Woulfe’s mistake doesn’t justify impeachment, Ross insists
Speaking on Independent.ie’s ‘Floating Voter’podcast, the former transport minister said the Supreme Court judge should have resigned in August
Shane Ross said judicial impeachment proceedings were designed for ‘much more serious offences’. Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins
November 14 2020 02:30 AM
Former transport minister Shane Ross has said Supreme Court judge Séamus Woulfe should resign rather than face impeachment proceedings in the Dáil.
Speaking on Independent.ie’s Floating Voter podcast, Mr Ross said his former Cabinet colleague should have resigned in August after it emerged he attended the controversial Oireachtas Golf Society Dinner.
The former Independent Alliance minister said it was wrong that Mr Justice Woulfe attend the event and insisted members of the judiciary should he held to as high a standard as the politicians who stepped down over the controversy.
However, he said it is “a very different thing” to suggest Mr Woulfe’s case justified impeachment proceedings which were designed for “much more serious offences”.
“Séamus Woulfe is not corrupt, Séamus Woulfe made a mistake,” he added.
Mr Ross said the appointment of judges is a secretive process and only on one occasion during his time in government was he given access to the names of the rejected candidates. This was when Frank Clarke was appointed as Chief Justice, Mr Ross said.
“That was the only time we were told and what was striking was that even the Cabinet were not confided in on who applied or who didn’t apply,” he said.
His comments came after it emerged three sitting judges expressed an interest in the Supreme Court position which was ultimately given to Mr Woulfe.
Mr Ross said it was the “norm” for judicial appointments to be dealt with at the end of Cabinet meetings “on the nod” from ministers.
“The system of how it was done was opaque,” he said. He said on at least one occasion he blocked an appointment because it was too political.
He said a small group in government were involved in choosing judges.
He also claimed former Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan threatened to resign during one of their arguments over judicial appointments.
“I had great affection for him believe it or not but we used to fight every Tuesday morning about judges,” Mr Ross said.
“He’s got a very short fuse and he was difficult to deal with it. Very cantankerous,” he said.
He would say ‘I’m going out, I’m going to resign, this is the end of it’ and then he would be fine five minutes later,” he added. Mr Ross also discussed how he found Fine Gael ministers “distasteful” as a group, but individually pleasant.
“They are totally and utterly ruthless as a group but when you meet them one-to-one, including Leo, Paschal and Simon Coveney, you like them,” he added.
He said Fine Gael were “much harder” to deal with than Fianna Fáil.
Mr Ross said it is “highly unlikely” he would run in another election but said he would not rule anything out.
The former minister said it was unlikely he would run for the Seanad or Dáil again but did not say what election he would be willing to contest.