Meeting of Seamus Woulfe and Chief Justice over golf dinner report deferred

Former AG asked to delay meeting, at which he was expected to receive a ‘dressing down’, for personal reasons

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

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

 

A planned meeting between the Chief Justice and Supreme Court judge Séamus Woulfe to discuss a report into the latter’s attendance at the Oireachtas golf dinner has been deferred.

A Courts Service spokesman said that Mr Justice Woulfe had on Sunday evening requested a postponement for personal reasons and this was agreed to by Chief Justice Frank Clarke.

The meeting was scheduled under an “informal resolution” process arising from former chief justice Sunan Denham’s report into Mr Justice Woulfe’s attendance at the controversial gathering of some 80 people in August, which went ahead despite public health advice on large gatherings during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Under that process, it is understood Judge Woulfe was due to discuss the proposed resolution, which was outlined to him last Friday, with the Chief Justice. Their meeting will now be held on a later date.

The Denham report said Mr Justice Woulfe had not been “sufficiently vigilant” about his position as a newly appointed judge when he accepted the invitation to the dinner, but that a resignation request would be “unjust and disproportionate”.

The former chief justice’s findings stood in contrast to the political judgments that faced former European commissioner Phil Hogan and former minister for agriculture Dara Calleary, who both had to quit over the row

However, Mr Justice Woulfe, who previously served as attorney general and was appointed to the top court in July, is not currently listed for hearing any Supreme Court case in the Legal Diary.

Under existing rules, the Chief Justice has no power to impose a penalty of any kind, but senior figures have been greatly irked to see the Supreme Court embroiled in a public controversy.

“The resolution process recommended in the review will now commence,” the court said, which was interpreted by senior legal sources last week to mean that Mr Justice Woulfe would face “a dressing-down” by the Chief Justice.