The Taoiseach has asked Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin to "withdraw " remarks which he made about Máire Whelan in the Dáil, writes Elaine Loughlin.
It comes after Mr Martin made a highly personal attack on the former Attorney General in the Dáil yesterday, claiming she is no match to some previous judicial appointments.
In a sparky exchange during Leaders Questions this afternoon, Leo Varadkar said he wanted to give Mr Martin "the opportunity" to withdraw the remarks in which he claimed Ms Whelan is "no Frank Clarke, is no Adrian Hardiman, and is no Donal O’Donnell.”
However, Mr Martin accused the Taoiseach of bringing personality into the issue of Ms Whelan’s appointment to the Court of Appeal.
"You invited the comparisons, not I, you did so to circumvent the issue that goes to the heart of this," Mr Martin said.
"It was indigenous and that’s what you were are at," the Fianna Fáil leader said adding that "a bit of straight talking" and "honest" was now required as he continued to call for explanations around the appointment.
The Taoiseach confirmed that he had spoken to Mr Martin over the phone on Sunday night, during which Mr Martin questioned Ms Whelan’s suitability for the post.
"You also said you wouldn’t go there publicly, but you did go public and in doing so in my view was a mistake, it was wrong.
"You cast aspirations on somebody who is now a judge at the Court of Appeal," Mr Varadkar said.
Separately Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald raised the controversies surrounding Garda Commissioner Noirín O’Sullivan.
She asked how it was possible to have confidence in Ms O’Sullivan when she doesn’t have confidence in her own senior team.
Mr Varadkar stated that he has confidence in the Garda Commissioner.