by supporting the motion tabled in the name of People Before Profit by Deputy Paul Murphy to remove Séamus Woulfe for stated misbehaviour.

Those Deputies can demonstrate that we are serious about the separation of powers and democracy. Just as important, we are serious about demonstrating that we recognise the major sacrifices of the Irish people over the past nine months in abiding by public health guidelines. It would show that these guidelines were not made just for the little people but were also made for the great and the good, whether they came from the Benchers club or not.

Is the Minister aware that Séamus Woulfe is a former branch secretary of Fine Gael in Dublin Bay North? Is she aware that Mr. Justice George Birmingham, who sat on the Judicial Appointments Advisory Board, JAAB, which recommended Séamus Woulfe, was a former Fine Gael Minister of State?

Is she aware that Séamus Woulfe sat on a previous JAAB that recommended Mr. Justice Birmingham for a position as President of the Court of Appeal? Does she believe there is a danger of “you scratch my back and I will scratch yours”?

Did she know Mr. Justice Frank Clarke, who also sat on JAAB that recommended Séamus Woulfe, was a former Fine Gael candidate for the Seanad? The Minister should have found it distasteful that a body with so many Fine Gael connections should itself recommend somebody with a Fine Gael connection.”

Yesterday: Appointing Séamus

Transcript via Oireachtas.ie

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)

Supreme Court Justice Seamus Woulfe

This morning.

Further to Golfgate…

Via Independent.ie

Sinn Féin is planning to table legislation which would introduce a cooling-off period for attorney generals before they could put their name forward for a position on senior courts.

The move follows the on-going controversy over the appointment of Fine Gael-supporting Attorney General Seamus Woulfe to the Supreme Court. Justice Minister Helen McEntee has been under pressure to answer questions on the appointment for three weeks.

However, so far Ms McEntee has refused to give a detailed explanation as to why she chose the long-time Fine Gael supporter for the Supreme Court ahead of three sitting judges. Meanwhile, former Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan, who was first told Mr Woulfe applied for the role after the General Election in March, is refusing to comment on his involvement in the controversial appointment.

Attorney generals may have to wait two years before applying for position on Supreme Court under proposed new law (Independent.ie)

Meanwhile….

Minister for Justice Helen McEntee says that she considered all names put before her for a vacancy on the Supreme Court.

Ms McEntee, who was speaking on LMFM radio, said that there were “a number of names put before me” but refused to be drawn on the exact number.

She said there was “collective approval” at the Cabinet meeting when she recommended Justice Seamus Woulfe for the Supreme Court.

McEntee considered ‘a number of names’ for Supreme Court vacancy (RTÉ)

A motion to start a process to impeach Supreme Court judge Seamus Woulfe is the ‘only option’ open to opposition TDs to ensure accountability, RISE TD Paul Murphy says.

Deputy Murphy is bringing forward the motion in the Dáil this week, which – if passed – would allow TDs to begin examining whether Mr Justice Woulfe should be removed or not.

Motion To Impeach Woulfe Is Only Option Open To Us (Newstalk)

RollingNews

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

This morning.

Back to you, Frank.

Earlier…

Members of The board of the Judicial Council last February, from left: Patricia Ryan, George Bermingham, Chief Justice Frank Clarke, Peter Kelly and Colin Daly

This morning.

Further to Golfgate…

Vua RTÉ

A meeting of the board of the council, made up of 11 members, including Chief Justice Frank Clarke was convened at short notice this week. It was due to take place on Wednesday, but will now happen today.

It is understood there is no fixed agenda for the meeting and a “general discussion” will take place.

It comes in the middle of an unprecedented crisis for the Supreme Court following the attendance of Mr Justice Woulfe at an Oireachtas Golf Society dinner in Galway in August.

The judicial council was responsible for publishing the review of former chief justice Susan Denham into the issue.

It also published a transcript of her interview with Judge Woulfe and indemnified her in relation to any potential legal action in relation to the matter.

Judicial council board to meet for ‘general discussion’ (RTÉ)

RollingNews

Chief Justice Frank Clarke (left) and Supreme Court Justice Seámus Woulfe

 

This afternoon.

Didn’t see that one coming.

Efforts to impeach Supreme Court judge Seamus Woulfe ‘likely to fail’ (Brian Mahon, The Times)

Meanwhile…

Oh.

Meanwhile…

Good grief.

UPDATE:

All correspondence.

*adjusts wig*

Chief Justice Frank Clarke and Supreme Court Justice Séamus Woulfe

This morning.

Further to Golfgate…

The Attorney General has been asked to advise the Taoiseach and the Government on the controversy surrounding Supreme Court judge Seamus Woulfe and his attendance at a golf dinner in Galway in August.

Mr Justice Clarke said the cumulative effect of the controversy had caused significant and irreparable damage to the Supreme Court.

He told Mr Justice Woulfe that these were matters that affected public trust and his personal view was that Judge Woulfe should resign to maintain public confidence in the court, the judiciary and the administration of justice.

However…

Mr Justice Woulfe said he had come to the conclusion that he should not resign.

Adding…

He said he accepted not being assigned to sit to hear any cases until February and would be willing to forego his salary for three months.

AG asked to advise Government over Woulfe controversy (RTÉ)

Previously: Seámus Woulfe on Broadsheet

RollingNews

Meanwhile…

Letters in full: What Chief Justice said to Mr Justice Seamus Woulfe over golfgate dinner and his reply (Irish Times)