The Chief Justice, Susan Denham, has emphasised the importance of the separation of powers between the Oireachtas and the judiciary in remarks welcoming the newly appointed Attorney General in the Supreme Court.

The comments by the country's most senior judge are seen as a "timely reminder" to the legislature following the remarks in the Dáil yesterday in relation to the appointment of the former attorney general Máire Whelan as a judge in the Court of Appeal.

Welcoming the new Attorney General, Seamus Woulfe, Mrs Justice Denham made reference to the constitutional separation of powers.

She said this meant each great organ of State had its own specific powers.

 It was a system of checks and balances, she said.

Inevitably the courts make decisions on the actions of other branches of Government and so it was necessary there be some distance between the branches.

The Chief Justice said by the nature of their position and function, judges were not expected to engage in public controversy, unlike other groups who could freely express their views to members of the legislature and the Government.

She said the role of the Attorney General was crucial in providing a point of contact and method of communication between the judiciary and other branches.

In the Dáil yesterday, Fianna Fáil leader Mícheál Martin compared Ms Whelan to others who had been appointed in the past to senior judicial positions.

He said Ms Whelan was "no Frank Clarke" and "no Adrian Hardiman".

The Chief Justice's comments were described by one source as "timely" in the context of that exchange.

Ms Whelan was sworn in as an Appeal Court judge in the Supreme Court this afternoon.