Thursday 14 December 2017

WATCH: Heated scenes as Taoiseach divulges details of phonecall with Micheál Martin

Leo Varadkar Photo: Steve Humphreys
Leo Varadkar Photo: Steve Humphreys
Niall O'Connor

Niall O'Connor

TAOISEACH Leo Varadkar has accused Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin of casting aspersions on the "competence, capacity and suitability" of newly-appointed judge Máire Whelan.

Mr Varadkar divulged details of a private phone conversation he shared with Mr Martin on Sunday, telling his opposite number that he had brought Ms Whelan’s capabilities into question.

The appointment of the former Attorney General to the Court of Appeal was the subject of heated exchanges in the Dáil for the second consecutive day.

Speaking during ‘Leader’s Questions’, Mr Martin questioned why Ms Whelan’s appointment was rushed through by the former Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald. He said it is clear there was “collaboration” between them to ensure ms Whelan’s appointment was secured.

The Fianna Fáil leader also raised what he described as “negative tribunal findings” against Ms Whelan.

He referenced the Fennelly Commission,which he said found that Ms Whelan had given the “erroneous impression” that gardaí were involved in “criminal activity”.

Maire Whelan has been confirmed as a Court of Appeal judge
Maire Whelan has been confirmed as a Court of Appeal judge

Mr Martin said that Ms Whelan later had to “apologise” and row back on the remarks.

Heated exchanges ensued as Mr Varadkar and Ms Fitzgerald challenged Mr Martin to withdraw his remarks about the former AG. He declined to do so.

Mr Varadkar then claimed that in a private phone call with Mr Martin on Sunday, the Fianna Fáil had questioned Ms Whelan’s capabilities for the role but allegedly said he would not say this publicly.

“You did say it publicly,” Mr Varadkar said. “You mightn’t have meant to but you did.”

Mr Martin claimed that he was not being “personal”, adding: “I have no axe to grind with the individual.”

The Cork South Central TD also criticised Mr Varadkar’s Dáil performance yesterday, during which he named a number of other judges who were appointed under a Fianna Fáil government for which he served.

“You tried to create impression of precedent with these individuals and there wasn’t,” Mr Martin said.

“You shouldn't have done it.”

The Dáil is due to debate the appointment of Ms Whelan later today.

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