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People Before Profit TDs to move impeachment motion against Seámus Woulfe

The judge would only be removed if both the Dáil and Seanad supported such a motion.

Seamus Woulfe (R0 pictured with Phil Hogan (L) in 2018.
Seamus Woulfe (R0 pictured with Phil Hogan (L) in 2018.
Image: Leah Farrell/RollingNews.ie

RISE TD PAUL Murphy says he will move a motion to impeach Supreme Court court judge Seamus Woulfe in the Dáil this week.

Murphy says the motion will be moved along with his colleague in the Solidarity-People Before Profit alliance Bríd Smith TD. 

The potential removal of a judge is possible under Article 35.4 of the Constitution for “stated misbehaviour” but this would have to be approved by both the Dáil and Seanad.

Such an impeachment motion can be lodged by any TD for the above reason.

The motion comes after it was revealed a fortnight ago that Chief Justice Frank Clarke had informed Woulfe of his personal view that Woulfe should step down from the highest court in the State.

The move came following the fallout from Woulfe’s attendance at the controversial Oireachtas Golf Society dinner in Clifden in August.

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, and he has subsequently declined to step down. 

Speaking to TheJournal.ie today, Murphy says he is bringing the motion because it is “a question of accountability” and due to both Woulfe’s attendance at the Clifden dinner and his subsequent response.

“I think it is the case that Seamus Woulfe’s actions, both in attending the dinner and his response to the criticisms of him attending the dinner undermines the public health effort. And he gave the impression that the rules didn’t apply to him,” Murphy said.  

In a transcript of Woulfe’s answers to Denham as part of her review, he had said the media coverage of the Golfgate scandal was “appalling” and claimed the social event was treated like the “Ku Klux Klan”

Last week, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said the government would be taking “no further steps” in the ongoing controversy, stating that there is a “deliberately high constitutional standard” required to remove a judge.  It means that government TDs would be unlikely to support such a motion.

Murphy said this afternoon that Martin’s view on the bar to be reached is only an interpretation. 

“When he said last week that there’s a very high bar, that’s not based on anything, it’s not written down anywhere, that’s not a lawyer’s interpretation of what it is. Basically, what is set out in the Constitution is that the Oireachtas may remove a judge for ‘stated misbehaviour. In other words, misbehaviour and which will be set out in our motion,” he said.  

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Speaking on RTÉ’s The Week in Politics this afternoon, Sinn Féin TD Pádraig MacLochlainn suggested his party would not be minded to support the motion.

“It’s been our view that there are not grounds there for impeachment and indeed Justice Susan Denham had interrogated this matter and didn’t find grounds for him to resign,” he said. 

Labour TD Ged Nash said that his party would discuss the motion but that there is “a sense that this would be a matter for the judiciary”.

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Rónán Duffy

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