McGuinness says Whelan nomination could collapse government

Appointment angers Independent Alliance; Murphy insists correct procedures followed

 John McGuinness said the appointment of Maire Whelan to the Court of Appeal could bring down the Government . Photograph:

John McGuinness said the appointment of Maire Whelan to the Court of Appeal could bring down the Government . Photograph:

 

Fianna Fáil TD John McGuinness said the appointment of Maire Whelan to the Court of Appeal could bring down the Government.

Mr McGuinness said “it is not just about this issue. It is about everything else that is happening in the Dáil that is not best serving the people of this country”.

“There are so many other scandals that are ongoing in relation to the guards and everybody else”, he said. Mr McGuinness also said he was unhappy with the manner of the appointment of Mary Mitchell-O’Connor as a “super-junior” Minister.

Asked if he was prepared to bring down the Government at this time Mr McGuinness replied “I would. I think that the question has to be dealt with.”

Ms Whelan’s nomination, pressed by Enda Kenny in one of his last acts of office, is becoming increasingly controversial, given that it has emerged that three High Court judges had expressed an interest in the post and that Ms Whelan was at Cabinet when her nomination was discussed.

The appointment has also angered Independent Alliance Ministers. Independent Alliance member and Minister for Transport Shane Ross said he and his fellow Independent Alliance Minister of State Finian McGrath will raise the matter at Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting.

Fianna Fáil is insisting the appointment broke the “no surprises” clause in the agreement with the Government, but has stopped short of saying it would trigger a general election on the issue.

He told the Marian Finucane programme on RTÉ Radio One on Sunday “while Micheál Martin and Fianna Fáil have honoured that agreement to the letter, it is also clear that the Government has not honoured its part in that agreement. In this particular case, there was a message given to the Independent Alliance that there would be no surprises.”

His party colleague Dara Calleary said the appointment was “squalid”, noting the term had previously been employed by his party leader Micheál Martin.

Mr Calleary said Máire Whelan remained in the room while her position and her future was being discussed. “This is squalid politics, this is old-style politics. This is not a new start.”

When asked on Sunday if it had been appropriate for Ms Whelan to remain in the room while her sole nomination was discussed, Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy said: “What we know is that Máire Whelan is more than qualified for this position and we know that the correct procedures were followed.”

Questioned on whether the manner of the appointment had undermined the judiciary with the “appearance of a stroke” by not following the correct procedures, Mr Murphy said: “We can’t be going around and loosely saying things like ‘stroke’. This undermines the judiciary because they are very serious charges to make, when we know that Maire Whelan is more than qualified for this position on the Court of Appeal.”

When asked the same question on Sunday afternoon Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald said what happened at Cabinet was confidential.

However, she said Ms Whelan had behaved “entirely appropriately” at all times.

Ms Fitzgerald said the correct procedures for making the appointment to the Court of Appeal had been followed.

Fine Gael MEP Brian Hayes said he did not believe either Fianna Fáil or Mr Martin wanted an election now.

“People will be laughing at politicians if a Government was dragged down on this particular question,” he said.

He said the Government had the constitutional authority to appoint judges.

Independent TD Maureen O’Sullivan said: “whatever about it being legal, I think there is an ethical question here now.

Asked if it had been a “stroke”, Ms O’Sullivan said: “It appears to be but I won’t call it that until we get more details of what actually happened, but at the very least, she should not have been at the Cabinet when her position was being discussed.”

Earlier the former leader of Renua Ireland Lucinda Creighton said Mr Varadkar has been handed a “poisoned chalice” with the Whelan nomination.

Speaking to Miriam O’Callaghan on RTÉ Radio One on Sunday, the former minister of State for European affairs and Fine Gael TD said Ms Whelan was a fantastic lawyer and great person.

“But the way in which it was put through, by the outgoing Taoiseach and Minister for Justice was inappropriate,” she said on Sunday.