Chief Justice gives Woulfe ultimatum as 'Golfgate' meeting called off again

Embattled Supreme Court judge Séamus Woulfe has been given an ultimatum by Chief Justice Frank Clarke after postponing a meeting over ‘Golfgate’ for a third time.

The two men had been due to meet yesterday to discuss the “informal resolution” of the controversy.

Mr Justice Clarke has now rescheduled the meeting to tomorrow and said that if the former Attorney General, who was appointed to the court in July, did not turn up he would make other arrangements to express his views to him.

A statement issued on his behalf also said: “The Chief Justice has indicated his very serious concern as to the damage which the continuation of this process is causing.”

Just what the informal resolution will amount to is not yet clear. Legal sources have speculated it may involve a warning or admonishment of Mr Justice Woulfe (58) or that he may be requested to issue a further public apology.

The process was recommended by former chief justice Susan Denham, who carried out a non-statutory review of Mr Justice Woulfe’s attendance at the controversial Oireachtas Golf Society dinner in August. In her report, she said he failed to reflect on whether his attendance at a celebratory event in the middle of a pandemic might cause controversy and bring the Supreme Court into disrepute.

But she also found it would be “unjust and disproportionate” for him to have to resign.

However, Ms Justice Denham’s report, delivered almost a fortnight ago, failed to draw a line under the controversy.

A transcript of an interview Ms Justice Denham conducted with him was later released and this gave rise to further questions about his judgment. It revealed he lashed out at the media and the reaction of politicians, including Taoiseach and Tánaiste Leo Varadkar.

On the day the transcript was published, three senior judges went to visit Mr Justice Woulfe and expressed concerns over how he had handled the whole affair.

The meeting was to discuss what the informal resolution might entail, but it is understood that it did not go well. Mr Justice Woulfe was said to be “shocked” by what the judges had to say.

He was first scheduled to meet Mr Justice Clarke to discuss the matter on Tuesday of last week, but requested a postponement for “personal reasons”.

The meeting was rearranged for last Friday, but postponed again at Mr Justice Woulfe’s request, this time on medical grounds.

It was finally due to go ahead yesterday and was also to be attended by another Supreme Court judge, Donal O’Donnell, and a judge of Mr Justice Woulfe’s choice.

Instead this judge, who was not identified in the statement, met Mr Justice Clarke and Mr Justice O’Donnell and requested a further postponement on Mr Justice Woulfe’s behalf.

“As a result of what was said at that meeting, the Chief Justice has indicated that, very reluctantly, he is prepared to make one final postponement of the proposed meeting until Thursday,” the statement said.

“The Chief Justice has made it clear that, should the meeting not go ahead as scheduled on Thursday, he will make alternative arrangements to convey his final views on the process to Mr Justice Woulfe.”

Irish Independent

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