Saturday 17 February 2018

Justice dept row probe announced

Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald
Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald

A six strong panel of experts in policing, business and management will lead a root and branch review of the Department of Justice over its failure to tackle malpractice and wrongdoing in An Garda Siochana.

In the wake of a damning report which exposed civil servants' handling of internal complaints as not fit for purpose, the workings of the entire justice ministry is to be examined.

Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald said the review would identify the necessary reforms to ensure the department works for the benefit and protection of the public.

The panel of experts is made up of Kevin Toland, Dublin Airport Authority chief executive and former head of Glanbia, USA; Kathleen O'Toole, incoming chief of police in Seattle and former head of the Garda Inspectorate; David Byrne, former Attorney General and EU Commissioner; Geraldine Tallon, former secretary general of the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government; Greg Sparks, founding partner at OSM Farrell Grant Sparks; and Pat McLoughlin, chief executive of the Irish Payment Services Organisation.

Their appointment was agreed at a Cabinet meeting today.

Ms Fitzgerald said her department has many strengths but also has areas that need further evaluation and improvement.

"Each of the department's difficult and complex areas of responsibility is directly relevant to the citizen - which is all the more reason to learn wider lessons and ensure the right structures are in place," she said.

"These structures will then require sustained and consistent management and governance to ensure they work as they are intended to - for the benefit and protection of citizens.

"I am confident that the Group will produce a thoughtful and rigorous report that will provide an important signpost on the path to reform and will enable the department to build on its considerable strengths and to fully address areas that need improvement."

No time frame for the departmental review to be completed has been given.

The plan was announced as part of the Government's response to the devastating Guerin report which exposed shocking failings in the department and prompted the resignation of Alan Shatter.

The report identified the mishandling of complaints from whistleblower Sergeant Maurice McCabe and criticised the actions of An Garda Siochana and civil servants for failing to properly examine claims of alleged corruption and malpractice.

Concern over the workings of the department at the most senior levels was compounded last week when Brian Purcell, secretary general of the Department of Justice, repeatedly refused to answer questions from a parliamentary committee about his role in the shock resignation of former Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan earlier this year.

Ms Fitzgerald said the members of the review panel were very experienced and capable.

"The members have a range of experience from the fields of change management, the law, policing, public administration and governance. They have all worked at the highest levels in their respective fields, both at home and abroad and I am very grateful to each of them for agreeing to undertake this important work," she said.

The minister said the review was part of efforts to increase accountability and improve governance.

Among other reforms, sparked in recent months after the whistleblower's concerns were shown to be well-founded, are the formation of a policing authority, an open competition for the post of Garda Commissioner, extending the powers of the Garda Ombudsman and an extension of whistleblower legislation to cover gardai.

The Cook report into claims that the ombudsman's office was bugged is ongoing.

Press Association

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