Ross unhappy at way Máire Whelan elevated to Court of Appeal

Attorney General in line to take up post vacated by Mr Justice Garrett Sheehan

Máire Whelan’s appointment as a judge on the Court of Appeal was announced on Tuesday. Photograph: The Irish Times

Independent Minister for Transport Shane Ross has expressed his unhappiness with the process that saw Attorney General Máire Whelan appointed to the Court of Appeal.

Ms Whelan’s appointment as a judge on the Court of Appeal was announced on Tuesday, filling a vacancy arising from the retirement of Mr Justice Garrett Sheehan in March 2017.

Tánaiste and Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald had sought a list of candidates from the Judicial Appointments Advisory Board (JAAB) that would be suitable to fill the Court of Appeal vacancy.

“However JAAB reported . . . that it was not in a position to recommend a person for appointment to the vacancy,” said a spokesman for the Department of Justice.


The Government then nominated Ms Whelan “pursuant to its prerogative under Article 13.9 of the Constitution to advise the President on appointments to judicial office”, he added.


Mr Ross told Cabinet on Tuesday he disapproved of the way judges were appointed, a spokeswoman for the Independents in Government confirmed.

“The Minister made an agreement with Cabinet back in October that he would not stand in the way of future judicial appointments so the system did not get clogged up,” she said.

“Today he expressed his ongoing dissatisfaction with the old system of appointing judges, but as he had made an agreement the appointment went through.”

Legislation to reform the judicial appointments process, demanded by Mr Ross, has been delayed repeatedly but he is hoping it will become law before the summer.

He wants the nomination of judges placed in the hands of an independent body with a non-legal chair.

Ms Whelan had served as Attorney General since 2011 and was originally a Labour Party nominee.

However, she was seen as being close to outgoing Taoiseach Enda Kenny, who reappointed her last year when Fine Gael formed a minority government without Labour.

Ms Whelan was criticised by the Fennelly Commission, which examined the recording of phone calls at Garda stations and raised concerns about inconsistencies in her evidence in its report.

Mary Minihan

Mary Minihan

Mary Minihan is Features Editor of The Irish Times