Wednesday 22 November 2017

New Justice Minister refuses to express confidence in the Secretary General of her Department, Mr Brian Purcell

Frances Fitzgerald says she will be holding “further discussions” with Purcell

Lise Hand

By Lise Hand

New Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald has refused to express confidence in the Secretary General of her Department, Mr Brian Purcell.

Asked repeatedly at a press conference in Government Buildings in the wake of the publication of the Guerin Report into the treatment of Garda whistleblowers if she had confidence in the most senior civil servant in her Department, she said she would be holding “further discussions” with Mr Purcell.

The 300-plus page Guerin review which was published this afternoon, strongly criticised the Garda, the Garda Ombudsman and the Department of Justice for failing to heed the word of Sergeant Maurice McCabe after he first raised concerns in September 2012. Mr Purcell was also at the centre of a controversy over the delay in passing a letter to former Justice Minister Alan Shatter about the garda taping scandal.

Minister Fitzgerald also said that she viewed “with the utmost gravity” the concerns raised by Mr. Guerin about procedures dealing with complaints in her Department, and she said that changes to Garda operation policies and procedures needed to be examined. “If root-and-branch reform is what is needed, root-and-branch reform is what will happen,” she said.

She also said that the Cabinet will discuss next Tuesday if the terms of reference for the commission of Investigation need to be expanded. She added that after a long meeting with interim Garda Commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan, Sgt. McCabe may be given back access to the PULSE system. “I had a discussion with the commissioner in relation to the issue of Sgt McCabe’s access to PULSE and she is doing a review and I would expect the Garda Commissioner to be making a statement on that in the near future.”

A government spokesman later said that it had been “impossible” for Minister Fitzgerald to comment on Brian Purcell.  “It’s impossible for a Minister to express either confidence or a lack of confidence in someone they’ve just met, in the context of a Department that is in clear need of reform”.

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