The Attorney General’s (AG) involvement in the appointment of judges has been raised in the Dáil following controversy over his private litigation work.
TD Marc MacSharry asked about AG Paul Gallagher’s role in the promotion of judges to higher courts after criticism of his involvement in private litigation since his appointment as the State’s most senior legal adviser.
But Ceann Comhairle Sean Ó Fearghaíl intervened and said he was “decidedly uncomfortable with this line of questioning”.
Mr MacSharry who last month resigned from the Fianna Fáil parliamentary party over the motion of no confidence in Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney, raised the issue with Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien.
The Minister was standing in for Taoiseach Micheál Martin who is on Government business in Slovenia.
The Sligo-Leitrim TD cited sections of the programme for government on reform of the judicial process and on “transparency and enhancing democracy” as he cited “the role of the Attorney General in the Judicial Appointments Advisory Board, in the appointment of judges, and indeed the promotion of judges to higher courts”.
He asked if any of the Judges “the Attorney General appeared before in in his private capacity since his appointment were since promoted to a higher court”.
Mr O’Brien replied that the comments were on the record of the House “and we will certainly make sure the Department of the Taoiseach receives them”.
He also said the judicial appointments commission Bill will be published in this session and “that can be debated fully at that stage”.
Sinn Féin and the Social Democrats last week criticised the Government for allowing Mr Gallagher to continue private litigation work after it emerged that since his appointment the AG, acting in a private capacity, represented former non-executive directors of Independent News & Media at the High Court. The case involved inspectors from the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement who are examining INM’s affairs.
The Taoiseach however rejected any allegation that there was any conflict of interest between Mr Gallagher’s seeing out his private work and his work as Attorney General advising the Government on legal matters.
Mr Gallagher had advised the Taoiseach prior to his appointment as AG, that he had a few existing litigation commitments to complete which he considered he had a professional obligation to discharge.
They were due to be completed in a short period of time but were delayed by the Covid-19 pandemic and the last one was completed on September 25th.