ATTORNEY GENERAL MÁIRE Whelan has this morning been appointed to the vacant seat on the Court of Appeal.
Whelan is one of three judicial appointments to be made by President Michael D Higgins today. Eileen Creedon and Charles Meehan were also appointed to the High Court in the ceremony at Áras an Uachtaráin.
Whelan’s appointment has been sharply criticised by the Opposition, after it emerged she didn’t apply for the role. The Cabinet approved her appointment this week, one day before Leo Varadkar took office as Taoiseach.
Anyone interested in a judicial vacancy is supposed to apply to the Judicial Appointments Advisory Board (JAAB) – of which Whelan as AG is a member – which in turn provides a list of candidates to Cabinet. It’s believed no one with the required level of experience, 12 years, applied.
Fianna Fáil said the move breached its confidence and supply agreement with the minority government, and called on Whelan to not accept the role. Speaking on Morning Ireland, the party’s Justice Spokesperson Jim O’Callaghan accused the government of circumventing the law, saying there are “a number of procedural flaws”.
He said the government’s decision to “ram this application through today completely undermines” calls by independent ministers for a review into the process. He added that party leader Micheál Martin has raised his concerns with Varadkar.
Sinn Féin, Labour and others have also criticised the appointment.
‘Outstanding legal mind’
Varadkar has previously defended the move, saying Whelan has “an outstanding legal mind” and is “highly qualified to serve on the Court of Appeal”.
“The position of Attorney General is one of a handful which is mentioned in the Constitution. It affords Máire Whelan unique experience in terms of matters of the law. I am very pleased that nobody appears to be questioning her competence or her quality.
The issue which is attracting comment however is solely a matter of procedure. I am satisfied that the correct procedures were followed. Under Article 13.2 of the Constitution the Government and only the Government can appoint Judges.
“The Tánaiste recommended Máire Whelan to Cabinet as the stand-out person for the vacancy.
“I am committed to fully respecting the Confidence & Supply Agreement between Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael. I read the Agreement again this morning (Friday) and it does not require the Government to run public appointments by Fianna Fáil, nor could it. I am not at liberty discuss what transpired at Cabinet meetings, nor can any other Minister.”