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Sunday 21 September 2014

Fitzgerald pays tribute to Garda whistleblower Maurice McCabe

Lise Hand and Fionnan Sheahan

Published 08/05/2014 | 10:49

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Newly appointed Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald and Minister for Children Charlie Flanagan with Taoiseach Enda Kenny after receiving their seal of office at Aras An Uachtarain
Pic:Mark Condren
Newly appointed Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald and Minister for Children Charlie Flanagan with Taoiseach Enda Kenny after receiving their seal of office at Aras An Uachtarain Pic:Mark Condren
Newly appointed Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald and Minister for Children Charlie Flanagan with Taoiseach Enda Kenny after receiving their seal of office at Aras An Uachtarain
Pic:Mark Condren
Newly appointed Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald and Minister for Children Charlie Flanagan with Taoiseach Enda Kenny after receiving their seal of office at Aras An Uachtarain Pic:Mark Condren
Francis Fitzgerald TD
Francis Fitzgerald TD

Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald has paid tribute to Garda whistleblower Sgt Maurice McCabe in her first press conference.

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She said: “We do have to listen to critics, we have to listen to critics of the system and we have to be open to hearing what they have to say, that’s very important and I do intend to provide leadership in that regard,” she said, adding “I would pay tribute to the work that Sgt Maurice McCabe has done”.

Speaking in Government Buildings on her return from Aras an Uachtarain where she and new Minister for Children Charlie Flanagan received their seals of office, Minister Fitzgerald said that one of her priorities was to restore public confidence in the police.

“Confidence in our police is a critical part of our democracy. Clearly in recent times it has in many ways faced a crisis of confidence about the Gardai and that has to be dealt with and that has to be changed.

She also praised her predecessor Alan Shatter who resigned in a shock move yesterday.

She described him as “A reforming minister who brought in critical reforms to our justice system which will be of long lasting benefit to our country. He had huge reforming zeal and dedication.”

The Minister also stressed that the recommendations of the Guerin Report into the treatment of Garda whistleblowers due to be published tomorrow, would be “very important".

She said: “I’ve not yet had an opportunity to read it but obviously that is a priority. I will be meeting immediately with the acting Garda Commissioner, Noirin O’Sullivan."

The Fine Gael TD for Dublin Mid-West described herself as "no stranger to hard work, it's a daunting portfolio".

Meanwhile, Charlie Flanagan was promoted to the Cabinet following the resignation of Alan Shatter.

The move comes on the foot of Mr Shatter's departure, with Mr Flanagan replacing Ms Fitzgerald as children's minister.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny is taking over the Defence portfolio himself. Mr Flanagan is the current Fine Gael parliamentary party chairman and is a party TD for the Laois-Offaly constituency.

Mr Kenny has opted for minimal changes following the departure of Mr Shatter. Ms Fitzgerald has served as Children's Minister for the past three years. Mr Flanagan is promoted directly from the Fine Gael backbenches.

The pair were in Aras an Uachtarain this afternoon to receive their seals of office.

Frances Fitzgerald said earlier today she was "very honoured" to have been asked by the Taoiseach to be Minister for Justice.

“I got a very late call last night and a very early text this morning, and very honoured to be offered this position with all its responsibilities," she said.

“I recognise there is a very large amount of work to be done in the department. A huge range of challenges that must be met. It’s important, I believe, that we must have structural reform. That’s very important."

The former Minister for children commented on the "crisis of confidence" about the gardai "in recent times".

“Clearly what we need now is a new era, a new culture so that the Irish people can have confidence in our policing system, confidence in our police, confidence in our democracy, confidence in our justice system."

Minister Fitzgerald also paid tribute to the garda whistleblowers. “We do have to listen to critics of the system. We have to be open to what they have to say. That’s very important."

“I do intend to provide leadership in that regard, I do intend to provide leadership in the Department of Justice so that the range of issues that have been to the fore, can be dealt with in the coming months and years,” she added.

Both Charlie Flanagan and Frances Fitzgerald lost their seats in Fine Gael's wipeout in the 2002 general election. Ms Fitzgerald came back to the Dail following a stint in the Seanad.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny praised Ms Fitzgerald for her reform children's rights during her tenure in her previous position.

"I know she will bring the same energy, commitment and reforming zeal to her new role as Minister for Justice and Equality," he said.

Fine Gael party colleague Charlie Flanagan will take over the Children's Minister role. The position of Defence Minister - which was also held by Mr Shatter - will temporarily come under the Taoiseach's department.

Mr Shatter stood down weeks after the Garda chief Martin Callinan stunned the country with his resignation amid a storm of controversies involving his force.

A report to be published tomorrow into one of the controversies is expected to find Mr Shatter was "inadequate" in his obligation to be independent in his investigation of Garda whistleblower allegations.

"Restoring confidence to the Irish justice now becomes the number one priority for the new minister," Mr Kenny said.

"As a Government we want transparency and accountability at the heart of our public service. It goes to the heart of what we all seek to achieve here in this house in representing the Irish people on a daily basis."

Mr Kenny reiterated the Government's commitment to establishing a Garda Authority to work alongside the Garda Ombudsman and Garda Inspectorate in providing oversight for the force.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny made the announcement this morning in the Dail after the shock resignation of Alan Shatter as the Minister for Justice yesterday.

Alan Shatter quit in dramatic circumstances yesterday and his resignation was announced to the Dail at 4.45pm.

He resigned after a report which criticised his handling of complaints made by a garda whistleblower.

The Justice Minister - who survived a series of recent controversies - was found to have failed in his duties by the Guerin report, which is to be published tomorrow.

In his resignation letter, Mr Shatter complained he wasn't given time to read the entire report and criticises Mr Guerin for not interviewing him in his investigation over the last two months.

Mr Shatter said he was resigning as he did not wish the controversy to surround the Coalition going into the local and European elections.

Ms Fitzgerald was elected as T.D. for Dublin Mid West in 2011 to serve in the 31st Dail.

After her election. Ms Fitzgerald was appointed Ireland's first ever Minister for Children. Ms Fitzgerald was also Leader of the Opposition in the Senate on her election as a Senator to the 23rd Seanad and previously served as T.D. for Dublin South East for 10 years.

Since her first election to the Dail, Ms Fitzgerald has been appointed to six different portfolios under three different Fine Gael leaders - John Bruton, Michael Noonan and Enda Kenny.

On her first day in the Dail Ms Fitzgerald was appointed to the Fine Gael front bench as Spokesperson on Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht and went on to serve as Spokesperson on Defence, Social Community & Family Affairs, Equality & Family Affairs, Social Welfare and served as Spokesperson Health and Children in the Senate.

Ms Fitzgerald is married and has three sons in their twenties, an actor, a trainee accountant and a student.

This is Charlie Flanagan’s first ministerial posting.

Mr Flanagan (58), a solicitor and former party justice spokesman, supported the June 2010 botched Fine Gael leadership heave against Enda Kenny.

He was party spokesperson on Justice, Equality and Law Reform from 2007 to 2010, and was the party spokesperson on Children from 2010 to 2011.

He was first elected to Dáil Éireann in 1987.

He has been chairperson of the Fine Gael parliamentary party since June 2011.

Born and raised in Mountmellick, he now lives in Portlaoise, with his wife Mary and two daughters.

He has published Draft Bills and Amendments in a range of areas, notably: Competition Law, Corruption, White Collar Crime, Fraud and Bribery

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