Ceann Comhairle warns against 'Ballymagash situation' in Dáil row over Seamus Woulfe appointment to Supreme Court

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THE Dáil was engulfed in a row for the second week running as the Opposition demanded a questions and answers session on the process of appointing Séamus Woulfe to the Supreme Court.

Opposition TDs again rejected the Dáil’s business for the week as they called for Justice Minister Helen McEntee make a statement and answer questions.

Opposition leaders, including Sinn Féin’s Mary Lou McDonald and Labour Alan Kelly, have said they will call votes on the Dáil’s business every single week until the Justice Minister agrees to their proposal to answer questions.

“This is going to go on every week, we’re going to do this every week until the Minister comes in,” Mr Kelly told the Taoiseach.

As the row continued in the Dáil, the Ceann Comhairle Seán Ó Fearghaíl told Mr Kelly – who was interrupting other speakers – “please do not reduce the house to a Ballymagash situation”.

There is controversy over the appointment of Fine Gael-supporting Mr Woulfe’s to the Supreme Court after it emerged that Taoiseach Micheál Martin and Green Party leader Eamon Ryan were not told that three sitting judges were interested in the role.

The Government has insisted that proper procedures for appointing judges were followed.

The issue of the appointment of Mr Woulfe was first raised today by Social Democrats co-leader Róisín Shortall.

She said it puts a spotlight on the relationship between the Government and the judiciary. Ms Shortall said the public are entitled to know how the appointment was made and that there must be a “full explanation” of the criteria used in the process.

Ms Shortall told the Taoiseach: “Respect this house and arrange for your minister to come in and take questions.”

Mr Martin said he has answered questions on the issue, and said that Ms McEntee will too, under the Government proposal for her to respond as she takes other justice questions. But he raised concern about Ms Shortall’s demand for a full explanation of the criteria used arguing that this could impinge on the separation of powers.

Mr Martin said one name is only ever brought to Cabinet and Mr Woulfe’s name was recommended by the Judicial Appointments Advisory Board (JAAB)

The issue arose again during the Order of Business.

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald said there are “very serious and pressing questions” that need to be put to Ms McEntee and it’s “shocking and unacceptable” that she won’t take dedicated questions. She said it’s “worse” that the Taoiseach would facilitate this

Labour leader Alan Kelly said the situation would have implications for future ministers being held accountable.

He told Mr Martin “you know how damn well serious this is” and accused him of creating “one of the most dangerous precedents” he has seen in the Dáil.

Independent TD Mattie McGrath claimed the appointment of Mr Woule was “horse-trading at its worst” and a “murky deal”.

The Taoiseach rejected this claim saying he’s made it clear there was no horse-trading and “any assertion to the contrary is false”.

He said he followed the JAAB recommendation because he didn’t want to get embroiled in judicial appointments.

Speaking at a press conference earlier, Ms McEntee refused to shift from her refusal to submit to a dedicated Dáil Q&A session on the Woulfe appointment, saying she had offered to move her usual ministerial questions to a time that suits the Opposition.

Ms McEntee again defended her recommendation that Mr Woulfe be appointed to the Supreme Court.

“What I can say in this instance, I made a recommendation having looked at all of the names that were put before me. I considered this person to be the best person. The Taoiseach, Tánaiste and Minister Ryan agreed with me. Following that discussion with all four of them the name was then brought to Cabinet and it was agreed by Cabinet,” she said.

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Source: Irish News