Justice boss defends 'talented and dedicated people' of the department after weeks of controversy
THE acting Secretary General of the Department of Justice has mounted a robust defence of the organisation saying that "hundreds of talented, dedicated people" work there to provide the best public service they can.
Oonagh McPhillips made the remarks at the Oireachtas Justice Committee following weeks of criticism of the Department in relation to the Garda whistleblower email controversy that led to the resignation of its former minister, Frances Fitzgerald.
She said that progress has been made in implementing reforms recommended by the 2014 Toland Report which contained a series of criticisms of the department.
Ms McPhillips said a view has become prevalent about the competence and probity of the department.
But she said the department had driven substantial, progressive reform in recent years including in the areas of marriage equality, penal policy and insolvency among other areas.
She said: "There is no doubt that the people who make up the department, myself included, make mistakes."
But she also said that at every level of the organisation there are "hundreds of talented, dedicated people working, day in day out, trying to provide the best public service that they can".
She said they deal with extraordinarily complex and challenging issues and added: "Our mission is working to make Ireland a safe, fair and inclusive place and all my colleagues give of their best in that regard."
Ms McPhillips also stood by advice given to Ms Fitzgerald in a May 2015 email relating to the legal strategy being pursued by Garda management against whistleblower Sergeant Maurice McCabe at the O'Higgins Commission.
She said it remains the department's view that it would be wrong for a minister to involve themselves in any way in a case or evidence being presented to a Commission that had been established by the minister.
"Indeed, it seems clear if a commission became aware that a minister was behaving in such a way that this could have very serious consequences," she said.