Gambling is one area new Junior Minister intends to look at
Newly appointed Junior Minister, James Browne TD, said he was overwhelmed by the level of support he received from people all across county Wexford when the news emerged that he was being appointed Minister of State at the Department of Justice, by Taoiseach, Micheál Martin.
Speaking to this newspaper Minister Browne said he got the phone call at 9 a.m. on Wednesday and was asked to travel to Dublin.
'There was talk that I was going to get the appointment but I didn't want to think too much about it,' said Min Browne.
'I suppose it was a bit like the Wexford team I was travelling to Dublin more in hope than expectation,' he quipped.
He was meant to be in Rosslare Strand for the visit of his parliamentary colleague, Minister Patrick O'Donovan and the announcement of a new multi-million euro flood and coastal protection project for the strand.
'I gave my apologies that I wouldn't be there and I think a few people put two-and-two together as to why I had to go to Dublin,' he said.
'I rang and said I had to go to Dublin for a personal matter,' he added.
Min Browne also said the appointment represented something of a groundhog day moment for him as appointments had been made just a few weeks ago and at the time he hoped he might get a position.
'It was a little bit of a groundhog day moment,' he said.
With responsibility for law reform his appointment is something he is very comfortable with given his legal background.
'It plays to my strengths and it's something I know about so it won't take me six months to get up to speed with the issues,' he said.
Admitting that it took a while for the appointment to sink in he said he is looking forward to the challenge ahead and in particular working alongside the Minister for Justice, Helen McEntee TD.
One of the most senior departments in Government the Justice department has responsibility for the courts system, coroners' courts and the gardai.
'There is a lot of reform that can be done and I'm looking forward to it,' said Min Browne.
While areas like policing and the gardai will not come under his remit to begin with Min Browne is hoping that he will get a chance to focus on gambling which he feels is one area that is need of massive reform.
'A lot of the garda reform issues actually comes under the Department of Finance,' he said.
'If you are unfortunate enough to be knocked down by a garda car it's the Department of Finance you would sue rather than the Department of Justice,' he added.
When asked if there is a particular area that he would like to play a very active role in he said gambling reform.
'I think gambling is an area that is in need of massive reform,' he said.
'It's something that has caused huge problems and devastation for many families out there,' he added.
He highlighted the fact that the effects of other addictions such as drugs and alcohol are visible whereas the effects of gambling can remain hidden until it's too late.
'If you have an alcohol problem you can see it but very often if people have a gambling addiction by the time you know they have it [an addiction] they might have already lost their house or amassed massive debts,' said Min Browne.
He highlighted the point that gambling addiction is something that affects people from all walks of life.
'There have been many very good people who were affected by it,' he said.
He said his new role will change things for him in some ways within the Dáil.
'When you're a minister you are part of the Government so it's not the same as when you're on the benches because you can talk about whatever you like there,' he said.
'It's a little bit more constrained when you're part of the Government,' he added.
While he might not be in a position to have direct influence on reforming it Min Browne said the court system in Ireland can be very slow to access.
'I would like to see things happen faster in courts and see the overall system speeding up,' he said.
However, he also highlighted that it's a resourcing issue so it's not something that can be addressed easily.
'In other countries people are dealt with quite quickly and I would like to see that develop here as well,' he said.
Up to now he was the Fianna Fáil spokesperson on mental health and it's an area that he plans to continue focusing attention on.
'I think the two areas [justice and mental health] can be linked and there are issues with mental health that can be done within the justice department,' he said.
He highlighted Minister McEntee's interest in mental health and said he is looking forward to working with her on developing ideas within that area.
'There are some things that we can do from within the Department of Justice,' he said.
'The gardai are looking for greater supports and I think there are areas in there where we could develop ways of providing support to deal with mental health issues,' he added.
He also said there are a lot of mental health issues within the prison system.
While looking forward to the challenges of his new role Min Browne is very grateful of the support he has received from his family, friends and supporters and was quick to point out that without a loyal team behind him his career in politics since first being elected to Wexford County Council in 2009 would not have been possible.