Showdown as Dáil debate over Woulfe blocked
Justice Minister McEntee
November 17 2020 02:30 AM
The Government is facing a major showdown with the Opposition over its attempt to prevent Justice Minister Helen McEntee from facing questions over the appointment of former Attorney General Séamus Woulfe to the Supreme Court.
The main Opposition parties have asked that Ms McEntee come before the Dáil to explain her decision to appoint the long-time Fine Gael supporting barrister to the €208,000 job ahead of three serving judges.
Sinn Féin, the Labour Party, the Social Democrats and the Rural Independents wrote to Ceann Comhairle Seán Ó Fearghaíl asking that time be set aside to allow the Justice Minister answer questions.
However, the Government is set to use its majority to block any attempt by the Opposition to force a debate on the appointment.
The Government is insisting Mr Woulfe’s appointment to the highest court in the country without any previous judicial experience was approved by the Judicial Appointments Advisory Board (JAAB)
It has also said it would be inappropriate to hold a Dáil debate on the issue while the Oireachtas is still considering how to address the ongoing constitutional crisis caused by Justice Woulfe’s attendance at the controversial golf dinner in Clifden, Co Galway, during the summer.
“It is a constitutional requirement that there is some distance between the branches of government.
“A Dáil debate on individual judicial nominations would also be inappropriate,” a source said.
Taoiseach Micheál Martin and Green Party leader Eamon Ryan have said they were not told three other judges applied for the Supreme Court jobs. Tánaiste Leo Varadkar is refusing to say if he knew.
Labour Party leader Alan Kelly said Ms McEntee’s decision not to inform her colleagues about the sitting judges who applied is a breach of the rules set out in the Cabinet handbook.
Yesterday, Mr Kelly said it was “not credible” for the Government to block requests for Ms McEntee to come before the Dáil to address the controversy.
Sinn Féin’s Pádraig MacLochlainn also wrote to Mr Ó Fearghaíl seeking a debate.