The Tánaiste has said he did not know how many names, or what names, were on a list of judges who expressed an interest in the vacancy on the Supreme Court, which was filled by Seamus Woulfe.

Speaking during Leaders' Questions in the Dáil, Leo Varadkar said in a democracy the decision as to who is appointed a judge is made by the Government and, almost always in all public appointments, only one name is brought to Cabinet.

He said it is not appropriate to discuss the merits and demerits of candidates in the Dáil or at Cabinet, saying it "is not the road we should go down".

He was responding to Sinn Féin's Pearse Doherty, who said taxpayers have a right to know how Mr Woulfe was appointed to the Supreme Court.

Mr Doherty asked if the names of the serving judges who had expressed an interest in the vacancy had been discussed by this or the previous government.

The Tánaiste said the Judicial Appointments Advisory Board (JAAB) had concluded that the former attorney general was a suitable candidate to be appointed to the Supreme Court and that was good enough for him. 

Mr Varadkar said a week before the Government was formed, the party leaders decided it would appoint a new Attorney General.

He said it was at that stage he told Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin and Green Party leader Eamon Ryan that judge Woulfe had been recommended by the JAAB to fill the Supreme Court vacancy.

He said he did not know how many judges' names were on the other list of those who had expressed an interest and he did not know their names.

Mr Varadkar also defended the process used by Minister for Justice Helen McEntee to appoint judge Woulfe to the Supreme Court, saying she had acted appropriately.

He said Minister McEntee followed the process and followed it exactly.

He was responding to Labour Leader Alan Kelly who asked whether he was aware that three other judges had applied for the position on the Supreme Court.

Mr Kelly said if the Minister for Justice did not appear in the Dáil to answer questions, "I don't believe these houses are functioning." 

Social Democrats co-leader Catherine Murphy said a former justice minister has in the past answered questions about judicial appointments in the Dáil, so there is a precedent in this area.

She asked the Tánaiste not to insult her party by saying they could raise this matter during Private Members' time in the Dáil next week.

He said the party was using this time to discuss funding for the Greyhound industry.

Mr Varadkar said a Dáil discussion about unsuccessful judicial candidates would be embarrassing for them.