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Ahern: I'm still in charge of the gardai

FORMER justice minister Dermot Ahern insisted last night that he was still in charge of the security of the State -- and would remain so right up until his successor is named.

Mr Ahern's resignation from office was announced on Wednesday night, while he was still in hospital.

Taoiseach Brian Cowen assigned responsibility for the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform to Agriculture Minister Brendan Smith at lunchtime yesterday.

But the Government faced accusations of leaving a constitutional question over who was responsible for security and the gardai after Mr Ahern's resignation. He has been in hospital since last week, having a hip operation.

Green Party leader John Gormley pointed out two days ago that Mr Ahern was in hospital and "unable to carry out his duties".

Fine Gael justice spokesman Alan Shatter and Labour Party leader Eamon Gilmore asked yesterday morning who was in charge of the portfolio.

But Mr Ahern's spokesman said that the former minister was continuing to carry out his duties from his hospital bed.

"He is still the Minister for Justice until such time as the Taoiseach brings his letter of resignation to the President," the spokesman said.

Mr Ahern also rang Mr Gormley yesterday to tell him that he was continuing to carry out his departmental duties.

Fionnan Sheahan

Irish Independent