Saturday 20 December 2014

profile l brian purcell

Published 27/03/2014 | 02:30

BRIAN Purcell has been secretary general of the Department of Justice for almost three years.

He has kept a low public profile in the top post but is regarded by his peers as a professional and highly competent civil servant.

Colleagues say he is a steadying influence within the department and is content to remain in the shadows rather than making headline grabbing comments.

His career in the prisons section of the department and later as head of the Irish Prison Service meant he devoted much of his time dealing with the lives of criminals behind bars.

But he had first-hand experience of being a victim of serious crime when he was a higher executive officer in the Department of Social Welfare.

Part of his duties was to deal with welfare payments and he took the brave step of signing the paperwork stopping weekly dole payments of £92 to notorious Dublin gangster Martin "The General" Cahill.

As a result, Mr Purcell was later abducted from his Dublin home by four hooded men, who tied up his pregnant wife while the couple's two sons slept.

He was driven away in the family car and taken to meet Cahill, who shot him twice in the legs.

While recovering in hospital, he received a get-well card, which stated: "The General prognosis is good."

His performance as director general of the Irish Prison Service brought him to the attention of many in government and civil service circles, partly because of his role in helping to bring about a major overhaul of work practices and ending the massive overtime bill in the jails while also pushing the agenda for modern complexes to replace Victorian prisons like Mountjoy.

And he was rewarded by being appointed to take over the running of the department in July 2011, despite strong opposition from other internal candidates.

He had succeeded Sean Aylward as head of the prison service and trod a similar route in 2011 when he again took over from Mr Aylward in the department.

Irish Independent

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