Thursday, 19 November 2020
Ceisteanna ó Cheannairí - Leaders' Questions
Pearse Doherty (Donegal, Sinn Fein)
I have a number of questions for the Tánaiste concerning the appointment of the former Attorney General, Mr. Justice Séamus Woulfe, to the Supreme Court. The Government has so far adopted an approach of refusing to answer questions about any of this but this is a really important matter. It is not trivial. It is a job that carries with it a salary in excess of €220,000, which is paid by taxpayers. Those taxpayers have a right to know how Mr. Justice Woulfe was appointed and who really made the decisions. Refusing to answer the question simply will not cut it.
The Minister for Justice needs to come before the Dáil. Three years ago, when the Tánaiste was Taoiseach, the former Minister for Justice and Equality came to the Dáil and answered questions. There is no reason that it should not happen now. The Green Party leader said this morning that he had no objection to this. A Government Deputy said on the radio earlier that the Minister, Deputy McEntee, should come before the Dáil to answer questions. The entire Opposition is united in its demand for the Minister for Justice to come here to do that. She needs to do so without delay.
The Tánaiste also has serious questions to answer because in the vast majority of time that this issue was being dealt with by the Government, he was Taoiseach. Perhaps the Tánaiste will enlighten us about his role. We know that the only name to emerge from the Judicial Appointments Advisory Board, JAAB, process was that out of the outgoing Attorney General, Mr. Justice Séamus Woulfe. I am sure the Tánaiste will acknowledge that Mr. Justice Woulfe is a long-time member of Fine Gael, a close political ally and a friend. There were three other applications from existing judges. They were presumably well qualified and experienced. These would have in fact crossed the desk of the former Attorney General, Mr. Justice Woulfe. Did the Tánaiste discuss these with him? Did he discuss them as Taoiseach with the former Minister for Justice and Equality or as Tánaiste with the current Minister for Justice? He knew that Mr. Justice Woulfe emerged from the JAAB process because he told the Fianna Fáil leader and the Green Party leader, Deputy Eamon Ryan, that this was the case. The Taoiseach said as much yesterday. When did the Tánaiste tell them that it was the case? Why did he not tell them about the other three judges who were interested in the role? Was he the one who took the decision to nominate the former Attorney General to the Cabinet for this position?
Let us call a spade a spade. People believe it was the Tánaiste, as leader of Fine Gael, who reduced the number from four to one and brought that name before the Cabinet. It is for that reason that he is avoiding the Minister for Justice coming in here, being held accountable and being asked questions about the process. Is that not the case?