Taoiseach asks FF leader to withdraw Máire Whelan remarks

Varadkar claims Martin said he would not go public about Whelan

Fianna Fáil leader Micheal Martin

Fianna Fáil leader Micheal Martin

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Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has asked the Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin to withdraw remarks he made about the suitability of Máire Whelan to be made a judge.

Mr Varadkar also claimed Mr Martin had told him on the telephone on Sunday he would not go public on the reservations he had about the former attorney general’s appointment to the Court of Appeal.

“But you did go their publicly,’’ the Taoiseach added.

Speaking in the Dáil on Tuesday, Mr Martin responded to Mr Varadkar’s remark that Frank Clarke had been appointed to the High Court without going to the judicial board while Adrian Hardiman and Donal O’Donnell were appointed as barristers to the Supreme Court.

Mr Martin said: “With the greatest of respect, Máire Whelan is no Frank Clarke, is no Adrian Hardiman, and is no Donal O’Donnell.’’

Mr Varadkar said in the Dáil on Wednesday he was concerned about Mr Martin casting aspersions on the suitability and qualifications of Ms Whelan as a judge.

“I want you to be mindful of the separation of powers which exists between parliament and the judiciary and I also want you to be mindful of the allegation you made against my Government in undermining the judiciary,’’ he added.

“I want to give you an opportunity in this House today to correct and clarify the remarks you made about the suitability and qualifications of Justice Whelan.’’

Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald said: “Take the opportunity to withdraw it.’’

Mr Martin accused the Taoiseach of fighting tenaciously against accountability on the issue in the Dail on Tuesday.

He said he had made it clear to the Taoiseach in his telephone call his concerns about the references to Ms Whelan’s role as attorney general in the Fennelly commission’s report on Garda matters.

While he did not want to get involved in personal issues, suitability could not be separated from an appointment, he added.

The Taoiseach, he said, had named names on Tuesday and none of those referred to had negative findings hanging over them.

Ms Whelan had to apologise to the commission, admitting her “trenchant language’’ had undoubtedly given an erroneous impression, he said.

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