Coalition parties meet over Justice department future
Fine Gael and Labour have begun talks over the future of the Department of Justice, the Irish Independent has learned.
The first meeting of the Cabinet sub-committee on Justice since the reshuffle has taken place, with new Tanaiste Joan Burton and new Communications Minister Alex White replacing Eamon Gilmore and Pat Rabbitte on it.
The other members of the committee are Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald. Attorney General Maire Whelan also attends.
At the meeting, the parties discussed how Ms Fitzgerald's office would be affected by the introduction of the new independent Garda Authority as well as the separation of functions within her department.
The sides agreed that the committee will be the body to drive and oversee the establishment of the new authority, which Labour had demanded at the height of the controversy earlier this year.
It is understood Ms Burton and Mr White did not set out a formal preference as to how the authority would work but were keen to stress the need for it to be fully independent in exercising its functions.
It is believed that the Government does not envisage a removal of responsibilities from Ms Fitzgerald's department into another department. Rather, the parties discussed the need for clearer divisions within the Department of Justice between its policing functions and its justice responsibilities.
It is also believed that two divisions - Home Affairs & Justice - will be formed with policing come under the auspices of the new Garda Authority.
It has yet to be decided whether the two divisions will each be assigned a secretary general. Ms Fitzgerald has to replace the outgoing top official at the department, Brian Purcell.
The sub-committee is due to meet next in early September in order to deliver enacting legislation for the Garda Authority by the end of the year.
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