Thursday, 17 December 2020
Ceisteanna ó Cheannairí - Leaders' Questions
I wish a happy Christmas to the Ceann Comhairle, his staff and all the staff of the Oireachtas for the incredible efforts they have made this year. I also wish my fellow parliamentarians, both in opposition and in government, the same. In particular, I wish the Government my best wishes on its first Christmas together, although it seemed like Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael spent many together before.
Unfortunately, I want to return to the appointment of Séamus Woulfe. More than 300 documents were released to me and also to The Irish Timeslast night. The Irish Timesreported that the newly appointed Minister for Justice requested the Woulfe appointment be brought to Cabinet on 6 July. By the Minister's account to the Dáil, that is a full five days before she consulted the Government leaders about it between 11 and 14 July, as required by the Cabinet handbook. How is it possible that a memorandum, which I have in my hands, could be commenced early in the morning and signed off at 11.17 a.m. on the day of a Cabinet meeting, five days before the Minister said she consulted the three leaders of the Government? A memorandum for the appointment commenced at 7.45 a.m. and was signed off by the Minister at 9.34 a.m. It was then pulled by the Department of the Taoiseach. The Minister for Justice, therefore, was intending to appoint the Supreme Court justice but she had not disclosed this to the party leaders, according to her own timeline. Her spokesperson, however, told The Irish Timesthat the Minister had been told it was urgent. Who told her it was urgent? Who tells the Minister for Justice the appointment of a Supreme Court judge is urgent?
In the Dáil, the Minister said a draft memorandum was submitted to her office on 6 July. It was beyond that; it was actually signed off by the Minister and put forward by the Department of Justice to the secretariat of the Cabinet, which is run by the Taoiseach. This was not told to us three weeks ago.
I have a number of questions for the Tánaiste. I appreciate this documentation only emerged last night. On what date did the Tánaiste tell the Minister for Justice, Deputy McEntee, that Séamus Woulfe would make a good judge? Timelines are now becoming critically important. Prior to 6 July, who told the Minister this appointment was urgent? Most importantly, how could a Minister for Justice sign off on the appointment of a Supreme Court judge, Mr. Justice Woulfe, on 6 July and have a speaking note prepared on it when, by her account to the Dáil, she only consulted the three leaders of the Government between 11 and 14 July?