Monday 19 August 2019

More change in the Justice Department as garda questions are raised in the Dáil

Secretary General of the Department of Justice & Equality Noel Waters Picture: Tom Burke
Secretary General of the Department of Justice & Equality Noel Waters Picture: Tom Burke
John Downing

John Downing

The Justice Department’s most senior official, Noel Waters, has announced that he will be retiring early next year.

Mr Waters has said that he will have served 40 years in the civil service next February and a short statement about his retirement was issued. Officials said his retirement “was noted as a matter of routine” at today’s weekly cabinet meeting.

The announcement comes as controversy continues about delays in finding a new Garda Commissioner and continued Dáil questions about the treatment of garda whistleblower, Sergeant Maurice McCabe.

In a separate move Taoiseach Leo Varadkar told the Dáil that the job of Garda Commissioner will be advertised before the end of the year.

That announcement brushes aside a request from the head of the Commission on the Future of Policing, Kathleen O’Toole, who had asked the Government to hold off on the appointment of a new commissioner until it could deliver its recommendations.

Ms O’Toole, a senior US police boss and former head of the Garda Inspectorate, wrote to the Government in September urging an appointment delay arguing that her group’s recommendations could change things.

But Mr Varadkar has told the Dáil the Government will not wait until the Future of Policing Commission reports to appoint new garda commissioner. The Taoiseach said he expected the job will be advertised for before the end of the year.

Those remarks came as Independents4Change TD, Clare Daly, again repeated reports that the interim Commissioner, Dónal Ó Cualáin, had astonished colleagues by attending a pre-retirement course in recent weeks.

Ms Daly again condemned the lack of progress in finding a successor  for former Commissioner Nóirín O'Sullivan who retired amid much controversy on September 10 last. The Dublin Fingal TD said police reforms could not be advanced without a leader in the force.

“How in God’s name can the chaos be stopped when there’s no one at the helm,” Ms Daly said. She added that no company employing 15,000 people could function without a CEO.

Earlier, the Taoiseach told Fianna Fáil leader, Micheál Martin, that neither the previous Justice Minister, Frances Fitzgerald, nor her successor, Charlie Flanagan, knew in advance about an attack on the integrity of garda whistleblower, Sergeant Maurice McCabe.

Mr Varadkar also said that, from all that could be established, he understood that the Justice Department had no advance knowledge of this either.

Mr Martin was repeating a series of questions by Labour TD, Alan Kelly, who has repeatedly asked over the past week about attacks on the integrity and character of Sgt McCabe by lawyers acting for former Commissioner O’Sullivan. Mr Kelly has repeatedly asked how much the Justice Minister and Justice Department knew in advance of this move at the O’Higgins Commission examining allegations of garda misconduct.

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