News & Media

Taoiseach and McEntee need to make urgent statements on Woulfe appointment process

13 November 2020

Statement by Alan Kelly TD
Party Leader and Spokesperson on Health and Disability Services
  • It is not believable that the Taoiseach was not informed of Judge applicants or was Cabinet misled?
  • Did Minister for Justice discuss names for Cabinet in advance  with Tánaiste?
  • Was position held vacant for months for the sitting Attorney General?
  • The previous Attorney General sat on the JAAB up until June 27th.

Following the revelation this morning that only one name and none of those from sitting Judges that had applied for the Supreme Court vacancy was brought to Cabinet in July, Labour Party Leader Alan Kelly called for urgent statements from the Minister for Justice and Taoiseach as to why other Cabinet members were not informed that sitting Judges put forward their names for the position, and why the position was held vacant for months.

Deputy Kelly said:

“This morning it has been revealed by the Irish Times that the Minister for Justice did not inform her Cabinet colleagues on July 15th that at least three judges had applied for the vacancy on the Supreme Court which is an incredible development in the controversy over Justice Woulfe. The Cabinet Handbook makes clear at 2.15 that for “appointments to the judiciary the Taoiseach, Tánaiste and any other Party Leaders in government, the Minister for Finance and Attorney General should be informed in advance of proposals to make such appointments’.

“As the highest court is it only natural that the bulk of applications would come from serving judges in lower courts. Did none of the Party Leaders or other Cabinet Ministers think to ask why no names of sitting Judges were brought forward or had the appointment of the former Attorney General been agreed in advance?  Under current law those applications from sitting Judges do not go through the JAAB. Appointments from the Bar would be very much the exception for positions on the Supreme Court.

“We are asked to believe that the Minister for Justice unilaterally decided to subvert the process by not telling the other party leaders in Government and then the Cabinet, as to the number and identity of those who had expressed an interest in the Supreme Court vacancy. The Tánaiste was aware that the outgoing Attorney General had applied for the position and we need to know did he discuss it with the Justice Minister in advance. If other Party Leaders were misled then it is a breach of 2.15 of the Cabinet Handbook concerning Judicial Appointments.

“The Irish Times reports that the Taoiseach and Fianna Fáil Ministers were told that the JAAB had recommended only one name, but not about the judges that applied, and it also confirms that the Minister for Justice was aware of Judges applying for the vacancy, but that she decided to recommend only the one name.

“We need a full explanation from the Minister for Justice, the Taoiseach, the Tánaiste and Minister Ryan. Regardless of ‘Golfgate’, for the Minister for Justice to inform her colleagues of only one name casts a serious shadow over the integrity if not the validity of this appointment.

“It is also concerning that the previous Attorney General Seamus Woulfe would have sat on the Judicial Appointments Advisory Board (JAAB) up until the new government was formed two weeks previously on June 27th. The Supreme Court vacancy arose in June 2019, but the appointment process did not begin until February 4th 2020 after the Chief Justice had to ask for the vacancy to be filled.

“We also now need to know did the previous Attorney General influence the non-filling of this appointment which he subsequently filled.”