Chief Justice welcomes new Attorney General

Courtesy of the Courts Services, the Chief Justice welcomes the new Attorney General:


Welcome by the Supreme Court
To the new Attorney General
Séamus Woulfe SC
Chief Justice Denham
21st June, 2017


Mr. Attorney General, Colleagues and friends,

On behalf of the Supreme Court it gives me great pleasure to extend to you a warm welcome in your capacity as the newly appointed holder of the constitutional Office of Attorney General.

The Court congratulates you on your recent appointment to an important constitutional Office of the State, with significant duties, which this Court has acknowledged as being one of the “Organs of State”. The Court appreciates the particular importance and difficulty of the role. The Attorney occupies a vital position in the structure of the government.

The Attorney is, of course, the legal adviser to the Government, but is not a member of the Government, it is an independent position. This is never an easy role, but it is particularly demanding in an era where Brexit is likely to throw up very complex legal problems.

While the Constitution recognises the Separation of Powers between the three great organs of State, the Government, the Oireachtas and the Judiciary, it also imposes on those organs, for some of which your role is crucial, a common obligation, specified in Article 40.3, to respect and vindicate the rights of citizens. Indeed, the public interests are committed to the care of the Attorney General.

You occupy an Office which is responsible also for the drafting of all legislation, advising all Government Departments, and for the conduct of civil litigation concerning the State. Thus, the Office which you now hold is one of weighty national importance. In willingly taking up this Office, so as to give public service to the State, you are acting in the best traditions of the Bar.

The Supreme Court recognises the role of the Attorney General as the leader of the Bar. The independent Bar in Ireland is a critical aspect of our democracy. As leader of the Bar you have an important position in maintaining the highest standards in the legal profession, in the interests of the administration of justice.

The Separation of Powers in the State means that each great organ of State has its own specific powers. It is a system of checks and balances and inevitably the Courts make decisions on the actions of other branches of Government. Consequently, it is necessary that there be some distance between the branches.

Also, by the nature of their positions and function, Judges are not expected to engage in public controversy, as other groups may who freely express their views to members of the Legislature and the Executive.

Therefore, the role of the Attorney General is crucial in providing a point of contact, and a method of communication, between the Judiciary and other branches of Government.

Mr. Attorney General, the Court congratulates you on your appointment, and is confident that you have all the qualities that will enable you to meet the difficult challenges, and make the complex decisions, which will inevitably come your way. We extend to you our best wishes.

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