SUPREME COURT JUDGES UNHAPPY TO SIT WITH SEAMUS WOULFE
SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 01, 2020
Supreme Court Judge Seamus Woulfe has been told some colleagues are not happy to sit with him on cases following the ‘Golfgate’ controversy.
A delegation of three judges met Justice Woulfe following the publication of the Denham report into his attendance at the Oireachtas golf society dinner, which breached coronavirus restrictions as reported by the Irish Examiner.
The report found he should not be forced to resign over the scandal, however, Justice Woulfe later missed four arranged meetings with Chief Justice Frank Clarke to discuss the matter.
Mr Woulfe deferred two meetings in the same week after previously postponing two other meetings earlier in October, one on medical grounds.
The Sunday Times reports his colleagues were left stunned by his ‘scattergun’ defence, and informed him some would not be comfortable sitting with him on the bench.
The reports of unhappiness among Mr Woulfe’s colleagues follows sharp criticism from Chief Justice Frank Clarke.
The Chief Justice said the continued delays in the process to review Mr Woulfe’s attendance at the Oireachtas golf society dinner was causing damage.
Judge Woulfe originally issued a public apology for attending the event and for any unintentional breach of Covid-19 guidelines.
“I attended based on that understanding, that it would be within the guidelines, but do apologise for any unintentional breach of any of the new guidelines on my part.
“I would never disregard governmental or health authorities advice regarding public health, and have been at pains to follow rules and guidelines since their introduction in March.
“That I ended up in a situation where breaches may have occurred, is of great regret to me, and for which I am sorry. I unreservedly apologise,” his statement of apology went.
However, transcripts of his conversation with Judge Denham undermined that apology as he admitted he apologised because others had and he was not precisely sure what he was apologising for.
“I spoke to one or two people and I decided I would make an apology because one or two other people had apologised, for any unintentional breach of any guidelines on my part.
“Now, I was a bit hesitant about doing it because I wasn’t sure what I was apologising for… And I think what’s very interesting is – and I’ve only noticed this yesterday when I went back to the apology – the fact that I said ‘do apologise for any unintentional breach of any of the new guidelines on my part,’” he told Judge Denham.
Last August, 81 people attended the highly controversial golf dinner event at a hotel in Clifden as revealed by the Irish Examiner.
The scandal, dubbed ‘Golfgate’, led to the resignation of attendees like Fianna Fáil Agriculture Minister Dara Calleary and Ireland’s EU Commissioner Phil Hogan.
Fine Gael Senator Jerry Buttimer also resigned as Leas-Cathaoirleach of the Seanad.