Flanagan considers complaint after a ‘heated exchange’ with journalist
Former Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan. Photo: Gareth Chaney, Collins
November 29 2020 02:30 AM
Former justice minister Charlie Flanagan, who has refused to answer questions about his role in the Séamus Woulfe appointment, contacted the Ceann Comhairle Seán Ó Fearghaíl following a heated exchange with a journalist in Leinster House last week.
Mr Flanagan is understood to have taken issue with a story written by Mail on Sunday journalist John Lee regarding the controversy over the former attorney general’s appointment to the Supreme Court.
What has been described as a “heated exchange” took place in the corridor of Leinster House between the former minister and Mr Lee, who is the Mail’s executive editor and a political correspondent, last Thursday.
Afterwards, Mr Flanagan took the unusual step of reporting the matter to Mr Ó Fearghaíl. The Fine Gael TD also contacted the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) to inquire about the possibility of making a complaint.
Separately, it is understood Mr Flanagan sought a copy of the code of conduct for political journalists working in Leinster House. Mr Flanagan has not made a formal complaint to the Ceann Comhairle or the NUJ.
“I can confirm I was contacted by Charlie Flanagan regarding a heated exchange with a journalist,” Mr Ó Fearghaíl confirmed to the Sunday Independent.
“Members of the Oireachtas and members of the press corp enjoy what is generally a very good working relationship and anything that would damage that is regrettable.”
Two well-placed sources said the former minister was “upset” over the matter. Mr Flanagan declined to comment yesterday. Mr Lee also declined to comment when contacted yesterday.
The NUJ’s general secretary Seamus Dooley said: “The most appropriate manner for an Oireachtas member to raise any issue about the conduct of an accredited journalist in Leinster House is through the Oireachtas Press Gallery.
“There is an ongoing relationship with the officers of the gallery. The NUJ has no role in the operation of the Gallery.”
The acting chair of the Oireachtas Press Gallery, Gavan Reilly, declined to comment.
Mr Flanagan has faced questions in recent weeks over his role in the appointment of long-time Fine Gael supporter Séamus Woulfe to the Supreme Court in July.
Mr Flanagan, who was justice minister up until the end of June, was contacted by the Chief Justice in February, who asked him to fill a vacancy on the Supreme Court.
The then minister asked the Judicial Appointments Advisory Board (JAAB) to furnish him with nominations for the vacancy. Mr Woulfe’s was the only name submitted by JAAB to Mr Flanagan before he left office, but no appointment was made by the interim government.
It has since emerged that five sitting judges wrote to the government with expressions of interest in the vacancy.
Justice Minister Helen McEntee considered these but submitted only one name, Mr Woulfe’s, for approval in July.