Diarmaid Ferriter: Former judge inquiring into a judge over Clifden event seems bizarre

Separation of powers aside, we expect our Supreme Court judges to use good judgement

Former chief justice Susan Denham: asked to undertake a report on the attendance of Supreme Court judge Séamus Woulfe at the Clifden golf dinner. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Former chief justice Susan Denham: asked to undertake a report on the attendance of Supreme Court judge Séamus Woulfe at the Clifden golf dinner. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Fifty years ago, minister for external affairs Patrick Hillery was on a mission to secure Ireland’s acceptance into the European Economic Community (EEC). He visited the EEC capitals, negotiating issues of tariffs, fisheries, and industry and, from an Irish perspective, vital commitments in relation to regional policy. He also directed the government’s successful campaign for a "yes" vote in the subsequent referendum on membership and piloted the legislation on Ireland’s accession through the Dáil.

Given this involvement, his appointment as Ireland’s first EEC commissioner in 1973 seemed a wise choice and he took up the social affairs portfolio, eventually securing a directive mandating equal pay for men and women in 1976. He then publicly and successfully opposed an attempt by the Irish government to secure derogation from its immediate implementation. It was a reminder that Hillery was working for the EEC and not the Irish government.

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