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golf dinner Opposition puts pressure on Government 'step up to the mark' and resolve Woulfe controversy


Séamus Woulfe has rejected a call for him to resign

Séamus Woulfe has rejected a call for him to resign

Séamus Woulfe has rejected a call for him to resign

OPPOSITION politicians are putting pressure on the Government to take the lead in resolving the controversy surrounding Supreme Court justice Seamus Woulfe and his attendance at the infamous 'Golfgate' dinner.

The Chief Justice Frank Clarke has said the issue has damaged the Supreme Court and that it's his own view that Mr Woulfe should resign.

Mr Woulfe has said he would accept sanctions like waiving his salary for three months but that he has come to the conclusion that he shouldn't resign.

The impasse was discussed by the Cabinet today which decided to take more time to reflect on "serious constitutional issues" that arise.

Sinn Féin's justice spokesman Martin Kenny called on the Government to take the lead in finding a solution to the mess claiming that Mr Woulfe's position is "untenable when he has lost the confidence of his colleagues in the judiciary and the Chief Justice."

Mr Kenny argued that there's "a huge problem with the judiciary and how it's held to account" and that it's a reflection of the fact that a planned Judicial Council is not yet in operation.

He said Mr Clarke's action in releasing the correspondence is "putting it back onto the Oireachtas to come up with some solution to this problem, which is very difficult, but we have to... step up to the mark.

"The Minister for Justice and the government needs to make it very clear as to what they're about to do in respect of that."

He said that advice from the Attorney General should be shared with party leaders and the Oireachtas and there needs to be guidance on "what way this will be progressed from here because clearly it's a situation that can't be allowed to continue."

He said all parties have to help come up with a solution "But government have to lead with that solution".

Labour Party TD Aodhán Ó Ríordáin expressed concern at claims by politician's that Mr Woulfe's position is untenable saying it could "prejudice" any future process and "people have to be mindful of that".

He said "The separation of powers is obviously very serious to the maintenance of democracy.

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"So while everybody will have their view, I'm quite sure, this is a moment, maybe for taking some counsel, for stepping back and for conversations to be had, between party leaders and obviously between the Attorney General and the Taoiseach."

He said time would be given for Taoiseach Micheál Martin and the Attorney General to assess the situation but added: "Clearly it can't continue as is.

"One process [in the judiciary] has reached its conclusion. It does turn to the Houses of the Oireachtas now".

He said the party leaders need to discuss the issue.

Mr Kenny responded to concerns at remarks claiming Mr Woulfe's position is untenable arguing his comments "reflected what the judiciary has said".

Social Democrats co-leader Catherine Martin questioned whether a possible impeachment process would succeed "given that there wasn't a law broken" and added: "I think there'll be a caution about commencing something that is weak to begin with."

She said: "That doesn't mean that there isn't a very significant issue of judgment and the very fact that it's not tenable to work with his colleagues, is a very difficult situation.

"It really shows the gap in the law in providing for a means to deal with issues within the judiciary themselves. That goes to the heart of a Judicial Council not being in place."

Ms Murphy said proposed solutions "will have to come from the Government in the first instance."

"I would expect that they would have to state the reason and the very fact that there wasn't a law broken is a factor in this."

She said there may be an issue of Mr Woulfe's judgment involved but asked: "How do you state that in an impeachment process, and what would that process look like?"

Ms Murphy added: "There's a very, very good reason why this hasn't happened before because of the separation of powers."

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