“His independent role has on occasions required him to take actions against the Executive…”

In the Belfast Telegraph Liam Clarke picked up on this exchange during questions to the Northern Ireland First and deputy First Ministers in the Assembly on Monday.  The topic was the review, by Dame Elish Angiolini, Lord Advocate of Scotland until 2011, of the Office of the NI Attorney General, the report on which was delivered to OFMDFM in October 2012.  Here’s the relevant section from Hansard.

Mr Attwood: Given the current Attorney General’s inclination to join in Supreme Court cases, European Court cases and, indeed, cases involving the alleged scandalising of a judge, do you think that, in retrospect and given the review that you referred to, the role that the Executive gave to the Attorney General in July 2010 was too generous and now needs to be constrained?

Mr P Robinson: I think that the Member has put his finger on one of the key issues: there is the difficulty with, at one and the same time, the Attorney General being the adviser to the Executive and, on the other hand, having the role independently.  His independent role has on occasions required him to take actions against the Executive.  We will not deal with what the outcome of that may have been, but it is clearly one of the issues that Dame Elish has looked at, that we are looking at and that will form part of any proposals that we bring to Executive colleagues. [added emphasis]

Liam Clarke identifies the potential conflict of interest being referenced

It highlights possible conflicts between the Attorney General’s role as a government legal adviser and his independent role to “protect the public interest in matters of law“. [added emphasis]

In that particular conflict of interest, whose interest is likely to prevail…

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