Opposition lash out at Helen McEntee's proposals for answering Dáil questions on Séamus Woulfe appointment

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THE Opposition has lashed out at the latest proposals from Justice Minister Helen McEntee on how she will answer Dáil questions on the process of appointing Seamus Woulfe to the Supreme Court.

inn Féin TD Martin Kenny has branded the format of the questions as “totally ridiculous” and pointed out the plan was to schedule them for the night Covid-19 restrictions are due to be eased.

Meanwhile, Labour TD Duncan Smith has written to Ceann Comhairle Seán Ó Fearghaíl outlining his party’s dissatisfaction with Ms McEntee’s proposals.

Party leader Alan Kelly warned of the likelihood of another row in the Dáil next week over the issue saying: “The opposition is fully united on this as never before.

“The Minister for Justice must end the charade around answering questions on the process of appointment to the Supreme Court.
“She must now agree to make a statement in the Dáil on Tuesday afternoon followed by a Q&A with opposition spokespeople.”

The Government initially resisted calls for Ms McEntee to face Dáil questions on the matter.

Now Ms McEntee is proposing to bring forward the next planned routine session for the Opposition to ask questions on justice matters to Tuesday December 1.

The Opposition want a dedicated statement and debate on the appointments issue as the format proposed by Ms McEntee means written questions have to be submitted in advance and other unrelated justice issues can be raised.

Mr Kenny said Ms McEntee’s office had written to him proposing that she would come into the Dáil on Tuesday December 1.

He said: “That’s the day that the restrictions are being lifted, at 9:50 at night, to take questions which are going to be scripted questions from the Opposition where she can give scripted answers.

“That’s totally inappropriate. It doesn’t cut it,” he added.

The Labour Party said its social protection spokesperson Seán Sherlock was contacted to see if he would agree to a swap of Justice questions – scheduled for December 8 to replace Social Protection questions due to take place on December 1.

Labour said it is not agreeing to this.

The Party’s whip Mr Smith wrote to Mr Ó Fearghaíl saying: “We are dissatisfied with the proposal to shift a scheduled oral justice questions to a different time, which I understand to be 1 December.”

He told Mr Ó Fearghaíl Labour’s request is “that the Minister would come and answer specific questions in a Q&A format as has been done in the Dáil in recent times and that such a request be granted for thiscoming Tuesday.
“I would like this on the record and for further discussion at the Business Committee,” he added.

Mr Woulfe has been at the centre of controversy over his attendance at the Oireachtas Golf Society dinner in Co Galway last August.

Separate questions have been raised about how he was appointed to the Supreme Court and how the long-time Fine Gael-supporting barrister was appointed to the job ahead of three serving judges.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin and Green Party leader Eamon Ryan said they were not told three other judges applied for the Supreme Court jobs.

The Government has insisted that proper procedures were followed in the appointment.

Mr Martin told the Dáil that the Judicial Appointments Advisory Board (JAAB) deemed that former Attorney General Mr Woulfe was a suitable candidate and he was satisfied with this.

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Source: Irish News