Woulfe complained of ‘mood of hysteria’ and being ‘prejudged’
Coverage of golf dinner ‘completely fake, overblown’, Denham was told at meeting
Supreme Court justice Seamus Woulfe: “I think it’s more damaging to the Supreme Court if they allow some sort of theoretical damage to the institution prevail over hounding a judge out of office for no valid reason.” Photograph: Gareth Chaney Collins
Supreme Court justice Seamus Woulfe complained last month that he was not sure that fellow Supreme Court justices had not prejudged him over the Golfgate controversy, it has emerged.
The declaration came during a September 8th meeting with former Supreme Court chief justice Susan Denham, who finally ruled it would be “unjust and disproportionate” if he was called on to resign
“Unfortunately I think even judges are not above prejudging, Judge, and in this mood of hysteria I can’t be sure that even some of my colleagues have prejudged me,” he said, according to a transcript of the meeting.
In the transcript, he says: “I think it’s more damaging to the Supreme Court if they allow some sort of theoretical damage to the institution prevail over hounding a judge out of office for no valid reason.”
Press coverage of the Clifden dinner now looked “objectively to be completely fake, overblown”, he said, adding that he felt sorry for the organisers who “had been pilloried” for holding an event that “some way it’s like a Ku Klux Klan”.
Asked if he accepted that the furore occurred after “six months of not going to christenings, not holding weddings, not being able to go to your family’s funerals”, Mr Justice Woulfe said he did.
“This was a very unfortunate set of circumstances and unfortunate timing. And for those people to be presented by the media with what appeared to be a flagrant breach of the regulations and the guidelines was like letting off a bomb,” he said.
Meanwhile, a number of Supreme Court judges met Mr Justice Woulfe on Friday to discuss the resolution of the controversy over his attendance at August’s Oireachtas Golf Society dinner.
It is understood Mr Justice Woulfe is to consider what was said to him over the weekend and is likely to meet early next week with Chief Justice Frank Clarke.
The latest Supreme Court diary does not list Mr Justice Woulfe to hear a case, and one that he had previously been listed to hear is now to be dealt with by five other judges, not including him.
‘Account of the facts’
No one in government had investigated the facts before judgments were made, Mr Justice Woulfe told Ms Denham, adding that one of the organisers, Donie Cassidy said he had never been asked for “an account of the facts”.
Furthermore, the Government itself had misunderstood the rules that were then in place, he said, adding that Dara Calleary was forced to quit because Tánaiste Leo Varadkar insisted that only six people were then allowed to gather.
“I mean if the Government themselves don’t understand, or if the Attorney General can’t explain it to them, I’m sure he’s trying hard, what hope have we got?” he declared.
Meanwhile, his legal representative at the September interview with Ms Denham, Michael Collins SC, told the former chief justice that “judges cannot be hounded out of office by ill-informed comments which create a firestorm.
“They have to, however fiery that firestorm, they have to stand up to it and say, ‘judicial independence requires that we’re not going to be hounded out of office for no good reason’, because if that is the case then where do we stop?”