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Another fine mess part deux

Judicial scandal in Dublin

16 November 2020

It's easy to lose track of the endless scandals that entangle the cobbled together national government in Dublin at the moment.

The latest scandal, the scandal of Mr Justice Woulfe, arose out of the earlier #Golfgate scandal in August.

This was an 80 + meeting of the Oireachtas Golf Society, a collection of the great and the good who ignored Covid-19 restrictions. These restrictions included no more than six people allowed to gather indoors, and 15 outdoors.

Some of those present had been in the meeting with the National Public Health Emergency Team where the new restrictions had been suggested, and the Supreme Court Judge had helped sign the initial lockdown restrictions into law.

The outcome was that a minister, a slew of senators and a European Commissioner had to resign. The survivor was  Justice Woulfe, not subject to political direction.

He managed to dodge almost half a dozen meetings with the Lord Chief Justice, but when the meeting occurred and he was asked to resign he refused. This caused a political crisis because only a vote in both Dail and Senate can impeach him. It then emerged that, although a number of serving judges had expressed interest in the post, only Woulfe's name had been advanced.  He has no judicial experience but he held the political position of Attorney General in the last government.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin called a meeting of all the Dail parties for a question and answer session but didn't propose action. Both inaction and impeachment would further weaken the credibility of the government.

The problem is that the Covid-19 scandal obscures a more basic issue. #Golfgate showed the invisible world of the Irish ruling class, of the unity of bankers, developers and judiciary.  The Woulfe scandal shows the mechanism of transmission from politics into the judiciary and the hollow myth of judicial independence.

Ireland's capitalist system is filled with the stench of corruption, the Dail only matched by a northern executive struggling to survive a DUP revolt against Covid restrictions.  Scandal follows scandal but there is little change because almost  everyone is in partnership and resistance is so weak that Sinn Fein can pose as the left opposition.

But all is not secure.  The Woulfe scandal is another straw on the camel's back. At some stage it will be a straw too many.

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