Saturday 24 August 2019

Harris: 'Justice department faces serious questions over documents not disclosed'

Minister remains firm in support of Frances Fitzgerald as he calls for "cool heads"

Simon Harris arriving at Government Buildings this morning (picture: Gerry Mooney)
Simon Harris arriving at Government Buildings this morning (picture: Gerry Mooney)
Conor Feehan

Conor Feehan

Health Minister Simon Harris has today said the Department of Justice faces serious questions about why e-mails released yesterday in relation to the Sgt Maurice McCabe issue were never forwarded to the Disclosures Tribunal.

Speaking as he entered Government Buildings for a cabinet meeting on a day where embattled Tanaiste Frances Fitzgerald’s job hangs in the balance, he said the non-disclosure of the documents is “not acceptable” and that the Department of Justice needs “significant reform”.

“In relation to the documents that hadn’t been given to the Tribunal I think that it does raise very serious questions about the Department of Justice and it does show the need for significant reform in relation to the Department of Justice,” he told reporters.

“It is simply not acceptable that any department or agency of the State wouldn't have provided all the relevant documents to the Tribunal. That's simply not acceptable and answers are needed,” he added.

Despite his criticism, Minister Harris still stood squarely behind the Tanáste and insisted the Charlton Tribunal was the best forum for adjudicating the facts.

“The position of the Government remains the same, and the position of the Taoiseach remains the same. We have a structure in place, the Charlton Tribunal, where the Tanáiste can provide all of the information and all of the facts, but most importantly where all those facts can be adjudicated upon,” he said.

“The Oireachtas and the Government made a decision to set up a Tribunal so that all of those facts could be brought out into the full public light so that the issues, the very legitimate and important issues that Maurice McCabe has raise, can be addressed in full, and I believe that he best place to adjudicate on all these issues is the Tribunal, and not on the floor of Dáil Éireann,” he explained.

“In relation to the Tanáiste and her political responsibility - she will go before the Tribunal and answer every and any question. I think that is the appropriate place. I think when you set up a Tribunal and you appoint a judge to look at all these issues and establish the facts - I think that is the best place,” he said.

Asked if the country was facing a snap general election, Minister Harris said the country doesn't need one.

“I think everybody in Irish politics today needs to step back from the brink. It’s a day for cool heads. It's a day for calm reflection. And we need to try and have a situation where Government can continue and focus on the very big jobs at hand,” he said.

“The Tribunal will hold public hearings, commencing in only a few week’s time that will provide a very public opportunity for all of these issues to be heard in a very fair manner with due process to be followed, and any questions the Tanáiste has to answer to be answered there,” he added.

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