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"It’s very easy to have an establishment view." Minister wants open competition for top Garda job

Frances Fitzgerald also says she will “take lessons” from the criticisms of her predecessor Alan Shatter.

Source: Video TheJournal.ie/YouTube

MINISTER FOR JUSTICE Frances Fitzgerald says that the next Garda Commisioner should come following an “open and transparent” competition and that ‘nobody should be precluded’ from the competition.

Speaking to the media after meeting with acting Commissioner Noirín O’Sullivan, Fitzgerald also pledged to “take lessons” from the findings in the Guerin report that the Department of Justice hadn’t acted independently enough in its dealings with An Garda Síochána.

The minister said that in her discussions O’Sullivan there was agreement that here needed to be a “sea change” in the force, with the minster adding that some of these changes needed to come “immediately”.

“The report further raises fundamental questions about the treatment and response to victims of crime which must be addressed as a matter of priority,” she added.

Despite signalling her “full support” in O’Sullivan’s pledge to introduce changes, Fitzgerald said that nobody should be excluded from applying for the permanent position:

What we need is that the next Garda Commisioner should be in place following an open competition and may the best person emerge, he or she. That’s the reality, I don’t think anyone should be precluded from that competition  but, it should be an open and transparent competition.

Fitzgerald added that she discussed with O’Sulliavan the continued exclusion of Garda whistleblower Maurice McCabe from the PULSE system, adding that the restoration of the facility to the Sergeant is an operational matter. She said that she expects An Garda Síochána to make a statement on this matter in the coming days.

The minster, who only took over her brief in Justice yesterday following the resignation of Alan Shatter, said that there needs to be more clarity and support for whistleblowers like McCabe.

“People who make complaints must be dealt with in a supportive fashion and I think the roadmap needs to very clear,” she told reporters outside Government buildings. “I don’t think that’s been made strong enough. The roadmap has to very clear to members of the force and be supportive at a management level. So change is needed.”

Department of Justice

The report of Sean Guerin SC was also critical of the role of the Department of Justice, pointing in particular to a lack of written notes on advice given to her predecessor by his senior civil servants.

Asked whether she regretted offering her support to Shatter prior to his resignation, Fitzgerald said that his decision to step came as a result of “new information” in the Guerin report.

Guerin report. Minister for Justice, F Frances Fitzgerald speaks to reporters outside Government Buildings. Source: Laura Hutton/Photocall Ireland

She said that the Government was of course aware of problems relating to whistleblowers, but that what is contained in the Guerin report represented a “different quantum”:

“I don’t think today is the day to comment on the question in relation to Alan Shatter,” she said. “But what I will say is that Alan Shatter was a reforming Minister and new information has emerged in this report and clearly he made a decision himself on the basis of this report that he would offer his resignation.”

The relationship between the Department and senior gardaí does however have to be looked at:

Obviously in terms of the relationship with An Garda Síochána, the Minister for Justice has a key role to play, its a reporting relationship. Its an important relationship. Obviously what’s very key in Sean Guerin’s report is that having that “third-eye” in response to issues that are reported is very important.

“It’s very easy to have an establishment view, it’s very easy when a whole range of cases have been dealt with by a variety of agencies and have presented reviews to you,” she added.

In reference to whether or not she retains confidence in the Secretary General of her Department Brian Purcell, Fitzgerald refused to give him here outright backing. She said that she has held an “initial briefing ” with him but “there are a number of issues raised about the report which I have not yet had a chance to discuss.”

Breaking down the Guerin report: The complaints, the cases, the mistakes>

Explainer: What is the Guerin report and why was it needed?

Read: Garda whistleblower ‘vindicated’ by Guerin report >

Read: A young female Garda was sexually harassed at Bailieboro – but a Superintendent ‘refused’ to deal with it >

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Rónán Duffy

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