TÁNAISTE LEO VARADKAR has defended the Attorney General after it was reported that he was acting in a private capacity for former directors of Independent News & Media in the company’s proceedings with High Court-appointed inspectors.
The Tánaiste said that the Attorney General is “finishing out a number of cases that he had taken on prior to his appointment as Attorney General in this government”.
He said that the coalition’s three party leaders and the Cabinet were aware of that decision, but said that they had not been informed of individual cases the Attorney General was involved in.
The Irish Times had reported that Paul Gallagher, the Attorney General, had been granted permission by the Government to continue working on several outstanding cases after his appointment.
It was reported that the inspectors were appointed by the High Court following a request from the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement, a state body.
The Social Democrats co-leader Roisin Shortall called it a “stunning” conflict of interest.
“He cannot take off his Attorney General hat, leave it at the door and enter the room as a different persona,” Shorthall said.
“On what planet was it felt it was appropriate to do so?” she asked.
“Apparently Mr Gallagher sought and received Government approval to carry on his private legal work. Who provided this approval?
“There are strict rules when it comes to civil servants, especially senior civil servants, engaging in private work.
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“Can you see there are serious problems with this?” she asked the Tánaiste.
Shortall said it appeared to be “grossly inappropriate”.
Varadkar said that her questions were reasonable and that he would provide answers to them as soon as possible.
“I am certain the Attorney General would be careful to avoid any conflict of interest or perception of a conflict of interest,” Varadkar said.
“He is a person of the highest integrity and ability,” he said.