“This was an insider appointment and it stinks to high heaven,” Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin blasted across the chamber.
“No one was told by the Tánaiste that three High Court judges had applied. Who were they? Were their applications considered seriously? No, they were not.”
“When was the Taoiseach told specifically that this appointment was to be made? Did the Tánaiste alert him, as incoming Taoiseach?” he demanded of Leo Varadkar.
This, of course, was Micheál Martin in opposition demanding answers about the appointment of former attorney general Máire Whelan to the Court of Appeal at Enda Kenny’s last Cabinet meeting as Taoiseach.
During the fiery Dáil debate on June 20, 2017, Martin even went so far as to question Justice Whelan’s credentials for the job by pointedly saying she is “no Frank Clarke, no Adrian Hardiman and no Donal O’Donnell”. Martin’s issue was Whelan had not gone through the Judicial Appointment Advisory Board (JAAB).
“I am not going to take a cosy consensus or some insider consensus from people who want to ordain it otherwise,” he said as he defended criticism of what Fine Gael ministers branded his “chauvinist” comments.
The next day, he dismissed
an argument posited by Varadkar that Whelan’s appointment should not be debated in the Dáil due to the separation of powers between the government and the judiciary.
But that was then and this is now. Three-and-a-half years on,
content to sit in the Taoiseach’s office and defend a glaring obvious political appointment by Fine Gael. Máire Whelan worked in Cabinet with Fine Gael for six years but she was a Labour Party cabinet appointment.
Séamus Woulfe is a long-time
Fine Gael supporter and was appointed Attorney General by a Fine Gael leader. When it became clear he may not return to Cabinet when the new government was formed, he applied to JAAB for an opening on the Supreme Court. This was quite an ambitious application given he never held a gavel and only had three years’ Cabinet experience. Nonetheless, he was appointed to the highest court in the land less than a month after the Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and Green Party Government was formed.
In July, Martin insisted Woulfe’s appointment had “nothing to do with Government-formation talks whatsoever”. Then it emerged it was discussed during a tight window between when Government talks ended and Martin was elected Taoiseach.
Justice Minister Helen McEntee has been dodging questions on the appointment for weeks. Her colleagues feel sorry for her as most don’t believe she played a significant role in choosing Woulfe. Meanwhile, the Taoiseach and Tánaiste are hiding behind a new-found respect for the separation of powers of State to protect McEntee from any questioning.
In the Dáil, Martin was appalled at the suggestion by Mary Lou McDonald that Fianna Fáil’s appointment of Paul Gallagher as Attorney General was somehow linked to Woulfe going to the Supreme Court. He said the suggestion “impugns the integrity and ability” of Gallagher. Makes you wonder what Máire Whelan thought of his comments on her appointment to the Court of Appeal.
Source: Irish News