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Monday 19 March 2018

Taoiseach to head up committee deciding on new independent Garda authority

Justice Nial Fennelly
Justice Nial Fennelly

Daniell McConnell Political Correspondent

Taoiseach Enda Kenny will head up a new Government committee to draw up proposals for a new independent Garda authority.

The Garda have also been told to make sure the tapes at the centre of the recording scandal are now destroyed.

The new Garda authority will be fast-tracked to be in place by the end of the year.

The Cabinet sub-committee on justice reform will also have Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore and Justice Minister Alan Shatter on it and will oversee the development of proposals for the Garda authority.

The appointment of the new Garda Commissioner will also be completed by the end of the year, with the process open to external competition.

The Government has also decided the tapes at the centre of the recording scandal have to be preserved.

The Garda Siochana and Department of Justice have been told to ensure the tapes are retained and made available to anyone who needs them. 

The ongoing Garda tapping scandal was one of two "major issues" discussed at the weekly meeting of ministers earlier today.

The Government did discuss the Commission's terms of reference, but sources have said that they have "not been signed off" on yet.

The Cabinet also appointed Judge Niall Fennelly as the head of its Commission of Investigation into secret Garda tape recordings.

Fennelly has served as a member of the Supreme Court since 2000 and was an Advocate General of the European Court of Justice from 1995. He was educated at Clongowes Wood College before attending University College Dublin and the Kings Inn.

The Government also discussed draft terms of reference for the Commission of Investigation.  

It was agreed that the Commission of Investigation should examine all matter of public concern relating to the issue of taping of conversations in Garda stations.

The full terms of reference will be finalised shortly, in consultation with Mr Justice Fennelly.

The Government also received a briefing on the latest position in the specific case related to Bandon Garda Station which has given rise to particular concern.  The specific legal issues in this case will be dealt with through the courts.

The Government noted that two other inquiries relating to An Garda Síochána and its oversight (the Cooke and Guerin inquiries) are to be completed later this month.

A new Cabinet Committee on Justice Reform will be established immediately to oversee the development of proposals for an independent police authority, and other associated reforms to the policing and justice system.  

The Cabinet Committee will be chaired by the Taoiseach and its membership will include the Tánaiste and the Minister for Justice & Equality.

It will make formal proposals to the Government for its consideration and final approval.

The Government also agreed that it is important that there be a full public debate on the issue of policing and justice reform.  It will therefore bring forward proposals for a public consultation process in the coming weeks.

The Government’s intention is to have new structures, including the appointment of a new Garda Commissioner by open competition and the establishment of a new independent policing authority, in place later this year.

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