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Chief Justice and Seamus Woulfe meet regarding Oireachtas golf dinner

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A meeting has taken place between the Chief Justice, Mr Justice Frank Clarke, and Mr Justice Seamus Woulfe concerning the judge’s attendance at an Oireachtas golf society dinner last August.

The meeting was held on Thursday under an informal resolution process recommended in a review by former Chief Justice Susan Denham concerning the judge’s attendance at the dinner.

It is believed a statement in relation to the outcome will be issued early next week.

It is understood, prior to the meeting, there was a meeting of Supreme Court judges, excluding Mr Justice Woulfe, to consider the situation.

A former attorney general, the judge was appointed to the court last July but has yet to hear a case due to the continuing controversy over his attendance at the dinner last August.

The public outcry over the dinner at an hotel in Clifden, Co Galway, on August 19th, lead to the resignation of minister for agriculture Dara Calleary and european commissioner Phil Hogan.

Mr Justice Woulfe issued a statement on August 21st apologising “unreservedly” for his attendance and saying he was of the impression the event organisers had made sure it would be in compliance with the Covid-19 guidelines.

The Supreme Court also in August asked former Chief Justice Denham to carry out a review of the judge’s attendance at the dinner.

That non-statutory review, published in early October by the Judicial Council, said Mr Justice Woulfe had not broken any law or knowingly breached any public health regulations by attending the dinner.

However, Ms Justice Denham expressed the opinion he should not have attended at the dinner and was not vigilant about how it appeared for a Supreme Court judge to attend a celebratory dinner in a public place in the middle of a pandemic.

She was also of opinion that calls for the judge’s resignation over the matter would be unjust and disproportionate and the Chief Justice should resolve the matter informally.

The review was perceived as not unkind to the judge but the subsequent publication of a transcript of his interview by Ms Justice Denham created further controversy as it showed a lack of insight into the perception of his attendance at the dinner.

Two Supreme Court judges, Mr Justice Donal O’Donnell and Ms Justice Iseult O’Malley, and the president of the Court of Appeal, Mr Justice George Birmingham, met Mr Justice Woulfe on October 2nd, the day after the report’s publication to outline the proposed method of resolving the issue. Sources said the judge was “shocked” and “taken aback” by what was said at that meeting and about the position adopted by his Supreme Court colleagues.

That meeting was intended to be followed by another meeting under the informal resolution process between the Chief Justice and Mr Justice Woulfe but that was postponed three times at the latter’s request for person and medical reasons.

It was ultimately cancelled on October 13th after the judge provided what the Chief Justice described in a statement as a “cogent medical report”. The Chief Justice said he was committed to bringing the process to a conclusion as early as it was possible and appropriate to do so.

Last Monday, Mr Justice Woulfe attended at the Four Courts for several hours. The Irish Times learned that day that a meeting, or meetings, to consider the situation was planned for Thursday.

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