Saturday 27 December 2014

Reshuffle rumours as Whelan is linked with judiciary move

Lise Hand and Fionnan Sheahan

Published 28/06/2014 | 02:30

Attorney General Maire Whelan
Attorney General Maire Whelan

ATTORNEY General Maire Whelan is the latest cabinet member to be dragged into reshuffle speculation.

Ms Whelan is being linked with a move to the judiciary with a place on the new Court of Appeal.

Her name has also been mentioned in connection with a Supreme Court appointment.

But Taoiseach Enda Kenny is said to heavily rely on Ms Whelan's advice and trusts her implicitly.

"I think the Taoiseach thinks she's fantastic. He'd find it hard to let her go," a coalition source said.

Although she owes her appointment to her Labour links, Mr Kenny and Fine Gael ministers hold her in extremely high regard.

Government sources say the rumours about Ms Whelan have been circulating over the past week, but question if Ms Whelan will move.

"That's all Law Library talk – and they are even worse than Leinster House," a Labour Party source said.

Despite being a Labour appointment, Ms Whelan has developed a strong working relationship with the Taoiseach. She was a key advisory figure in relation to the garda scandals, including informing the Taoiseach about the garda recordings affair. Mr Gilmore didn't find out about the controversy until 36 hours later.

"She seems to be happy enough," a Labour source said.

Ms Whelan's potential replacement is being mooted as Fine Gael-supporting barrister Frank Callanan, who missed out on the job three years ago.

Surprise

The historic appointment of Ms Whelan as the country's first female Attorney General came as a surprise to many in the legal profession.

Fine Gael was thought unwilling to concede the crucial role to Labour, leaving behind a stellar line-up of barristers closely aligned to the senior coalition party.

Ms Whelan was also regarded as a lesser known senior counsel, compared with other high-profile lawyers.

The position had been widely expected to go to Mr Callanan, a senior counsel who is closely aligned to Fine Gael.

Constitutional heavyweights such as Brian Murray SC, Maurice Collins SC and David Barniville SC had all been touted in legal dispatches.

Ms Whelan was well known for her reliability and political nous as the Labour Party's former finance secretary.

Her name had been mentioned at the time in legal circles, along with many others, as a potential candidate for the highly coveted role of legal adviser to the Government.

Irish Independent

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