Saturday 14 December 2019

Damning Justice review still under wraps

Minister Fitzgerald has had report for nearly two weeks

Justice Minster Frances Fitzgerald
Justice Minster Frances Fitzgerald

Daniel McConnell Group Political Correspondent

JUSTICE Minister Frances Fitzgerald is under mounting pressure to publish immediately a damning review of her own department, which she has had for two weeks.

The controversial review of the Department of Justice is believed to be critical of secretary general Brian Purcell's handling of the garda scandals.

Ms Fitzgerald, who commissioned the review on taking office in May, received the report in the past two weeks, the department finally confirmed yesterday.

But the minister has not yet published the review or even brought it to Cabinet before the Government went on its summer break last week.

Fianna Fail yesterday called on Ms Fitzgerald to release the report, which is believed to be critical of her top official Mr Purcell, who she has yet to express confidence in; and his number two, assistant secretary Michael Flahive.

The party's justice spokesman Niall Collins told the Irish Independent there was a strong public interest in the report.

Following revelations in the 'Sunday Independent' on the contents of the report, Mr Collins criticised the minister for sitting on it until after the Dail rose for the summer.

Mr Collins said: "The public very much want to know the facts as to why former Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan resigned and what role her department played."


Mr Collins also pointed to the fact that she has not yet expressed confidence in Mr Purcell. He also said it was significant that he was not present when she appeared at a recent private session of the Justice committee, as is the norm.

Mr Collins also called on Taoiseach Enda Kenny to publish a letter from former Justice Minister Alan Shatter, sent to Mr Kenny days after he resigned, in which he claimed he was "stymied" by his officials in his handling of garda whistleblower Maurice McCabe.

Arts Minister Heather Humphreys defended Ms Fitzgerald's decision to take time to consider the full significance of the report.

She said: "This report is part of an overall review of the justice system. It is a very high-level report. She is committed to publishing it in full, and is expected to do that shortly. She is giving it due consideration."

Junior European Affairs Minister Dara Murphy said it was a "bit silly" to suggest that Ms Fitzgerald was attempting to suppress the report.

"It is not in the bowels of the department. It is on Minister Fitzgerald's desk. She received it within the last two weeks. She will publish it within a short number of days," he said.

A spokeswoman for Ms Fitzgerald told the Irish Independent that the report, which examined the performance management capacity of the Department of Justice, was being carefully considered.

She said that given the scope of the report, the minister is giving it "due attention".

In May, at her instigation, the Cabinet agreed to an independent review of the department, which examined its performance, management and administration.

Irish Independent

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