Máire Whelan formally appointed to Appeals Court despite growing controversy

Former Attorney General Maire Whelan has been appointed by President Michael D Higgins to the Court of Appeal despite the raging controversy over the “stroke” appointment, writes Political Editor Daniel McConnell.

President Higgins this morning appointed Ms Whelan a judge on the Court of Appeal at a ceremony in Áras an Úachtaráin.

Several Government ministers have today refused to deny that the appointment was "done on the nod" at Cabinet last week.

In a statement confirming the appointment, the Aras said: “At the request of the Government and in accordance with Article 35.1 of the Constitution, President Michael D Higgins today made the following appointments to judicial office: 1) Ms Máire Whelan to the Court of Appeal, 2) Ms Eileen Creedon to the High Court, 3) Mr Charles Meenan to the High Court.”

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, the Attorney General Seamus Woulfe SC, Art O’Leary, Secretary General to the President and Martin Fraser, Secretary to the Government, attended the ceremony.

Despite the controversy, a smiling Mr Varadkar tweeted a picture of himself the President and his dog.

Other Cabinet ministers have today again defended the nomination of Ms Whelan to the position.

Education Minister Richard Bruton, speaking at the launch of his latest Digital Strategy for Schools in Scoil Corpus Christi in Drumcondra said Ms Whelan’s appointment was in line with procedure.

He added that Ms Whelan was eminently suitable for the position.

“She is to be congratuated on her appointment, she is a fantastic lawyer. I have worked with her in Government for six years. It is great to see her experience as Attorney General now available to the Court of Appeal”.

“The appointment is one of the duties reserved for Government, we take responsibility for appointing people. We have appointed the best person,” he said.

“It is for the Minister for Justice to bring a recommendation and we made that appointment,” he added.

He said the Confidence and Supply agreement with Fianna Fail does not give the main opposition party a veto on judicial appointments.

"I haven’t heard anyone criticise her and she will make an excellent judge at the Court of Appeal. It is our job to make decisions and we have done so," he said.

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