Tuesday 23 April 2019

Department of Justice to split in two but still have one minister, says Varadkar

Current Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan pictured with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. Photo: Frank McGrath
Current Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan pictured with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. Photo: Frank McGrath

Niall O'Connor

The embattled Department of Justice is to be split in two next year but remain under the control of a single minister, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has revealed.

Mr Varadkar wants to appoint a secretary general to head up an internal division that oversees An Garda Síochána.

The other part of the department will have responsibility for normal legislation.

"What is proposed is not splitting up the department into two separate departments. What is proposed is an internal division so there would be one secretary general of the department and two deputy secretaries general of the two wings," Mr Varadkar said.

"It is our intention to proceed with that reform in 2018, having a new secretary general, and two deputy secretary generals over the two new sections of the department."

The overhaul of the department comes amid a myriad of controversies surrounding the treatment of Garda Sergeant Maurice McCabe.

The reform was discussed at length during the crisis talks between Mr Varadkar and Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin, which led to a general election being averted before Christmas.

Mr Varadkar did not rule out going further in the future by splitting Justice into two Government departments: Justice and Home Affairs.

This is the system that is in place in countries such as the UK.

But speaking during his pre-Christmas briefing with political journalists, the Taoiseach said this would not happen immediately due to constitutional constraints.

"We have the slight complication in Ireland that we have a Constitution which only allows us to have 15 senior Cabinet ministers. So every time you create a new Government department, you have to abolish one and I am not yet sure which department people would axe as they all do very important work," he added.

Meanwhile, Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan last night announced measures designed to assist crime victims.

Some 56 organisations will be supported next year through an annual funding allocation of €1.7m.

In addition, Mr Flanagan announced his decision to remove the financial contribution required from applicants for civil legal aid in domestic violence cases in the District Court. This particular move will take effect from January 1.

Irish Independent

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