| 14.2°C Dublin

Ex-justice minister behind direct provision system to interview refugees


John O’Donoghue: barrister

John O’Donoghue: barrister

Mark Condren

John O’Donoghue: barrister

Former justice minister John O'Donoghue, who introduced the direct provision system for asylum seekers, will now interview potential refugees in his new career as a barrister.

Mr O'Donoghue (59), who stepped down as Ceann Comhairle in 2009 amid an expenses controversy, qualified as a barrister last year.

Known as 'The Bull', the former Fianna Fáil TD for Kerry South has recently been appointed to a panel of barristers to interview potential refugees and write a report on the merits of their application for the authorities.

The Case Processing Panel of Legal Graduates, which was established in 2013, is being "expanded and its remit extended to process applications for refugee status and to carry out other support work", according to a spokeswoman for the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner (ORAC).

This was done "to enable the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) and ORAC to carry out their functions to optimum effect and to assist in the reduction of caseloads," she added.

"While a member of the legal panel processes the case, the decision in respect of each applicant is made by a civil servant in ORAC," the spokeswoman said. "The panel is in the process of being extended to deal with applications for refugee status as well.

"The recruitment of the panel was considered necessary to process the cases on hand as quickly as possible and was also considered to be the most effective solution due to the volume of cases and the complex nature of the work involved, which includes the writing of a legally robust report in each case."

According to an advertisement seeking applicants for the post, Mr O'Donoghue's functions in the new post will involve interviewing "applicants for refugee status" and, following the interview, the preparation of "a detailed synopsis/report of the main issues raised at the interview".

More than 200 people applied to be part of the panel and 160 of these were invited for an interview. Mr O'Donoghue was one of 60 successful applicants.

They were notified of their appointment to the panel earlier this month.

Mr O'Donoghue did not respond to requests for comment.

He had been a practising solicitor in Kerry before he entered politics 30 years ago. He lost his seat in 2011.

His pension as both a former TD and officeholder amounts to €108,103 per annum.

Meanwhile, the LÉ Niamh has rescued 125 migrants from a rubber craft in the Mediterranean, off the Libyan coast.

The rescue took place in rough seas around 60km north east of Tripoli after a merchant ship raised the alarm yesterday afternoon.

Irish Independent