Ireland this week has its own comparison to President Donald Trump’s refusal to accept his defeat and prepare to leave the White House.
All the senior judges in Ireland want to fire Seamus Woulfe, their newest recruit to the Irish Supreme Court, but he is refusing to go even after the chief justice told him to resign.
Now, the Supreme Court faces an unprecedented crisis after Chief Justice Frank Clarke said Woulfe should resign.
At issue is Woulfe’s handling of the controversy following his attendance at the infamous “golfgate” dinner in Connemara which breached anti-Covid rules.
Following public outrage, the dinner in August prompted the resignations of Ireland’s European Union Commissioner for Trade Phil Hogan, Agriculture Minister Dara Calleary, Senate deputy Leas Ceann Chomhairle (deputy speaker) Jerry Buttimer, and veteran broadcaster Sean O’Rourke.
There were calls for Woulfe, recently appointed to the Supreme Court, to also resign, but he refused.
Retired Chief Justice Susan Denham was requested by her successor Frank Clarke to investigate Woulfe’s golfgate attendance and make recommendations.
She reported that he erred in attending the dinner but there were not sufficient grounds to warrant his resignation.
In follow-up exchanges, other Supreme Court judges were dissatisfied with the way Woulfe handled the controversy, and last week, Clarke asked him to resign.
Clarke said in a letter that it was the “unanimous view” of all members of the Supreme Court that Woulfe had caused “significant and irreparable” damage to the court by how he handled the matter.
Woulfe refused on Monday of this week to resign and said he would be willing to accept sanctions that would include donating three months of his salary to charity, not sit as a Supreme Court judge until February 2021, and to sit as a High Court judge to help out that court.
He said he did not think any of the reasons proffered for his resignation “remotely constitute substantial reasons or grounds for my resignation, let alone amount to judicial misconduct.”
In a brief statement on Monday night, the government said the attorney general has been asked to advise the Taoiseach and ministers on the matter and that it would be "avoiding inappropriate public comment."
Former District Court Judge Michael Pattwell told RTE on Tuesday that the chief justice and the Supreme Court had “backed themselves into a corner.” He said there was no law to back the stance taken by the other members of the Supreme Court.
Former government minister Shane Ross also said that the Supreme Court had backed itself into a corner. He said Susan Denham had been asked to conduct an investigation, but her recommendation had been ignored by Clarke.
Ross added, “Politicians don’t want to touch the issue.”