Monday 22 October 2018

Justice Department attacks 'disappointing'

Oonagh McPhillips made the remarks at the Oireachtas Justice committee
Oonagh McPhillips made the remarks at the Oireachtas Justice committee
Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

The acting boss of the Department of Justice has said she was "disappointed" that Taoiseach Leo Varadkar had criticised the organisation in the wake of the Garda whistleblower email controversy.

Oonagh McPhillips made the remarks at the Oireachtas Justice committee where she also delivered a robust defence of the department saying that "hundreds of talented, dedicated people" work there to provide the best public service they can.

She assumed the role of acting secretary general after the early retirement of her predecessor Noel Waters last week.

The department has sustained heavy criticism over the whistleblower issue that led to the resignation of Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald.

Mr Varadkar told the Dáil last week that episode had "exposed major problems" within a "dysfunctional" department.

Asked about the criticism by Independents4Change TD Mick Wallace, Ms McPhillips said she had been "disappointed" at Mr Varadkar's remarks but added "it's not for me to disagree with the Taoiseach".

Fine Gael Senator Martin Conway said he shares Mr Varadkar's view that the department is dysfunctional. Ms McPhillips said: "The Senator's entitled to his view but I don't agree with it."

She had earlier defended the department saying it had driven substantial, progressive reform in recent years including in the areas of marriage equality, insolvency and penal policy.

She said: "There is no doubt that the people who make up the department, myself included, make mistakes."

But she also said 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 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."

Irish Independent

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