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'Clearly in the public interest': NUJ defends Golfgate coverage following Seamus Woulfe remarks

Mr Justice Woulfe described reports of the scandal as “appalling” and “fake”.

Seamus Woulfe (file photo)
Seamus Woulfe (file photo)
Image: PA

THE NATIONAL UNION of Journalists (NUJ) has defended media coverage of the Golfgate scandal following criticism by Supreme Court judge Seamus Woulfe.

Mr Justice Woulfe described reports of the scandal as “appalling” and “fake” in an interview with former Chief Justice Susan Denham during an investigation into his attendance at the controversial golf dinner in Clifden, Co Galway.

A transcript of the interview, which took place on 8 September as part of Denham’s investigation into Mr Justice Woulfe’s conduct, was released last week.

Mr Justice Woulfe also told the retired judge that the Oireachtas Golf Society event was treated like the “Ku Klux Klan” and that the media was “really scraping the barrel” by covering the event they way it did.

In a statement to TheJournal.ie, a spokeswoman for the NUJ said it noted the Supreme Court judge’s comments, which the union described as “intemperate” in tone.

“Media coverage of the Oireachtas Golf Society dinner was clearly in the public interest,” the statement said.

“To suggest otherwise is to ignore the legitimate matters of public policy involved, including issues of public health.”

The union also described Mr Justice Woulfe’s reference to the Ku Klux Klan as “disappointing and inappropriate”, and said no journalist was responsible for the position in which the judge had found himself.

“Judges must respect the right of journalists to do their job and should always be measured in their comments about the media,” a spokeswoman added.

The publication of Mr Justice Woulfe’s interview with Denham followed a finding that Woulfe should note resign, despite attending the dinner against Covid-19 guidelines which suggested that he and dozens of others should not have done so.

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The controversy has led to the resignations of former Agriculture Minister Dara Calleary and EU Trade Commissioner Phil Hogan, who also attended the event.

Mr Justice Woulfe told Denham that he thought coverage of the event in the Irish Examiner, which broke the story, was “the greatest load of rubbish” when he saw the newspaper’s reports.

Towards the end of his conversation with Denham, Mr Justice Woulfe was asked if he accepted that the event had created a huge public controversy, responding: “Yes, it but it looks objectively to be completely fake, overblown.”

He added: “In one sense I suppose that is so, that for the media to also have the chance to bring down a judge adds an extra fuel to the fire and it did add to the controversy that I was there.”

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