Attorney General Paul Gallagher has "no continuing private professional obligations", the Government has said.

In a statement this evening, the Government said that Mr Gallagher had a "few existing litigation commitments to complete" which he informed the Government of prior to his appointment.

However, these proceedings were delayed due to the pandemic.

The Irish Times has reported that the AG is acting in a private capacity for former directors of Independent News and Media in its dealings with High Court inspectors who are investigating the company's affairs.

The inspectors were appointed by the High Court following a request from the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement.

In its statement today, the Government said that the ODCE is entirely independent in the performance of its statutory functions.

When inspectors are appointed, they "report to the High Court, not to the ODCE," the Government said. It added the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment has no direct function in such matters.

It said: "In the normal course of events these professional obligations would have been discharged in a short period of time following his appointment.

"Due to the Covid pandemic there were delays in the hearings of cases, so it was not possible to discharge these professional obligations as early as anticipated.

"The Attorney General has no continuing private professional obligations."

Earlier, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar told the Dáil that the Mr Gallagher is "finishing out" a number of legal cases which he had "taken on" before his appointment - and said that this is not unprecedented.

Replying to a question from Social Democrats co-leader Róisín Shortall, Mr Varadkar said the Cabinet was aware of this fact "in a general sense", but he was not sure if it required a formal decision or if legal advice was secured.

Deputy Shortall described the fact that the AG was carrying out private legal work as a "conflict of interest", adding it was "just stunning and multi-layered".

She contended that Mr Gallagher could not "take off his hat as Attorney General" and then act as a different persona. She asked: "On what planet was it felt appropriate to do so?"

Deputy Shortall said the situation was "totally inappropriate", "bizarre" and "quite extraordinary".

Mr Varadkar said that Mr Gallagher is a "man of the highest integrity" and he was "absolutely certain" that the Attorney General would be "very careful" to avoid any perception of any conflict of interest.

The Tánaiste said Ms Shortall had asked a number of "reasonable" questions about the matter and he would "endeavour" to get answers to her - but he could not guarantee that would be today.

Mr Varadkar said that because the ODCE comes under his Department it would not be appropriate for him to make any comment on the matter.

With reporting from Sandra Hurley