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Justice Minister ‘prepared to answer Dail questions on Woulfe appointment’

The Supreme Court judge attended the ‘golfgate’ event in Clifden, Co Galway in August.

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Justice minister Helen McEntee (Brian Lawless/PA)

Justice minister Helen McEntee (Brian Lawless/PA)

Justice minister Helen McEntee (Brian Lawless/PA)

Justice Minister Helen McEntee is prepared to answer Dail questions on Seamus Woulfe as early as Thursday afternoon, the Taoiseach said.

The Supreme Court judge attended the “golfgate” event in Clifden, Co Galway, in August when members of the Oireachtas’ golf society gathered for a dinner organised in variance with Covid-19 rules.

He refused to resign over his handling of the incident despite a call from chief justice Frank Clarke to quit.

Ms McEntee has previously faced questions around the appointment of Mr Justice Woulfe to the country’s highest court.

Micheal Martin told the Dail: “Minister McEntee is committed to coming into the House to answer questions.”

He added: “Minister McEntee is prepared to come into the House tomorrow afternoon and answer questions on this.

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Taoiseach Micheal Martin (Brian Lawless/PA)

Taoiseach Micheal Martin (Brian Lawless/PA)

Taoiseach Micheal Martin (Brian Lawless/PA)

“My responsibility as Taoiseach is to maintain the separation of powers and retain confidence in our judicial system and legislature.”

The Dail’s business committee is to meet on Wednesday afternoon to discuss the arrangements for the minister’s appearance.

Ms McEntee has insisted all her actions were completely in line with appropriate procedures.

Former attorney general Mr Justice Woulfe’s name was the only one she put forward to the Taoiseach, Tanaiste and Green Party leader for approval in the summer, only three weeks after being appointed as minister.

He was proposed to the minister by the independent Judicial Appointments Advisory Board, which assessed him as being suitable for the job, while the three sitting judges registered their expressions of interest through the attorney general’s office.

Ms McEntee has said she had been involved in six judicial appointment processes since becoming minister and on some of those occasions she recommended one name to Taoiseach Micheal Martin, Tanaiste Leo Varadkar and Green Party leader Eamon Ryan, and on others she had proposed a number of suitable candidates.

A spokesperson for Minister McEntee said: “The minister has already offered to bring forward her ministerial questions in order to be accountable to the Dail.

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“In recent days, the minister has answered parliamentary questions and the Taoiseach and Tanaiste have answered questions in the House on this issues.

“The minister also addressed the process around the appointment of Seamus Woulfe in the Oireachtas Justice Committee and in numerous media appearances in recent days.

“The Opposition have already rejected the minister’s offer to bring forward her oral questions.

“The Government continues to have grave concerns around the manner of debate the opposition is seeking and the effect it could have on the independence of the judiciary.

“However, in order to address this issue promptly, the minister has asked that time be made available in the Dail this week for her to come before the House.”

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