|Judge of the Court of Appeal|
|Assumed office |
19 June 2017
|Nominated by||Government of Ireland|
|Appointed by||Michael D. Higgins|
|30th Attorney General of Ireland|
9 March 2011 – 14 June 2017
|Preceded by||Paul Gallagher|
|Succeeded by||Séamus Woulfe|
Máire Rita Whelan
24 November 1956
Kinvara, Galway, Ireland
|Spouse(s)||Bernard McCabe (m. 1991)|
Máire Rita Whelan (born 24 November 1956) is an Irish judge who has served as a Judge of the Court of Appeal since June 2017. Her appointment to the Court of Appeal was considered extremely controversial. She previously served as the Attorney General of Ireland from 2011 to 2017; she was the first woman to hold the office.
Whelan studied politics and sociology at University College Galway, before switching to law, and gained a master's degree from the University of London. She was called to the bar in 1985, and was appointed as senior counsel in 2005. She is a co-author of National Asset Management Agency (NAMA) Act 2009: A Reference Guide. She has served as financial secretary of the Labour Party, which was the junior member of the 2011 coalition government formed with Fine Gael. Her appointment as Attorney General caused some surprise amongst lawyers because she had a relatively low profile, owing to practising in areas of law where many cases are heard in camera.
Nomination to Court of Appeal
On 13 June 2017 it was reported that the Government of Ireland had decided to nominate her for appointment by the President of Ireland to the Court of Appeal. The nomination gave rise to controversy because of the procedure followed. In particular, it was widely reported that the nomination had been made in the absence of an application by Ms Whelan for the position of judge of the Court of Appeal and in circumstances where other applicants had applied for the post (making their intentions known to Ms Whelan as Attorney General) but were not considered by the Cabinet. The decision to appoint Ms Whelan as a judge was taken at a Cabinet meeting but Ms Whelan did not leave the room when her nomination was discussed. One of the most serious allegations was that it was also reported that the vacancy on the Court of Appeal had been effectively left open or "frozen" for Whelan as several High Court judges had applied for the position and the Judicial Appointments Advisory Board reported that it was not in a position to recommend any candidate for the vacancy It was reported that the Cabinet would further discuss the nomination as a result of the controversy. The nomination was criticised by Micheál Martin, Leader of the Opposition, and by Jim O'Callaghan, Opposition Spokesperson on Justice and Equality.
The decision to nominate Whelan to the Court of Appeal was taken at the last Cabinet meeting presided by Enda Kenny as Taoiseach, and it was widely viewed as a farewell gift by a Taoiseach to a trusted Attorney General. Although the decision was taken under Kenny, it was left to Taoiseach Leo Varadkar to defend and implement it, causing the first controversy of his term of office as Taoiseach.
Notwithstanding the controversy, Whelan did not withdraw her name for consideration and was rapidly appointed judge of the Court of Appeal by the President of Ireland on 19 June 2017. She made the formal declaration as a judge of the Court of Appeal on 21 June 2017. After her appointment and declaration, when she was already a sitting judge, her ability was the subject of exchanges between Micheál Martin and Leo Varadkar in Dáil Éireann leading to fears over the stability of the Government. These exchanges led to what was seen as a public rebuke of the Taoiseach and Mr Martin by the then Chief Justice of Ireland, Susan Denham, defending the independence of the judiciary. 7
- "As trust nosedives, could the Whelan controversy lead to an early election?". The Irish Times. 22 June 2017. Retrieved 22 June 2017.
- Cullen, Paul (10 March 2011). "First female Attorney General a 'smart and able advocate'". The Irish Times. Retrieved 10 March 2011.
- McDonald, Dearbhail (10 March 2011). "Top lawyers welcome appointment of first ever female AG". Irish Independent. Retrieved 10 March 2011.
- "Barrister's database". Bar Council of Ireland. Archived from the original on 20 March 2012. Retrieved 9 March 2011.
- Collins, Stephen; McGee, Harry (8 March 2011). "Labour set for AG role as Fine Gael takes 10 ministries". The Irish Times. Retrieved 10 March 2011.
- McDonald, Dearbhail (11 March 2011). "Whelan gets AG job over stellar FG law line-up". The Irish Independent. Retrieved 22 March 2011.
- Minihan, Mary; Bardon, Sarah (13 June 2017). "Cabinet reshuffle: Máire Whelan to become Court of Appeal judge". The Irish Times. Retrieved 13 June 2017.
- "'It stinks' – Criticism of decision to give Attorney General a job she didn't apply for". thejournal.ie. 15 June 2017. Retrieved 16 June 2017.
- "Government refuses to explain Máire Whelan appointment". The Irish Times. 15 June 2017. Retrieved 16 June 2017.
- "Attorney General Máire Whelan was privy to talks on her new position". IrishExaminer.com. 16 June 2017. Retrieved 16 June 2017.
- "Several judges applied for vacant court position awarded to AG". The Irish Times. 15 June 2017. Retrieved 16 June 2017.
- "Cabinet to discuss Máire Whelan appointment next week". The Irish Times. 16 June 2017. Retrieved 16 June 2017.
- "Judicial appointments: Attorney General's nomination must be explained". The Irish Times. 16 June 2017. Retrieved 16 June 2017.
- "Máire Whelan appointment described as 'directly political'". The Irish Times. 14 June 2017. Retrieved 16 June 2017.
- "Attorney General controversy reveals Government's hypocrisy". The Irish Times. 16 June 2017. Retrieved 16 June 2017.
- "Risk of early election as relations between FG and FF 'plummet' over Whelan affair". Irish Examiner. 22 June 2017. Retrieved 22 June 2017.
- "Chief Justice highlights independence of Attorney General". The Irish Times. 22 June 2017. Retrieved 22 June 2017.
- "Cabinet fears judge saga will bring the Government down". Irish Independent. 22 June 2017. Retrieved 22 June 2017.
- "Chief Justice rebukes Varadkar and Martin over Whelan row". The Irish Times. 22 June 2017. Retrieved 22 June 2017.
- Whelan, Máire R.; Kennedy, Mark; O Raghallaigh, Feargus (4 March 2011). National Asset Management Agency (NAMA) Act 2009: A Reference Guide. Dublin: Gill & Macmillan. ISBN 978-0-7171-4840-0.
| Attorney General of Ireland