Latest: Leo Varadkar denies 'stroke politics' over appointment of Máire Whelan

Update 4.51pm: The Taoiseach Leo Varadkar says he wishes his first few days in office had not been overshadowed by controversy over the appointment of the Attorney General as a judge.

However, Mr Varadkar says he fully stands by the appointment of Máire Whelan which was completed this morning.

Several Fianna Fáil TDs have warned they might withdraw support for the Fine Gael government over what has been labelled "stroke politics".

Speaking at Downing Street this afternoon, Leo Varadkar says he was part of the decision and he fully stands by it.

He said: "I was at the Cabinet table when that decision was made so therefore I stand over it.

"I have looked into it since then and what I can say is that Máire Whelan, who was appointed by the President today as a judge to the Court of Appeal, is someone who is uniquely qualified for the office that she's been appointed to."

The process to nominate Ms Whelan was correctly followed, according to the Health Minister.

Simon Harris says it is time to move on now that Ms Whelan has been appointed.

Minister Harris says the Minister for Justice brought one name to Cabinet for the Court of Appeal, as is the proper process.

He said: "I've heard even opposition politicians acknowledge that Máire Whelan is eminently qualified and in fact has unique experience serving for six years in this country through difficult times as Attorney General.

"She has now been appointed by the President of Ireland to serve as a judge in the Court of Appeal and really, I think, it is time to move on and get on with the job at hand."

Update 11.23am: Former Attorney General Máire Whelan is now a judge of the Court of Criminal Appeal.

Judge Whelan was formally appointed in a short ceremony at Aras an Uachtarán in the past half hour - despite numerous objections to the move.

Her warrant of appointment was signed by President Higgins and countersigned by An Taoiseach.

Two judges of the High Court - Eileen Creedon and Charles Meenan - have also been appointed at the ceremony.

There has been ongoing political upheaval over Maire Whelan's nomination but the Government maintains the decision is entirely legal.

Update 9.58am: Fine Gael have been accused of 'arrogantly proceeding' with the appointment of Máire Whelan to the Appeals Court.

The former Attorney General was given the job during Enda Kenny's final Cabinet meeting as Taoiseach.

But there have been numerous objections to the way in which she got it.

Ms Whelan is due to be officially appointed by the President this morning.

However Fianna Fáil's Dara Calleary thinks it is a bad idea.

"I can't understand why Fine Gael are so arrogantly proceeding with this appointment given the genuine questions that hang over the process, given the genuine concerns that hang over what was a process that is weakened, and the very fact that Máire Whelan stayed in the room while her own position was being considered is a further weakening of that process," he said.

Earlier: The controversial appointment of the former Attorney General as a judge is to go ahead later this morning.

Máire Whelan will become a member of the Court of Appeal, despite ongoing political upheaval over her nomination.

At 10.30am Whelan will be formally appointed as a member of the Court of Appeal, in a brief ceremony at Aras an Uachtarain.

That appointment comes just six days after she was nominated by Cabinet, where it is reported that neither Whelan, nor the then-justice minister Frances Fitzgerald, revealed that three existing judges also wanted the job. Whelan herself had not applied for it.

The appointment has quickly become a serious political cloud over Varadkar’s administration, with the opposition calling it a cronyist stroke, and even independent ministers in cabinet calling for it to be reviewed.

Fianna Fáil has even claimed it could be a breach of its government deal, and could bring down the government.

However, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar insists it is perfectly legal, and this morning the process will be complete, when the appointment is finalised.

It is unlikely, however, to end the political outcry.


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