Sunday 22 September 2019

Department of Justice couldn't fill €175k job after controversies

Six people applied for the job, but none deemed suitable for the role

Frances Fitzgerald
Frances Fitzgerald
Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

The top job at the scandal hit Department of Justice may not be filled in the lifetime of the current Government.

Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald has given no indication when she plans to fill the secretary general position at the department, the Dail’s spending watchdog heard today.

The role has been vacant since July of last year when former secretary general Brian Purcell moved on following a series of controversies.

These included the retirement of Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan, the resignation of former Justice Minister Alan Shatter, and a hard hitting report which found the department had a deferential relationship with the gardai and “a closed, secretive and silo-driven culture” with “significant leadership and management problems”.

The acting secretary general since then, Noel Waters, told the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), he himself had not applied for the €175,000 role for personal reasons.

He said he had not wanted to leave his role in the immigration service, where he believed he had important work to do.

Mr Waters said he understood six people had applied for the job, but none were deemed suitable for the role.

“There weren't very many people knocking on the door of the Public Appointments Service,” he said.

“We have been through a tough time. The minister has said this may be a demotivating factor.”

Mr Waters told TDs he had initially been told he would be acting secretary general for a few weeks until the role was filled.

However, he said he now did not know when the job would be advertised again.

“The minister has said she will advertise the position when the time is right,” he said.

PAC vice chairman John Deasy said in reality it appeared this would not happen in the lifetime of the current Government. “It could be another six months,” he said.

Committee member Shane Ross said that in view of recent controversies it was “quite sinister that this role has not been filled”.

Mr Waters said he had “no sense at all of any political game playing on the issue”.

Mr Ross responded: “I don’t think that you are a puppet, but I think they are looking for one.”

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