Máire Whelan appointed to Court of Appeal amid controversy

Máire Whelan, a former Attorney General, has joined the Court of Appeal despite controversy surrounding her appointment.

President Michael D Higgins made the appointment this morning at a ceremony in Áras an Uachtarain.

However, Fianna Fail’s Jim O’Callaghan told Newstalk Breakfast this morning that the Government “circumvented the law” with the appointment.

“Since 1995 we’ve a law in place to deal with how a person applies for judicial office, how they’re nominated, how they’re appointed,” he said.

“There’s a specific part that deals with an Attorney General who has an interest in being nominated and that wasn’t dealt with at all here.

“On a basic, simple level we know that the Attorney General remained in the cabinet room while her candidacy was being discussed. That was a breach of any form of fair procedure.”

Ms Whelan’s nomination was not the result of a recommendation by the Judicial Appointments Advisory Board (JAAB). Instead, former Taoiseach, Enda Kenny pushed for her appointment at his final Cabinet meeting.

Mr O’Callaghan said the appointment was “irregular”, adding: “I’m not suggesting there’s anything illegal or unconstitutional here but the Oireachtas put in place a mechanism and a statutory procedure for the nomination of the appointment of judges back in 1995 and that was circumvented.

“They didn’t go through that. No explanation has been provided. Ms Whelan didn’t apply for this position through the judicial appointment advisory board, the way virtually every person has got their nomination.

“Frances Fitzgerald ahad a responsibility to put all the relevant and eligible candidates before the cabinet and she didn’t do so. She only put one name. And it is undermining the judiciary because it presents appointment to judicial office to be be a parting gift that a Taoiseach can hand out.”