Fourth planned meeting between Séamus Woulfe and Chief Justice cancelled

Process to resolve controversy over judge’s attendance at golf dinner ‘back in limbo’

All of the meetings scheduled to date have not gone ahead because Mr Justice Woulfe was not in a position to attend or had sought a deferral. Photograph Nick Bradshaw

All of the meetings scheduled to date have not gone ahead because Mr Justice Woulfe was not in a position to attend or had sought a deferral. Photograph Nick Bradshaw

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There is currently no plan for a meeting between the Chief Justice and Supreme Court judge Séamus Woulfe, after one scheduled for Thursday was cancelled when Mr Justice Frank Clarke was shown a “cogent medical report”.

It was the fourth planned encounter between the two men that has not gone ahead since the Supreme Court announced on October 1st that it was launching an informal process for resolving the controversy caused by Mr Justice Woulfe’s attendance at the “golfgate” dinner in August.

In a statement, Mr Justice Clarke said he had received correspondence that enclosed “a cogent medical report to the effect that [Mr Justice Woulfe] is not in a position to take part in the resolution process at this time. Accordingly, it was necessary to cancel the meeting.”

All of the meetings scheduled to date have not gone ahead because Mr Justice Woulfe was not in a position to attend or had sought a deferral.

On Tuesday, after a meeting due to take place that day was deferred to Thursday, Mr Justice Clarke said that if the meeting did not go ahead on Thursday, he would “make alternative arrangements to convey his final views on the process to Mr Justice Woulfe”.

However, having received the medical report on Thursday, Mr Justice Clarke said he was “committed to bringing the process to a conclusion as early as it is possible and appropriate to do so”.

“It is in no one’s interest that this drags on,” University of Limerick law lecturer Laura Cahillane told The Irish Times. “However, it seems the Chief Justice’s hands are tied.”

As a medical report had been produced, it did not appear that Mr Justice Clarke could move matters forward until Mr Justice Woulfe’s condition improved. “We are stuck back in limbo.”

‘Damage’

In a statement issued on his behalf after Tuesday’s deferral of the planned meeting, Mr Justice Clarke indicated “his very serious concern as to the damage which the continuation of this process is causing”.

Mr Justice Woulfe was the attorney general to the last government, and was appointed to the Supreme Court in July.

Due to the controversy over his attendance at the dinner in August, the former chief justice, Susan Denham, was asked by the Supreme Court to inquire into the matter and report to it.

She submitted a report in late September in which she said Mr Justice Woulfe should not have attended the hotel dinner in the context of a pandemic, but also expressed the view that it would be disproportionate and unjust to ask him to resign.

She recommended that the matter be resolved informally, and the Supreme Court agreed with her recommendation.

However, on the day after the publication of her report, the board of the Judicial Council published an appendix to her report that was a transcript of Ms Justice Denham’s interview with Mr Justice Woulfe.

The transcript caused a fresh wave of controversy, because of how Mr Justice Woulfe responded to the questions posed to him.