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Meeting over judge’s golf dinner attendance postponed for third time

Chief Justice Frank Clarke expressed ‘very serious concern’ at the latest delay.

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Mr Justice Woulfe (Niall Carson/PA)

Mr Justice Woulfe (Niall Carson/PA)

Mr Justice Woulfe (Niall Carson/PA)

A meeting between Ireland’s Chief Justice and Supreme Court judge Seamus Woulfe over the latter’s attendance at a controversial golf dinner has been postponed for a third time.

Mr Justice Woulfe’s meeting with Frank Clarke is part of a resolution process emanating from a report investigating his decision to attend the golf event amid coronavirus guidance against large indoor gatherings.

The Chief Justice has expressed “very serious concern” at the latest postponement – a request his spokesman said he agreed to “very reluctantly”.

Mr Justice Woulfe, a former attorney general who was appointed a judge of the Supreme Court in July, faced criticism after it emerged he was among 81 guests who attended the Oireachtas Golf Society dinner in the west of Ireland in August.

His meeting with the Chief Justice had initially been scheduled for the start of last week.

Mr Justice Woulfe contacted Mr Justice Clarke to request a postponement for personal reasons. The Chief Justice agreed and the meeting was put back to the end of the week.

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Chief Justice Frank Clarke said he ‘very reluctantly’ agreed to the postponement (Aoife Moore/PA)

Chief Justice Frank Clarke said he ‘very reluctantly’ agreed to the postponement (Aoife Moore/PA)

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Chief Justice Frank Clarke said he ‘very reluctantly’ agreed to the postponement (Aoife Moore/PA)

The Chief Justice received a further request from his judicial colleague last week to again postpone.

A spokesman for the Chief Justice said Mr Justice Woulfe had now requested another postponement.

The request was made during a meeting between the Chief Justice and one of Mr Justice Woulfe’s judicial colleagues on Tuesday.

“The Chief Justice and a colleague of the Supreme Court were due to meet Mr Justice Woulfe and a judicial colleague of his choice today,” said the spokesman.

“At the request of Mr Justice Woulfe’s colleague, the Chief Justice and Mr Justice (Donal) O’Donnell met with that colleague.

“Mr Justice Woulfe, through his colleague, requested a further postponement of the meeting.

“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 Chief Justice has indicated his very serious concern as to the damage which the continuation of this process is causing.

“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.”

Former chief justice Susan Denham, who carried out the report on Mr Justice Woulfe’s attendance at the dinner, said he did not break any law or knowingly breach any Covid-19 guidelines.

She found that Mr Justice Woulfe did “nothing involving impropriety” that would justify calls for his resignation.

She added that such a step would be “unjust and disproportionate”.

In a report published last week, Ms Justice Denham said it was reasonable for Mr Justice Woulfe to rely on the assurances of the event’s organisers and from his own observations that it complied with the Covid-19 regulations.

However, she said that Mr Justice Woulfe did not consider the dinner invitation from the point of view of his new status as a Supreme Court judge and in this regard he was “not sufficiently vigilant”.

She found there was no breach of law committed by Mr Justice Woulfe and that his attendance at the dinner did not breach the principle of the separation of powers.

PA