Department of Justice report sees top civil servant assigned to other duties

Brian Purcell. Pic: Sam Boal

The top civil servant at the Department of Justice is to step down after the publication of a damning report into the running of the Department.

Brian Purcell will be assigned to other duties within the public service, after the expert panel report found a litany of internal problems with how the Department is run.

It found that the Department had several major failings, and did not genuinely hold outside agencies to account.

Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald received the report two weeks ago, but denied that she has been trying to suppress it.

"I have to give this report careful consideration," she said.

"I think as you can see from the series of decisions taken by Cabinet today, I have given this very serious considerations, so it's a question of legal advice and due process.

"I think due process is extremely important when you're dealing with the range if issues involved in this report."

In one of its most defining remarks, the review attacked government for the manner in which An Garda Siochana was reformed on the back of the Morris tribunal into corruption in the force.

It said the 2005 Garda Siochana Act was introduced in direct response to the tribunal’s findings that the force was “losing its character as a disciplined force”.

But it said the reforms have been diluted in implementation and the full potential has not been realised.

It found the department stepped back from the opportunity to exercise the necessary power and influence at its disposal to encourage improvements in management and discipline.

And it said more could have been done to review the reforms five years down the line.

Ms Fitzgerald expressed confidence in the civil servants in her department and said the issues were bigger than one person.

The review found additional pressure and increased work on staff and constraints on replacing senior civil servants but it praised the expertise and dedication of the employees.

The review issued several recommendations including a change in the leadership and management routines, systems and practices to underpin both the performance of the Department and key agencies.

It also called for commitment to additional skilled and specialised resources and training and a structured approach to how agencies and key relationships are managed to hold them more accountable.

“While the recommendations in this report are challenging, the evident capability and commitment of staff within the Department engenders full confidence that these recommendations can be quickly and professionally implemented,” it found.

Padraig MacLochlainn, Sinn Féin justice spokesman, said one controversy is absent from the review - the outgoing secretary general's role in the resignation of Mr Callinan.

“The report unfortunately doesn’t clarify what happened on the now infamous night where the then secretary general Brian Purcell was dispatched by his political masters to the house of former Garda commissioner Martin Callinan which clearly led to his resignation the next morning,” he said.

“So what we have had since then is a situation where the minister himself and the secretary general have had to move aside.

“We need the Taoiseach to urgently clarify what the message delivered was that night. We want answers.”

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