Thursday, 19 November 2020
Ceisteanna ó Cheannairí - Leaders' Questions
Alan Kelly (Tipperary, Labour)
There is been much talk on this issue. I want to make four very clear points here. First, the Tánaiste has mentioned the separation of powers. The very reason we have the separation of powers is why we need the Minister for Justice in here to answer questions, not in Private Members’ time but to take questions back and forward because the appointment of judges is an Executive function. The Executive is accountable to these Houses. To say that the separation of powers is any reason for not doing so, as has been stated by the Taoiseach, is bogus.
The second issue relates to confidentiality. Confidentiality, as I know having served in Cabinet, applies to the Cabinet room and to Cabinet papers. Outside of that, it is not confidential. Many of the questions we are asking are way outside of the Cabinet room. The point on confidentiality is also bogus.
I have heard also from the Taoiseach and indeed from the Tánaiste today that it would be somehow wrong for us to question the Minister for Justice on the process, not on the merits or demerits of any candidate, for which the Executive is accountable to this House, and because we could not be trusted. With all due respect, the very honourable gentleman sitting in the middle of this Chamber, the Ceann Comhairle, makes that decision, and not the Government. That is also bogus.
We have heard also the Taoiseach and indeed the Tánaiste say that because Mr. Justice Woulfe came through the JAAB process, that is all we need to know. JAAB makes a recommendation of those suitable, it does not make a recommendation, full stop. That is also bogus. We have four instances of bogus statements.
The Tánaiste and the Government have a very big decision to make under our Constitution. If the Minister for Justice does not come in here to answer questions, this Government does not have legitimacy and these Houses are not functioning. The Tánaiste is the Leader of Fine Gael which has a very proud history which I accept. My party served in government on seven occasions, and I had the privilege once. We know the way this works. This has to be upheld and the Minister for Justice not coming in here does not uphold the most precious document we have in this country. The Government may have a Dáil majority and may keep pushing this out, but it will not go away. The Government certainly does not have a moral majority. The Minister has to come in here. Will the Tánaiste ensure that she comes in here next week? Will he specifically answer questions on the following points? He was a Minister, Taoiseach and Tánaiste in governments that have appointed six Supreme Court judges. Was he consulted by the Minister for Justice on this appointment? Was he specifically aware that three other judges had applied? These are questions that he has still not answered. The Tánaiste should think very carefully about his answers.