Varadkar asked to clarify details of Attorney General’s private client work

Government says no conflict of interest in Paul Gallagher’s work for former INM directors

Attorney General Paul Gallagher: ‘Fully compliant with his SIPO and Ethics in Public Office obligations.’ Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

Attorney General Paul Gallagher: ‘Fully compliant with his SIPO and Ethics in Public Office obligations.’ Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

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The Social Democrats have called on Tánaiste Leo Varadkar to clarify the terms on which the Government gave Attorney General Paul Gallagher permission to carry out private client work as a barrister.

In a letter on Friday to Mr Varadkar, the party’s co-leader, Róisín Shortall, asked whether the retention of such work was a condition of Mr Gallagher accepting the role of Attorney General.

“Was this a decision of the Taoiseach or the Cabinet? Is there a written record of this decision?” Ms Shortall asked. “How many private legal cases was the Attorney General acting in, and is there a record of those clients?”

The Government has already dismissed Opposition claims of a conflict of interest in Mr Gallagher’s work for former directors of Independent News & Media in their dealings with High Court inspectors who are conducting a business law investigation into the company’s affairs.

The inspectors’ appointment was sought by the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement, the State authority responsible for enforcing corporate law.

The Government said the corporate law enforcer and the High Court inspectors were independent in their functions and added that the inspectors report to the court and not the Director of Corporate Enforcement.

Ceased

The Government indicated on Thursday that Mr Gallagher’s private work had ceased, saying he “has no continuing private professional obligations”. However, it did not say when such obligations ended.

According to legal sources, Mr Gallagher was involved in the cross-examination at a hearing before the inspectors in recent times. The inspectors have conducted several hearings behind closed doors recently, some of them held on a Saturday.

Ms Shortall in her letter asked Mr Varadkar to clarify “when exactly” Mr Gallagher’s private work ceased.

She also asked whether the Attorney General included his private work in his statement of interests to the Standards in Public Office Commission (SIPO).

Asked whether such records can be released, the standards commission said annual statements of interests are not published under ethics legislation.

An attorney general who, like Mr Gallagher, is not a member of the Dáil or Seanad must submit the same statement of interests to the Taoiseach as well as to the commission.

Replying to a request from The Irish Times to release Mr Gallagher’s statement, the Government said: “The Attorney General is fully compliant with his SIPO and Ethics in Public Office obligations.”

A spokeswoman for Mr Varadkar said he had received Ms Shortall’s letter, adding that it “will be responded to in due course”.

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