Thursday, 19 November 2020
Ceisteanna ó Cheannairí - Leaders' Questions
Leo Varadkar (Dublin West, Fine Gael)
I thank the Deputy. Some of the questions she is asking me are questions of the Chief Justice and the former Attorney General. I cannot answer questions on behalf of other people. I certainly cannot answer questions on behalf of the Chief Justice, and I am not going to do so, but I will do my best to answer the questions the Deputy has asked of me.
I should point out once again that the Social Democrats, the Deputy's party, has Private Members' time next week. It has chosen to use it to discuss greyhounds. That is an important issue and the party is very entitled to use its time to discuss greyhounds. If it wished, however, it could use it to discuss this matter. It has chosen not to. It is important to point that out.
How does the process work? I am happy to tell the Deputy how it works. It works as it has worked for years, and it is not a secret. There are three tracks, essentially. The Judicial Appointments Advisory Board makes a recommendation. In this case, its sole recommendation was that Mr. Justice Séamus Woulfe was suitable for appointment to the Supreme Court. There is also a list of names of judges who have expressed an interest at some point in the past in being promoted. That is a rolling list. It could be a letter sent in a few weeks previously. It could have been sent in a few years previously. Third, there is a list of judges who are eligible for promotion but who have not expressed an interest in being promoted. Of course, as somebody who was Taoiseach for three years and in the Cabinet before that, I was aware of the existence of these three tracks. I was not aware of who exactly was on each list, or what their names were. I would never have been particularly aware of that in the course of my three years as Taoiseach. What happens is that the Minister for Justice looks at the three lists, discusses them with the Attorney General and makes a recommendation. The Minister discusses the matter with the Tánaiste, the Taoiseach and the other party leaders. The Minister is also supposed to discuss it with the Minister for Finance but, in practice, that rarely happens. After the discussions, the Minister brings one name to the Cabinet. The Minister, Deputy McEntee, did exactly what she was required to do under the Constitution and according to the Cabinet handbook. She has fulfilled her duties exactly as she should have.