Chief Justice voices ‘serious concern’ as Woulfe meeting is delayed further

Clarke now scheduled to meet judge on Thursday to resolve golf dinner controversy

Chief Justice Frank Clarke (left) and Supreme Court judge Séamus Woulfe. File photograph: Laura Hutton/The Irish Times

Chief Justice Frank Clarke (left) and Supreme Court judge Séamus Woulfe. File photograph: Laura Hutton/The Irish Times

 

Supreme Court judge Séamus Woulfe has been granted a further postponement of his meeting with the Chief Justice, Frank Clarke, whom he was due to meet on Tuesday.

Mr Justice Woulfe is now scheduled to meet the Chief Justice on Thursday, to discuss the “informal resolution” of the controversy sparked by the former attorney general’s attendance at an Oireachtas Golf Society dinner in Clifden, Co Galway, in August.

In a statement issued on his behalf on Tuesday, the Chief Justice said he had indicated “his very serious concern as to the damage which the continuation of this process is causing”.

“The Chief Justice has made it clear that, should the meeting not go ahead as scheduled on Thursday, he will make alternative arrangements to convey his final views on the process to Mr Justice Woulfe.”

The Chief Justice, and Mr Justice Donal O’Donnell, also of the Supreme Court, were to meet Mr Justice Woulfe and a judicial colleague of his choosing on Tuesday in the Four Courts.

In the end, the Chief Justice and Mr Justice O’Donnell met that representative of Mr Woulfe, a spokesman for the Chief Justice said. There, Mr Woulfe’s representative sought a postponement of the full meeting.

“As a result of what was said at that meeting, the Chief Justice has indicated that, very reluctantly, he is prepared to make one final postponement of the proposed meeting, until Thursday.”

Medical reasons

A planned meeting on Monday of last week between the Chief Justice and Mr Justice Woulfe to discuss the Denham report into the latter’s attendance at the golf dinner, was deferred after the former Attorney General said he could not attend for medical reasons.

A spokesman said at that stage that Mr Justice Woulfe had, on the Sunday evening before the planned meeting, requested a postponement and this was agreed to by Chief Justice.

Mr Justice Clarke, he said, had “emphasised to Mr Justice Woulfe the urgency of bringing this process forward”.

In her report, Ms Justice Susan Denham said it would be disproportionate and unjust to call on Mr Justice Woulfe to resign as a result of the controversy, but also said he should not have attended the dinner.

On the day after the publication of the report, a transcript of Mr Justice Woulfe’s interview with Ms Justice Denham was published by the board of the Judicial Council, and caused further controversy because of Mr Justice Woulfe’s responses to some of the questions he was asked.

Also on that Friday, three members of the Supreme Court met Mr Justice Woulfe to discuss with him what should happen next in relation to the informal resolution of the controversy.

Although neither Mr Justice Woulfe nor any other member of the court has issued any statement about the matter, it was widely reported that Mr Justice Woulfe was very surprised by what was conveyed to him when he met the other judges on that Friday.

The Supreme Court’s anxiety for a speedy resolution to the controversy arising from Mr Justice Woulfe’s attendance at the Oireachtas golf dinner is hampered by the lack of clear rules.

The existing process, such as it is, depends on the voluntary participation of the affected judge and on an agreement being reached that is acceptable to the judge. Even where an agreement is reached, it is not binding.