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Chief Justice expresses 'very serious concern' at delays as Seamus Woulfe requests third postponement of meeting

The two judges were set to meet to discuss the ongoing fallout over the Golfgate dinner.

Image: PA Images

Updated Oct 13th 2020, 4:42 PM

A MEETING BETWEEN Mr Justice Séamus Woulfe and the Chief Justice Frank Clarke has been postponed for the third time.

The judges were due to discuss the ongoing fallout over Woulfe’s attendance at the controversial ‘Golfgate’ dinner in Clifden in August where 81 people gathered in what is viewed as a breach of the public health guidelines at the time.

The two judges were due to meet last Monday, but Woulfe requested a postponement until Friday for “personal reasons”, a statement from the courts service said.

A further postponement then took place on “medical grounds” until today. A statement from the courts service said that the Chief Justice “has emphasised to Mr Justice Woulfe the urgency of bringing this process forward”.

The meeting has again been postponed.

In a statement this afternoon, a spokesman for the Chief Justice said: “The Chief Justice and a colleague of the Supreme Court were due to meet Mr Justice Woulfe and a judicial colleague of his choice today. At the request of Mr Justice Woulfe’s colleague, the Chief Justice and Mr Justice O’Donnell met with that colleague. 

Mr Justice Woulfe, through his colleague, requested a further postponement of the meeting. As a result of what was said at that meeting, the Chief Justice has indicated that, very reluctantly, is he prepared to make one final postponement of the proposed meeting until Thursday. 

The statement said that the Chief Justice has “indicated his very serious concern as to the damage which the continuation of this process is causing”. 

“The Chief Justice has made it clear that, should the meeting not go ahead as scheduled on Thursday, he ill make alternative arrangements to convey his final views on the process to Mr Justice Woulfe,” the spokesman said.

Denham report

Earlier this month, a review into Woulfe’s attendance at the dinner by former chief justice Susan Denham found it would be “unjust and disproportionate” for the judge to resign.

However, further controversy ensued after transcripts of an interview given by Woulfe to Denham in the course of the review were later released, and described media coverage of the scandal as “appalling” “overblown” and “fake”, with claims the social event was treated like the “Ku Klux Klan”.

Despite Woulfe issuing a statement where he apologised “unreservedly” for attending an event where breaches “may have occurred”, he said during this interview with Denham that though he apologised, he wasn’t sure what he had to apologise for.

He said: “If it still is the case that there was intentional breach on my part I obviously apologise, still apologise and apologise again. But it is fair to say that it appears now, objectively, that there was no breach by the organisers, let alone by me.”

Woulfe also said that he felt sorry for “some of the unfortunate politicians” who “feel the need to confess to a crime they may not have committed”. Dara Calleary resigned as Minister for Agriculture and deputy leader of Fianna Fáil after attending the dinner in Clifden, while Fine Gael’s Phil Hogan resigned as EU Trade Commissioner.

In her report, Denham suggested that the fallout from the Golfgate controversy could be dealt with by way of an informal resolution. 

In July, Woulfe was appointed as a judge of the Supreme Court – Ireland’s highest court – after he was replaced in his role as Attorney General by Paul Gallagher as part of the formation of a new government.

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With reporting by Hayley Halpin

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