Yesterday, the Taoiseach's Government voted to block the Dáil from putting questions to the Minister for Justice, Deputy McEntee, regarding the appointment of the former Attorney General, Séamus Woulfe, to the Supreme Court. His claim that this would impinge on the separation of powers is utter nonsense, as he well knows. In the Dáil in 2017, the Taoiseach said that any attempt to use the separation of powers as an excuse to avoid accountability in respect of a judicial appointment was "bogus". He will know that, on that occasion, a debate was held and questions were put.
The Government is clearly circling the wagons. This morning, Green Party Minister, Deputy Catherine Martin, was wheeled out to make this same bogus argument on radio. The Government knows that the Minister is accountable to the Dáil and is duty-bound to take questions. The Government came into office on 27 June. Séamus Woulfe stood down as Attorney General on that date. The proposal to appoint him to the Supreme Court came to Government on 16 July, just three weeks later. In addition to Mr. Woulfe, three sitting judges had also expressed an interest in this position. The Minister did not have just one name to consider, but four. She needs to explain very clearly how she whittled down that list of four names to one. By what criteria was that selection made? With whom did she confer and collaborate? Who did she inform? Why did the Minister fail to inform the Taoiseach and Government colleagues of expressions of interest from these judges in advance of the decision to appoint Séamus Woulfe?
It beggars belief that no member of Government asked whether there were other applications. The Taoiseach, the Tánaiste and the leader of the Green Party were all left out of the loop in a Supreme Court appointment. Not one of the three men charged with leading Government asked questions about this important matter. If this is true, it is remarkable. In the endgame of government formation talks between Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, the Taoiseach announced that the position of Attorney General would be rotated in line with that of Taoiseach. The position was central to the horse trading. Séamus Woulfe, the outgoing Attorney General and a long-term member of Fine Gael, was appointed to the Supreme Court.
In 2017, the Taoiseach described the appointment of former Attorney General, Máire Whelan, to the Court of Appeal as "an insider appointment" and said that "it stinks to high heaven." In that case, he was incredulous and angry that other applicants for the position had not been treated fairly. It is, therefore, very strange that he did not ask if there were other applicants on this occasion. When calling for a debate and a session of questions and answers in 2017, the Taoiseach said that the Government's reaching for the separation of powers was "bogus" and he criticised the Government for resisting taking questions. He was right then but he is very wrong now. Blocking the Dáil from putting questions to the Minister for Justice stinks to the highest heavens. It raises the question of whether this was the type of insider appointment against which the Taoiseach railed three years ago.
For the sake of clarity, for transparency and to ensure this Oireachtas can do its job and discharge its responsibilities, I ask the Taoiseach to ensure the Minister, Deputy McEntee, comes before the Dáil to make a statement on these matters and to take questions.