Judge Cyril Kelly and Registrar resign over Sheedy affair

Tuesday 20 April 1999 19.25

Mr Justice Cyril Kelly of the High Court followed Supreme Court judge Hugh O'Flaherty today, when he became the second senior member of the judiciary to resign in the Sheedy controversy. Mr Justice Kelly said he bore no ill will to any person connected with the matter and had sought at all times to behave as a judge should in these circumstances. The Bar Council said they deeply regretted the circumstances that led to the resignation. It added that they were extremely concerned by recent events.

Speaking outside his home in Sandymount, Dublin, this afternoon, Mr Justice Cyril Kelly said he wanted to take the opportunity to make a public statement following the Chief Justice's report. He said, that as he understood it, the controversy arose out of a suggestion that when he was a judge of the Circuit Court he was inappropriately influenced or had an improper motive in making a decision in the Sheedy case. He said he wanted to make it clear that the decision he made in that case was one that he considered just: "I alone had judicial responsibility and I made my decision without any inappropriate influence or improper motive.”

He said the Executive had assumed responsibility for bringing his situation to a speedy conclusion and informed him that they wanted him to resign. He said this was a request that would bear heavily on anyone, but most especially a judge. He confirmed that he had written to the President tendering his resignation. He described his resignation as a devastating personal tragedy for himself and his family.

The Dublin County Registrar, Michael Quinlan, also resigned today, in the wake of inquiries into the Sheedy affair. He said in a statement that he did not accept he did anything wrong. But a Department of Justice report into the controversy published this afternoon is strongly critical of Mr Quinlan.

In his statement this morning, the Dublin County Registrar Michael Quinlan said that he does not accept that he did anything wrong. He said he is “comforted” by the conclusion in the Department of Justice report, that his motives “were not in any way improper or initiated by any prospect of personal gain or reward”. Mr Quinlan stated: “I am driven to the conclusion that my perception of the confidentiality by which I was bound in relation to my communication with Mr Justice O’Flaherty was mistaken.” The statement reads: “I wish to make it clear that at no time did I seek deliberately to mislead the Minister."

Following Mr Quinlan's statement, the Law Society of Ireland said his resignation did not in any way reflect on his absolute integrity both as County Registrar and as a solicitor. However, the Department of Justice report arising from the early release of Philip Sheedy has concluded that the performance of Michael Quinlan, in general, but in particular in connection with the official level inquiry, fell well short of the standards that could reasonably be expected of a person holding his position of County Registrar. The report says that in the circumstances, his actions obstructed and misled the Department's investigation and in their view amounted to misbehaviour on Mr Quinlan's part. The report said that while Mr Quinlan's motives and actions were very evidently misguided, they were not corrupt.