Judge Woulfe Rejects Chief Justice Clarke’s Calls To Resign

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Judge Woulfe Rejects Chief Justice Clarke's Calls To Resign
Justice seeks justice

Supreme Court judge Séamus Woulfe was among the 80 or so guests at an Oireachtas Golf Society dinner at a hotel in Clifden, Co Galway on August 19th, 2019. This was the day after Covid-19 restrictions had been re-tightened by the government.

The event was attended by the great and good. In total, six Oireachtas members attended, including the then Minister for Agriculture Dara Calleary, who later resigned over the affair. Then EU Trade Commissioner Phil Hogan also attended. Mr Hogan withstood intense pressure from both inside Ireland and from within the EU itself until he finally decided to resign his position. This sparked a long debate about who Ireland should nominate to take a place on the Commission. Mairead McGuinness, an EU veteran, was chosen and was given the Financial Services, Financial Stability and Capital Markets Union portfolio. It was seen as a huge error of judgement on Mr Hogan’s part to jeopardise and ultimately lose the important trade portfolio, at a time when Brexit is looming large.

Many former members of the Oireachtas, from across all parties, also attended the event which took place at the Station House Hotel. Mr Woulfe, a highly experienced judge, seems to have misjudged this one. Former Chief Justice Susan Denham carried out an investigation into Mr Woulfe’s conduct. Ms Justice Denham found that while no laws were actually broken by Mr Justice Woulfe, he should not have attended such an event during a pandemic when health restrictions were in place. She reported that resignation calls were disproportionate and said that a resolution should be found with an informal process with the Chief Justice.

Mr Justice Frank Clarke, the Chief Justice in question, is taking a very firm line. Last night, he expressed his view that Mr Justice Woulfe should just resign. The Chief Justice said, at meetings and in letters, that it was the unanimous opinion of the members of the Supreme Court that Mr Justice Woulfe has caused “significant and irreparable damage” to the court through his handling of the aftermath of the event. He called for his resignation.

Woulfe, however, is not for budging. He’s point-blank refusing to resign. The Justice says that he will give three months salary to charity and won’t sit on the Supreme Court bench until February 2021 and that he will sit as a High Court judge instead, as the High Court is under pressure at the moment.