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Taoiseach defends the appointment of former AG to Supreme Court

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Seamus Woulfe. Photo: Gareth Chaney, Collins

Seamus Woulfe. Photo: Gareth Chaney, Collins

Seamus Woulfe. Photo: Gareth Chaney, Collins

The Government has appointed former Attorney General Seamus Woulfe to the Supreme Court less than three weeks after he was replaced at Cabinet.

Mr Woulfe, who is a long-time Fine Gael member and barrister, was appointed to Cabinet by Leo Varadkar when he was elected Taoiseach.

A Supreme Court judge's salary is €223,597.

Yesterday, Taoiseach Micheál Martin defended the appointment and insisted it was made independent of the new Government.

Mr Martin said a recommendation was made to the Cabinet by the Judicial Appointments Advisory Board.

"A judicial appointment board appointment is that, I can't interfere in that nor would I attempt to," the Taoiseach said.

Mr Martin said the appointment was not discussed during government formation talks and said he believed the recommendation was made before the Government was formed.

However, the move has sparked concern in Government that the appointment could become another political landmine for the under-fire three-party coalition.

Justice Minister Helen McEntee brought a memo to Cabinet on the recommendation to appoint Mr Woulfe to the Supreme Court.

The recommendation was agreed by Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and Green Party ministers.

Three years ago, Mr Martin was extremely critical of Mr Varadkar after it emerged former Attorney General Marie Whelan was appointed to the Criminal Court of Appeal.

The Fianna Fáil leader described the appointment as "directly political" after it emerged it was agreed at Enda Kenny's last Cabinet meeting as Taoiseach. Ms Whelan was in attendance at the meeting when the decision was made.

A cabinet source said ministers were surprised that Ms McEntee had brought Mr Woulfe's name to Cabinet but that she informed them that his name had come through the Judicial Appointments Advisory Board.

Mr Woulfe courted controversy in 2018 when he branded draft legislation to overhaul judicial appointments, which was championed by former transport Minister Shane Ross, as a "dog's dinner".

Mr Woulfe later admitted the remarks were ill-judged and apologised to Mr Ross.

Irish Independent