Cabinet unanimous in making Frank Clarke chief justice

Supreme Court judge Frank Clarke is to be appointed chief justice after the Cabinet signed off on his nomination in its last meeting before the summer recess.

The choice was a “very popular one” among Cabinet members — his nomination was approved unanimously.

Independent ministers raised no objection to Judge Clarke’s nomination, despite his Fine Gael background.

Judge Clarke joined Fine Gael at a young age and acted as a speech writer for Garret FitzGerald.

Although the Judicial Appointments Bill, the subject of much debate before the Dáil broke for the summer, has yet to be enacted, a similar process was followed for the appointment.

A three-page memorandum seeking the approval was brought to Cabinet by Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan to fill the €214,851-a-year post.

Three names, decided by an independent body, had initially been given to Mr Flanagan. A Government spokesman could not provide information last night on how the three names were cut down to one.

It is understood 15 nominations were received — others tipped for the position had included fellow Supreme Court judges Elizabeth Dunne and Donal O’Donnell.

“While some had fancied Judge O’Donnell, Frank Clarke was a very popular choice,” said one minister. “He is a more than capable choice.”

The non-statutory committee tasked with drawing up the shortlist of candidates comprised Jane Williams, chairwoman of the Top Level Appointments Committee; Mr Justice Sean Ryan, president of the Court of Appeal; Attorney General Seamus Wolfe; and Martin Fraser, secretary general to the Government.

Letters were sent to the outgoing chief justice, Susan Denham, Mr Justice Ryan, and to the heads of the Bar Council and Law Society of Ireland seeking expressions of interest, states the memo.

Suggestions that all other members of the Supreme Court applied for the post have been denied.

“Only half of the judges applied,” said a source.

At Cabinet, Mr Flanagan told colleagues that Judge Clarke is a “supremely suitable” candidate to succeed Ms Denham.

Judge Clarke has served on the Supreme Court since 2012. Having completed his legal studies at King’s Inns he was called to the Bar in 1973 and was appointed to the High Court in 2004.

The Irish Examiner has learned that Judge Clarke will be formally appointed by the President at Áras an Uachtaráin tomorrow.

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