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Golfgate: Woulfe resignation from Supreme Court would be 'unjust and disproportionate' - Denham report

The report was published at 4pm today.

Updated Oct 1st 2020, 4:06 PM

A REPORT INTO the attendance of Supreme Court Judge Seamus Woulfe at a golf dinner in Galway in August has found that his resignation would be “unjust and disproportionate”. 

Former Chief Justice Susan Denham was asked to prepare a report into Woulfe’s attendance at the controversial Oireachtas golf dinner in Clifden, Galway in August, where 81 people were in attendance. 

At the time, Covid-19 restrictions limited indoor gatherings to 50 people. 

Denham says in the report that based on the evidence, Woulfe did “nothing involving impropriety” to justify calls for his resignation. 

“Such a step would be unjust and disproportionate,” the report says. 

It says that the matter should be dealt with by the Chief Justice through an informal resolution. 

The report was published at 4pm today.

It outlines that Justice Woulfe had informed the Chief Justice of his invitation to the event. 

Woulfe recalls the Chief Justice saying “I don’t see any problem with that”, but Woulfe noted to Denham that he didn’t raise the issue about a potential dinner.  

The report says his attendance at the dinner did not breach the principle of the separation of powers. 

The report says Woulfe “placed reliance bona fide on the assurances of the organisers of the dinner” that Covid-19 regulations would be adhered to.  

“In the opinion of the Reviewer there is a great difference between four people sitting down together after a game of golf to have a bite to eat, and a larger formal celebratory dinner in a hotel, with speeches and a prize giving, during a pandemic,” it says.

Denham says that as Woulfe was a newly appointed Supreme Court judge, it appeared to her that his “vigilance was not yet fully honed into the Judicial sphere”. 

“He had not yet had the benefit of an introductory programme, or read any comparative judicial guidelines or codes of conduct of other jurisdictions.”

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Woulfe stated for the report that during the dinner he was not aware there were other diners present outside the dining room he was in. 

Denham said Woulfe’s attendance at the dinner did not breach the principle of the separation of powers. 

In a statement in August following the event, Woulfe apologised “unreservedly” and said he was under the impression that the organisers had made sure the dinner would be in compliance with the regulations.

The Clifden dinner saw a number of high profile politicians fall from their posts but no action, disciplinary or otherwise, has so far been taken against Woulfe.

Mayo TD and Fianna Fáil deputy leader Dara Calleary resigned from his brief as Agriculture Minister while, following weeks of speculation and publicly-stated concerns from politicians including Taoiseach Micheál Martin, Phil Hogan resigned as EU Trade Commissioner. 

With reporting by Garreth MacNamee and Orla Dwyer

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