Minister for Justice Helen McEntee has written to Ceann Comhairle of the Dáil Seán Ó Fearghaíl offering to move her ministerial questions to deal with the ongoing row over judicial appointments.

However, the initiative has been lambasted by Opposition parties - Sinn Féin, Labour and the Social Democrats - all say the measure does not go far enough.

In her letter, seen by RTÉ News, Minister McEntee repeats that both she and the Government still have "grave concerns" about Opposition proposals for a detailed questions and answers session, on the basis that it could generate "inappropriate comment around serving judges".

However she adds that she is also "conscious of the responsibility of ministers to be accountable to the Dáil".

To that end, the minister asked the Business Committee to reschedule her next session of oral ministerial questions, saying "deputies can table parliamentary questions and oral questions to me and Government colleagues".

However, Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald has dismissed Ms McEntee's offer claiming the Government is "still circling the wagons" and its stated grave concern is nothing more than a "self serving desire to avoid accountability".

She declared that a full statement from the minister, followed by questions, is what is required: "Nothing short of this will suffice".

Labour leader Alan Kelly has described Ms McEntee's announcement  as "completely spurious" and "laughable".

Mr Kelly said: "She has no choice but to answer her normal PQs. She must still come before the Dáil next week and take specific question on the Supreme Court appointment process".

Co-leader of the Social Democrats, Catherine Murphy, has also strongly criticised the minister's initiative describing it is a "nonsensical suggestion".


Dear Ceann Comhairle

As Minister for Justice, it is my duty to respect the independence of the judiciary, a cornerstone of our State and system of government.

I and the Government have grave concerns that the manner of Dáil debate being proposed by the Opposition on judicial appointments could generate inappropriate comment around serving judges on the floor of the House.

The concerns as outlined by the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste this week are shared across Government.

However, I am also conscious of the responsibility of ministers to be accountable to the Dáil. Deputies can table parliamentary questions and oral questions to me and Government colleagues on numerous issues.

I would ask the business committee to reschedule my next session of oral ministerial questions, currently due to take place on December 15, to a date that meets the satisfaction of members.

The process of oral questions will ensure that members can raise concerns across numerous issues within the parameters of normal parliamentary procedures.

Helen McEntee TD
Minister for Justice