Thursday 22 February 2018

Lawyer with links to Gilmore gets top judge job

And donor to Fine Gael is appointed to the High Court

Michael White
Michael White
Eamon Gilmore's home in Shankill, Co Dublin
Eamon Gilmore

Fiach Kelly Political Correspondent

A JUDGE newly appointed to the High Court by the Government has political and personal links to Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore.

Mr Justice Michael White is a former Workers' Party colleague of the Labour Party leader but he also represented Mr Gilmore as a solicitor in a dispute with the TD's neighbours over a plot of land where he built his house.

The dispute happened before he was appointed as a judge to the Circuit Court in 1996 -- the last time Mr Gilmore's party was in government.

And a second judge appointed by the Cabinet yesterday is a Fine Gael supporter, and a son-in-law of a former party minister. Mr Justice Kevin Cross made a political donation of €1,200 to European Affairs Minister Lucinda Creighton in the run-up to February's general election.

Meanwhile, the Irish Independent has learned that Judge White, while a solicitor, acted for Mr Gilmore in a dispute about the plot of land.

The dispute arose after Mr Gilmore asked a series of official planning questions when he was a county councillor about the site he later bought and on which he built his family home.

This was despite previous planning rulings which found the site at 1 Corbawn Close in Shankill, Co Dublin, was "unsuitable" to accommodate a house.

Mr Justice White was a general election candidate for the Workers' Party in the 1980s.

Mr Gilmore and Pat Rabbitte later served as ministers with Democratic Left, the breakaway from the Workers' Party, in the mid 1990s.

Mr Rabbitte, the current Communications Minister, was a so-called 'Super' Junior Minister, who sat with Proinsias de Rossa as the Democratic Left representatives at the Cabinet table in the Rainbow Coalition. Mr Gilmore was a junior minister. Democratic Left subsequently merged with Labour.

In the land dispute, the then solicitor sent a letter to one of Mr Gilmore's neighbours telling them to stop raising the issue. Mr Gilmore said he "initiated legal proceedings against one person because he issued written material that I was advised was defamatory".

The second High Court judge appointed has links to Fine Gael, and he was mentioned as a possible Attorney General before the Government was formed.

Mr Justice Kevin Cross, who practised as a barrister before his appointment, is a son-in-law of former Fine Gael minister Patrick Lindsay.

He was one of two people who donated €1,200 to Ms Creighton's campaign in 2010, according to her declarations with the Standard in Public Office Commission (SIPO).

"He's a friend of mine, I know him well," Ms Creighton said last night. "But I wasn't lobbying for him or anything like that."

This week's judicial appointments were to fill the vacancies left by the retirements of Judges Bryan McMahon and Vivian Lavan.

They are the Coalition's first appointments to the High Court and are likely to be the last before the referendum on judge's pay later this month. A High Court judge is currently paid €243,080 but this will drop to €186,973 if the judge's pay referendum is passed.

A government spokesman could not say if Mr Gilmore disclosed his relationship withMr Justice White when the appointment was ratified by Cabinet on Tuesday.

"All cabinet discussions are confidential," the spokesman said. "The appointments made by Government to the High Court were made on the basis of experience and competence."

Irish Independent

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