Government acted appropriately during Woulfe process, Justice Minister says

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The Government acted “appropriately” throughout the Seamus Woulfe appointment process, Justice Minister Helen McEntee has said.

The need to ensure and protect the principle of judicial independence was a significant factor in the consultations process, she added.

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The Supreme Court judge attended the “Golfgate” event in Clifden, Co Galway, in August when members of the Oireachtas’ golf society gathered for a dinner organised in breach of Covid-19 rules.

He refused to resign over his handling of the incident, despite a call from chief justice Frank Clarke to quit.

Ms McEntee said: “This Government has acted appropriately at all times through the current process, which we stand over, having adhered to the process and to the law.”

Former attorney general Mr Justice Woulfe’s name was the only one she put forward to the Taoiseach, Tánaiste and Green Party leader for approval in the summer, only three weeks after being appointed as minister.

Dáil

He was proposed to the minister by the independent Judicial Appointments Advisory Board (JAAB), which assessed him as being suitable for the job, while the three sitting judges registered their expressions of interest through the attorney general’s office.

Ms McEntee told the Dáil: “The practice in relation to appointments or nominations to positions made by Government is that only one name is brought to Cabinet by the proposing minister.

Ireland

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“I believe that this practice is particularly important in relation to judicial appointments, as an open debate on the merits or otherwise of sitting judges, as well as others who have been nominated by the JAAB, would amount to a complete politicisation of the judicial appointments process, when one of the very great strengths of the Irish judiciary has been its non-political character and independence, unlike what we see in many other countries.

“It is a solemn duty on the part of the minister for justice to propose to Cabinet someone who, in the opinion of the minister, is the best person for the particular judicial vacancy.

“The Government then decides. That is exactly what has happened in this case.”

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