Justice Minister Helen McEntee must face Dáil questions over Woulfe appointment, says Labour leader Alan Kelly
Minister for Justice & Equality Helen McEntee TD (Photo:Gareth Chaney/Collins)
November 16 2020 04:27 PM
Justice Minister Helen McEntee should take questions in the Dáil on Supreme Court Judge Seamus Woulfe’s appointment, Labour Party Leader Alan Kelly has said.
Mr Kelly said former Agriculture Minister Barry Cowen was sacked when he refused to answer Dáil questions on his drink driving case after he was asked to do by Taoiseach Micheál Martin.
The Taoiseach also asked Tánaiste Leo Varadkar to answer Opposition questions on decisions to leak a confidential GP contract to his friend Dr Maitiú Ó Tuathail.
“It is not credible to say the minister should not come in and answer questions,” Mr Kelly told Independent.ie.
“This is an incredibly serious matter and the Taoiseach has already fired a Minister for Agriculture for not answering questions so how can he refused to ask Minister McEntee to come into the Dáil,” he added.
The Government is expected to resist attempts to bring Ms McEntee before the Dáil to answer questions on why she did not inform the Taoiseach that three sitting judges applied for the Supreme Court post to which Justice Woulfe was appointed.
The Opposition is preparing for a showdown with the Government tomorrow when they debate the weeks Dáil schedule. The Government will argue it is not appropriate to discuss the matter due to separation of powers between the judiciary and the legislator .
Justice Woulfe was the outgoing Attorney General at the time of his appointment and he is also a long-time supporter of Fine Gael.
Mr Kelly said Ms McEntee should explain the appointment process for Justice Woulfe to the Dáil.
“The minister needs to explain whether or not she followed the Cabinet handbook on this appointment and say on the record of the Dáil if she consulted both the Taoiseach and Tánaiste choosing Mr Woulfe as the only candidate to go before Cabinet,” Mr Kelly told Independent.ie.
“The Taoiseach said he knows nothing so did McEntee do a solo run on this and how does this mean she left Micheál Martin, the Taoiseach, out of the process?” he asked.
Mr Kelly said if this was the case “it would be the first time in the history of the State” that a Taoiseach was excluded from the process of appointing a Supreme Court judge.
Meanwhile, a Government source said Justice Woulfe was recommended as a suitable candidate for the Supreme Court by the Judicial Appointments Advisory Board, which is chaired by Chief Justice Frank Clarke.
The source said it would be “highly questionable” to hold a Dáil debate on an appointment process which involved the JAAB at a time when the Oireachtas may have to consider other issues around Seamus Woulfe and the Supreme Court.
“Any such debate would inevitably touch on and potentially prejudice other potential processes the Oireachtas may have to undertake regarding the Supreme Court, as well as potentially encroach on the functions of the Courts,” the source said.
“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,” the source add