Seamus Woulfe, the media, and the courts

 

Sir, – You report Mr Justice Seamus Woulfe as telling the former chief justice Susan Denham that media coverage of the Clifden golf outing now looks “objectively to be completely fake”.

Such an absolute allegation smears all journalists who wrote about it as dishonest.

No doubt there was some sensationalism in the media, but to refer, as he does, to some kind of desire to “bring down a judge” seems self-pitying rather than “objective”.

I know of one journalist, for example, who held back on harsh criticism out of respect for the Supreme Court that has served Ireland well, and in the expectation or hope that Seamus Woulfe would “do the right thing”.

The public was outraged by the foolish event in Clifden, complete with its too-smart layout that purportedly made it – in the words of Mr Justice Woulfe’s hired engineer – “substantially” (!) compliant with Covid guidelines then in force.

A weakness in Mrs Justice Denham’s report is that evidence was heard only from Mr Justice Woulfe and his elaborate legal and engineering team.

He was allowed to make accusations about the media without those in the media who wrote about the affair being given an opportunity to be heard.

Mr Justice Woulfe has embroiled Chief Justice Frank Clarke in this mess, by letting it be known that he “called out” to him in the Four Courts courtyard to ask if it was all right to attend the golf outing (but not the dinner), which Mr Woulfe told him was “non-political”. This way of hailing a busy chief justice raises questions of decorum and record.

If Mr Justice Woulfe remains on the bench, he should not be allowed to hear any case involving the media as there would always be a clear perception of bias. The Government should also reflect on the wisdom of appointing any lawyer directly to the Supreme Court.

One also wonders if the process of governments appointing judges is yet sufficiently transparent. It appears from the Denham report that earlier this year Seamus Woulfe, when still attorney general, informed the then-taoiseach Leo Varadkar that he had applied to the Judicial Appointments Advisory Board for a job.

However, he also told Mr Varadkar that he would prefer to stay on and help the new government as attorney general.

Whatever else his communication with the taoiseach about his job application may have signified, it was certainly no compliment to the highest court in the land. – Yours, etc,

Prof COLUM

KENNY, BCL, BL,

Dublin City University,

Dublin 9.

Sir, – News of the troubles of the Irish golfing elite has reached Australia. Seamus Woulfe states that a lot of “hot air” was created by his attendance at the golf outing.

With his published golf handicap of 26, we in Australia would be thinking more of “fresh air” than hot air. – Yours, etc,

BRUCE MITCHELL,

Sydney,

Australia.

Sir, – Could you drop the “Mr Justice” and “Mrs Justice” stuff, please? How about plain old “Judge”? – Yours, etc,

C MURRAY,

Dublin 14.

Sir, – Much ado about nothing? (Letters, October 3rd).

I’m afraid it was more like nothing much about a do. – Yours, etc,

BREIFNE CONROY,

Naas,

Co Kildare.

Sir, – Just who does Seamus Woulfe think he is ?

He exhibited a stunning lack of judgment, leaving behind a damaged judiciary. – Yours, etc,

DES BARRY,

Clonskeagh,

Dublin 14.

Sir, – I, for one, would question the judgment of a man who compares a media investigation to the atrocities of the Ku Klux Klan. – Yours, etc,

DAN O’BEIRNE,

Glenageary,

Co Dublin.

Sir, – Upon reading Mr Justice Seamus Woulfe’s comments on colleagues “prejudging” him, I was minded of actor Kenneth Williams’s line, “Infamy, infamy, they’ve all got it in for me!” – Yours, etc,

JOHN DOHERTY,

Ballyjamesduff,

Co Cavan.

Sir, – Which has more holes? The report or the golf course? – Yours, etc,

GERRY McCANN,

Belfast.

Sir, – I am very curious to know how the people who attended got invitations. Was it by post, phone, or email? Or was it a nod or a wink? – Yours, etc,

MARY KELLY,

Bray, Co Wicklow.

Sir, – A Supreme Court judge with a self-confessed “news addiction” was unaware of the latest Government announcement on a global pandemic. Nothing to see here, so. – Yours, etc,

IAN SMALLEY,

Dublin 16.

Sir, – A Supreme Court judge trumpets on about a Government which misunderstood its own rules, an attorney general who could not “explain it to them”, and of “those people” being overly influenced by “completely fake, overblown” press coverage of what had simply been “a very unfortunate set of circumstances and unfortunate timing”. No problem there. Move on, please.

Clearly a man of temperate disposition, objective observation, and perspicacious judgement. – Yours, etc,

DAMIEN BOYLE,

Castleknock,

Dublin 15.