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Supreme Court requests report on Seamus Woulfe’s attendance at Clifden golf dinner

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The Supreme Court has asked former Chief Justice Susan Denham to review whether Mr Justice Seamus Woulfe should have attended the Oireachtas Golf Society dinner in Co Galway last week.

Ms Justice Denham has been asked by the court to report her conclusions and recommendations on Mr Justice Woulfe’s attendance at the event to Chief Justice Frank Clarke.

The retired judge has been asked and has agreed to commence her work immediately to consider whether Mr Justice Woulfe should have accepted the invitation to the dinner.

The court has requested that Ms Justice Denham “consider certain questions arising out of the attendance of Mr Justice Woulfe “at an event in the west of Ireland last week.”

Mr Justice Woulfe, the former attorney general, was among more than 80 guests who attended a dinner in the Station House Hotel in Clifden, Co Galway last Wednesday night.

The dinner was held by the society after it hosted two days of golf at the nearby Connemara Golf Course in Ballyconneely, Co Galway. The event was attended by several TDs and senators, along with former TDs and senators.

The State’s acting chief medical officer Dr Ronan Glynn has said that the event was not in line with public health guidelines introduced to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

The controversy surrounding the event has led to the resignation of Fianna Fáil TD Dara Calleary as minister for agriculture, Fine Gael Senator Jerry Buttimer as Seanad leas-cathaoirleach and several senators losing their party whips.

In a statement, the Supreme Court said that Ms Justice Denham has been asked to consider whether Mr Justice Woulfe “should, in all the circumstances, have left the hotel in the light of the situation prevailing” and whether he should played golf without attending the dinner.

“In the context of those question Ms Justice Denham has also been asked to consider whether there are any relevant codes of practice or guidelines and to make any recommendations in that regard which she considers appropriate,” the court said.

The court said that “this non-statutory approach” to the review is required because the sections of the legislation establishing the Judicial Council, the newly created body covering codes of conduct and a mechanism to handle complaints against judges, has not yet been commenced.

Mr Justice Woulfe issued a lengthy statement last week in response to his attendance at the dinner, saying that he attended the dinner on the understanding that it would be adhering to public health guidelines and apologised for any unintentional breach of them.

Ms Justice Denham retired as chief justice in 2017 and was succeeded by Mr Justice Frank Clarke, the judge she will now report to on Mr Justice Woulfe. She was the first woman to hold the position of chief justice in the State and served on the Supreme Court for 25 years.

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