Charlie Flanagan says judicial Bill ‘in a difficult place’

Attorney General described legislation championed by Shane Ross as dog’s dinner

Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan has said he would not have used the Attorney General’s “colourful language” but agreed the Judicial Appointments Bill was “in a difficult place”.

Mr Flanagan said it was a case of “too many cooks have spoiled the broth”.

The Attorney General Séamus Woulfe said last week the Bill to reform the way judges are appointed, championed by Minister for Transport Shane Ross, has become a “complete dog’s dinner”.

Mr Woulfe said it would now be a challenge to ensure the Bill proceeds through the Oireachtas because it has been subject to so many ammendments from the Opposition.

Mr Flanagan said it was important to have a period of reflection. "I don't accept that the Bill has to be scrapped or restarted," he told RTÉ's Today with Sean O'Rourke show

He said the Bill can be implemented, but not without “due care and consideration”.

Mr Flanagan pointed out that almost 200 amendments had been tabled to the Bill, of which 67 were passed. However, he felt that “half a dozen” of these were constitutionally unsound.

Social Democrats co-leader Róisín Shortall said the Attorney General should not be commenting on the Judicial Appointments Commission Bill because he "has skin in the game".

Public commentary

Ms Shortall said the Attorney General’s job is to provide advice, not public commentary. “He is the legal officer of the Government. His Constitutional role is to provide advice, not to be making public comments,” she told Newstalk Breakfast. “I don’t think he should be commenting from the sidelines.”

By doing so the Attorney General was interfering in the democratic system with regard to the drawing up of new legislation, she added.

The chairman of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Justice and Equality Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin of Sinn Féin also described the Attorney General’s comments as “inappropriate” when speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland.

“He sits at the Captain’s table. The language of the Attorney General was inappropriate and unnecessary,” he said.

Mr Ó Caoláin said it was unusual for the Attorney General to give advice “by megaphone”.

When asked about calls from Sinn Féin in the past for the Attorney General’s advice to the Cabinet to be made public, Mr Ó Caoláin said that he believed that from time to time the advice that the AG gives to Cabinet should be shared.

He said that the Judicial Appointments Bill should proceed. He expects that Sinn Féin will support it.

Minister for Social ProtectionRegina Doherty said the Opposition should stop calling for heads to roll.

“I get the privilege of working with Seamus Woulfe on a weekly basis, sometimes on a daily basis. He’s an incredible help in an advisory capacity,” she told Newstalk Breakfast.

“I think he probably shouldn’t have had a comment on an ongoing case, but politicians are only a reflection of the people we serve. We’re human beings. We make mistakes.”