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'It stinks' - Criticism of decision to give Attorney General a job she didn't apply for

“This is not something that can just be gotten over with a casual ‘ah sure, we’ll do better next time’.”

Máire Whelan
Máire Whelan
Image: RollingNews.ie

FIANNA FÁIL LEADER Micheal Martin has said the appointment of former Attorney General Máire Whelan to the Court of Appeal “stinks”.

The appointment of Whelan to the court has been criticised this week, being dubbed “nakedly political”. It was also confirmed that the new Social Protection Minister was not aware that Whelan was to be appointed a judge before Tuesday’s cabinet meeting.

It was announced on Tuesday she would leave her post after six years, a day before Leo Varadkar took office. It has been confirmed to Gavan Reilly of Today FM that she had not made an application for the role on the Court of Appeal.

Speaking as new Taoiseach Leo Varadkar announced his cabinet last night, Martin said that the appointment was indicative of “broken promises of reform”. He said the job on the Court of Appeal had been held open for three months after the retirement of Mr Justice Garrett Sheehan in March.

Martin took specific aim at Shane Ross, long a vocal opponent of political judicial appointments.

“This is not something that can just be gotten over with a casual ‘ah sure, we’ll do better next time’.

“Why was 23 years of precedent abandoned for no real reason? Why was no specific open advertisement issued in recent months? Why was the job held open for three months, then filled in this manner?

“Most of all, why did a minister (Shane Ross) once staunchly opposed to all political involvement in judicial appointments quietly wave through this appointment? Was it anything to do with an interim report to facilitate the opening of Stepaside Garda Station?”

In response, Ross accused Fianna Fáil of “offering pork barrel deals by the bejaysus” when negotiating a government deal.

Unaware

Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland today, newly-minted Social Protection Minister Regina Doherty defended the move.

However, she said that she was not aware it would happen before Tuesday’s cabinet meeting.

“Máire Whelan is an eminently qualified judge. She has done an absolutely super job for this government and the previous government.

“More importantly, she was available and I know she is going to make an absolutely excellent judge.

“She is a bounty of wisdom, she is calm, she’s measured, she’s mature.

“I can’t speak for every member, I can only speak for myself, but no I didn’t know she was going to be appointed, it wasn’t on the documentation that was circulated in the days before the meeting.

“The appointment was put to cabinet and approved by cabinet.”

Doherty said that the government’s prerogative was to make judicial appointments and referred to a statement by the Judicial Appointments Advisory Board which stated that there hadn’t been any sufficiently qualified candidates for the job.

Social Democrats co-leader Roisín Shortall called the appointment “nakedly political”.

“It makes a mockery of talk of reform and shows that the government does not believe in its own hype when it comes to ridding cronyism from the judicial system. I want to know whether this appointment was agreed by Minister Shane Ross who has been pushing for the Judicial Appointments Bill.”

TheJournal.ie has asked the Government press office for comment on the appointment.

Read: Ireland’s Attorney General is to become a judge of the Court of Appeal

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