News Ireland Questioning justice minister over Woulfe appointment would set 'dangerous...

Questioning justice minister over Woulfe appointment would set ‘dangerous precedent’


The Justice Minister should not answer questions on the appointment of Seamus Woulfe as it would set a “dangerous precedent”, Arts Minister Catherine Martin has warned.

Opposition parties have demanded that Helen McEntee come before the Dáil to explain the process around the appointment of Seamus Woulfe to the Supreme Court.

Sinn Féin, Labour, and the Social Democrats are among those who have vowed not to let the issue lie until they get answers in the Dáil.

But the Green Party deputy leader said she would be “fearful that there would be a risk” to the separation of powers if Helen McEntee were to address the Dáil on the issue.

Ms Martin said a Dáil debate could be “counterproductive” and she would be worried that “damage would be done”.

“It’s unprecedented for a minister of justice to be brought before the Dáil to answer questions on a judicial appointment like that.

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

However, Sinn Féin president Mary-Lou McDonald quickly moved to point out that such a debate is not unprecedented.

“Minister Catherine Martin ought to be aware that the previous Dáil debated and posed questions about the appointment of outgoing AG to the Court of Appeal,” Ms McDonald tweeted.

Ms Martin admitted that there is a “lack of transparency” around the process of appointing judges and said the Green Party would be pushing to have this changed.

Of course there’s always room for improvement and for more transparency.

“One name can go before before Cabinet, but maybe this should be greater consultation with the leader.

“Cabinet time itself is not best spent asking for 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.”

She added: “I think the plan is now to move ahead with the Judicial Appointments commission Bill to establish a single process.”

Ms Martin told RTÉ’s that said she plans to speak with Ms McEntee on the appointment.

But she said the minister had appeared before the Justice Committee on Tuesday where she “laid out the process and how the name of one person was brought before Governments last July, and that everything was adhered to and complied to”.

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