Latest: Varadkar claims agreement does not require Government to run public appointments by Fianna Fáil

Latest: Varadkar claims agreement does not require Government to run public appointments by Fianna Fáil

Update 5.12pm: The prospect of a general election in a matter of weeks has increased with Fianna Fáil saying it cannot support the way the former attorney general Máire Whelan was made a judge.

The minority government's proceeding with the plan despite revelations three High Court judges had expressed an interest in the role in the court of appeal.

An Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, has said that Maire Whelan has an "outstanding legal mind" and that she is highly qualifies to serve on the Court of Appeal.

"The position of Attorney General is one of a handful which is mentioned in the Constitution. It affords Maire Whelan unique experience in terms of matters of the law. I am very pleased that nobody appears to be questioning her competence or her quality.

"The issue which is attracting comment however is solely a matter of procedure. I am satisfied that the correct procedures were followed. Under Article 13.2 of the Constitution the Government and only the Government can appoint Judges. The Tánaiste recommended Maire Whelan to Cabinet as the stand-out person for the vacancy.

"I am committed to fully respecting the Confidence & Supply Agreement between Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael. I read the Agreement again this morning and it does not require the Government to run public appointments by Fianna Fáil, nor could it.

"I am not at liberty discuss what transpired at Cabinet meetings, nor can any other Minister," he said.

Update 2.05pm: A Government spokesman has confirmed it will press ahead with nominating the former attorney general Máire Whelan to a high-paid role as a judge.

That is despite claims by Fianna Fail that doing so would breach the confidence-and-supply arrangement with Fine Gael.

Fianna Fail says it has serious concerns that the role was not contested and that Ms Whelan did not leave the room while the cabinet was considering her nomination.

Her name was put forward by the former justice minister, Frances Fitzgerald, after the Judicial Appointments Advisory Board was unable to suggest any candidates.

Earlier: Fianna Fáil's Justice Spokesman Jim O' Callaghan,, has said the appointment of the former Attorney General Máire Whelan to the Court of Appeal is mired in controversy and his party has a serious issue with it.

Ms. Whelan was appointed to the role during Enda Kenny's final Cabinet meeting as Taoiseach.

However, it has emerged that she never applied for the €180,000 a year role.

Speaking on Today with Sean O' Rourke, he said he does not want to personalise this issue but he thinks she should stand aside and her appointment should not proceed.

He said there is not a problem with the Attorney General being appointed but the problem is Maire Whelan did not go through the judicial appointments advisory board.

"If an appointment is done in this fashion, if that is permitted, there is a shadow cast over the appointment process.”

He said if the Attorney General went through the job process, Fianna Fáil would have no objection.

"It is now a significant political issue and if we can't find answers to the questions raised, then the nomination must be revoked.”

He also said FG leader Leo Varadkar needs to know this is a threat to government.

"At the next meeting he needs to say this appointment should not have been made."

He said if the appointment goes ahead it will mean a breach of the confidence and supply agreement.

"There is a provision within the confidence and supply agreement which said there should be no surprises. This is clearly a surprise that was sprung not just on Fianna Fáil but on the whole political system last Tuesday at a time when they thought they could sneak it through.

“It is my view that it would be a breach of agreement if this stands without the satisfactory explanations and assurances.

The appointment was 'just not right', according to the head of the Labour party.

Brendan Howlin claims MsWhelan is qualified for the job, but he is objecting to the way she was given it.

Brendan Howlin’s issue is with the lack of competition: “I know she would meet any objective test for appointment to that position but that is the difficulty. On the face of what we know, there seems to have been no objective test and no opportunity for anyone else to apply for the position.

“That’s just not right.”

Sinn Fein Justice spokesperson Jonathan O’Brien has said the method of the appointment of Ms Whelan has brought the impartiality and integrity of the judiciary into disrepute and called on Ms Whelan to step aside to allow a proper appointments procedure to take place.

Mr O’Brien said Gerry Adams and Mary Lou McDonald will raise this issue directly with the Taoiseach when they meet him this afternoon.

“There are serious questions to be answered in relation to the method of Máire Whelan’s appointment to the Court of Appeal.

“This whole situation stinks. It undoubtedly casts a shadow over the government and the judicial appointments process.”

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