Call for Taoiseach to replace AG over remarks that ‘scandalised’ the courts

Leo Varadkar satisfied with legal adviser’s clarification that remarks were ‘off the record’

Independents4Change TD Mick Wallace

Independents4Change TD Mick Wallace

 

Attorney General Séamus Woulfe had “scandalised the courts” in remarks he made about the Supreme Court appeal of former head of Rehab Angela Kerins, it was claimed in the Dáil.

Independents4Change TD Mick Wallace also suggested to Taoiseach Leo Varadkar that he should be looking for a new attorney general.

He sharply criticised the Government’s legal adviser over remarks describing the Judicial Appointments Bill as a “complete dog’s dinner”.

And he slated Mr Woulfe’s “off the record” comments that Ms Kerins would lose her appeal in relation to her treatment by the Oireachtas Public Accounts Committee.

The Taoiseach said he had spoken to Mr Woulfe adding, “I am satisfied with his clarification”.

Mr Wallace claimed the Attorney General’s comments “were so outrageous that one could be forgiven for thinking that he’s either trying to scupper the Bill or he’s displaying a serious lack of judgment, which is very concerning given the position he holds”.

Mr Wallace claimed the Attorney General had stepped over the line in relation to the separation of powers and had created a constitutional issue in relation to the Supreme Court case.

The Wexford TD said “in legal terms he has scandalised the court. The Government is a named defendant in this case – it is Ireland and the AG v Kerins”.

He added that the Attorney General was involved in the nomination of Supreme Court judges and he asked “should he be second-guessing their decision-making publicly before the decision is made”.

At a lunch last week, organised by the Association of European Journalists in Dublin, Mr Woulfe said the Bill had become mired in difficulties.

Dog’s dinner

The Bill, championed by Minister for Transport Shane Ross to reform the way judges are appointed had become, he said, a “complete dog’s dinner”.

He also said it would be a challenge to ensure the Bill proceeded through the Oireachtas because it had been subjected to so many Opposition amendments.

Mr Wallace said however that “if the Bill has ended up as a dog’s dinner it has got more to do with the fact that the Bill presented by the Government is a mishmash between Minister Ross’s original private member’s Bill and what Fine Gael could live with, rather than the efforts of the Opposition on the justice committee to correct the Bill”.

Mr Varadkar said it was “very difficult for me to comment on or to form a view on remarks that someone made off the record and in private”.

The Taoiseach stressed that in relation to the Supreme Court case “he made no public comment on that case”.

He said the Attorney General “made a comment at a private luncheon organised for journalists”, and the comment was off the record.

It was later reported by a Sunday newspaper.

The Taoiseach said it was the Government’s view that it was time to reform the legal appointments system “to be more modern, merit based and to have lay members”.