Wednesday 26 October 2016

'I have no confidence in the Department of Justice' - Brendan Howlin's scathing attack heaps further pressure on Minister

Niall O'Connor and Wayne O'Connor

Published 22/05/2016 | 15:28

Brendan Howlin and inset Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald
Brendan Howlin and inset Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald

Labour Party leader Brendan Howlin has launched a scathing attack on the Department of Justice, which he said sometimes operates like the “downtown office of An Garda Síochána”.

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Mr Howlin warned that he does not have confidence in the department’s ability to drive the change necessary within the garda force. The Wexford TD, who was appointed Labour leader on Friday, said the relationship between the department and the gardai is “too close”.

“There were two reports in the last year from the Garda Inspectorate relating to very broad ranging reforms that are necessary. I am not convinced yet that they have been embraced,” Mr Howlin told RTÉ’s ‘This Week’ programme.

“Bluntly, I have no confidence in the Department of Justice to drive that change because I think there is too close of a relationship between the Department of Justice and An Garda Siochana.

“Who sometimes see themselves as the downtown office of An Garda Siochana, as opposed to the people who are managing policing in Ireland, as well as a number of other things.”

His comments will heap huge pressure on Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald and Garda Commissioner Noirín O’Sullivan.

Tánaiste and Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald said the gardaí had a lot of making up to do after austerity put a strain on garda numbers and resources.

She also refused to say when the Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan should clarify why her legal team initially attacked Garda whistleblower Maurice McCabe’s credibility during the commission.

“That is entirely up to the Garda Commissioner. There is a meeting of the Police Authority on Thursday, we will have the debate in the Dáil and there will be other forums where this will be discussed.

“As I said in relation to the Garda Commissioner, what’s legal and feasible, I am sure she will in the appropriate form, make a comment in relation to that.”

The minister also said the Dáil would debate the findings of the O’Higgins report this week.

She said that during the period that Brendan Howlin was Minister for Public Expenditure there was not a lot of investment in An garda Síochána.“During the changes and the period of the economy doing poorly, clearly investment virtually stopped so there is a lot of making up to do.

“The O’Higgins commission looked in a very detailed way at a whole range of issues in relation to An Garda Siochana. There is a lot of learning there. Much has changed since 2007 and 2008. There has been a programme of reform, indeed a lot of investment.”

Ms O’Sullivan is under mounting pressure to clarify what instructions she gave her legal team in relation to dealing with Garda Whistleblower Sergeant Maurice McCabe.

The Commissioner is due to appear in front of the Policing Authority this week.

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