Minister says lawyers opposing Whelan for ‘selfish reasons’

Finian McGrath suggests others wanted position on Court of Appeal

Minister of State for Disability Issues Finian McGrath. File photograph: Collins

Minister of State for Disability Issues Finian McGrath. File photograph: Collins

 

An Independent Minister has accused senior legal figures of lobbying against the appointment of former Attorney General Máire Whelan to the Court of Appeal for their “own selfish interests”.

Finian McGrath, the super junior Minister for Disabilities who sits at the Cabinet table, said the position on the Court of Appeal was coveted by others in the legal profession.

He also said the Independent Alliance is now demanding that its bill reforming judicial appointments is implemented before the Dáil summer recess.

The Bill has been championed by Minister for Transport Shane Ross, Mr McGrath’s Independent Alliance colleague.

President Michael D Higgins on Monday morning appointed Ms Whelan a judge on the Court of Appeal despite ongoing controversy over the issue.

The appointment was rubber stamped by the President at a ceremony in Áras an Uachtaráin.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, Attorney General Séamus Woulfe SC, Art O’Leary, Secretary General to the President and Martin Fraser, Secretary to the Government, attended the ceremony.

Fianna Fáil justice spokesman Jim O’Callaghan said his party will press the issue in the Dáil this week and Independent Ministers will also raise it at Cabinet .

However, while the Independent Alliance is seeking a review of Ms Whelan’s appointment, sources acknowledge the former Attorney General’s move to the Court of Appeal cannot be changed.

Mr McGrath said senior people in the legal profession had consistently lobbied against Mr Ross’s Bill and had recently sought to pressure Ms Whelan. The Dublin Bay North TD did not provide, names, however.

“From the very beginning there has been a strong element in the legal profession lobbying against the Bill, and they were lobbying against the appointment of Máire Whelan in the last week for their own selfish interest,” he said, claiming that others wanted the job.

“There are two key issues here: The Independent Alliance will be demanding a review of the appointment of Máire Whelan, and the immediate implementation of the Judicial Appointments Bill.

“The Independent Alliance want to ensure that these kind of situations never happen again and the only want to deal with that is to implement our Bill as soon as possible.”

Mr McGrath also said the Alliance “won’t be taking any lectures from Deputy Jim O’Callaghan, particularly since he is opposed all judicial reform over the last 12 months”.

He also called on Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan to “stand up up to those very, very conservative people in the Law Library”.