Belfast Telegraph

Crisis-hit department of justice to be split in two, says Varadkar

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said reform of the department of justice would go ahead next year
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said reform of the department of justice would go ahead next year

The scandal hit department of justice is to be split into two, but will remain under one minister, the Taoiseach has said.

Leo Varadkar said that rather than split the department into two separate departments, there will be an internal division, with one Secretary General and two deputy Secretaries General of the two wings.

The Fine Gael leader said it is his intention to proceed with the reform in 2018.

The radical break up of the department was proposed amid the resignation of former Justice Minister and Tanaiste Frances Fitzgerald over her handling of a police whistleblowing scandal. Her resignation in November pulled the country back from the brink of a snap election.

Mr Varadkar said the government could split the department into two fully separate departments at a later date - similar to the UK where there is a Department of Justice and a Department of Home Affairs.

He pointed out however that such a move was not recommended in the 2014 Toland Report, which reviewed the functionality of the department.

"We have the slight complication in Ireland that we have a Constitution which only allows us have 15 senior Cabinet ministers. So every time you create a new government department you have to abolish one and I am not yet sure which department people we would axe as they all do very important work," he added.

The Taoiseach admitted to being concerned about the crisis-hit department, but insisted that a lot of good people work there.

"I can't not have concerns given that all that has happened in the past couple of years. But I want to be clear however, that I absolutely acknowledge there are lots of really good people working in the department of justice.

"I would just mention the domestic violence bill and the enormous good work that has gone into that," he said.

Mr Varadkar said that reform is ongoing and that part of the reason why some revelations have emerged in relation to the Gardai, is because of reforms.

"When you are reforming something, part of the process is people lifting up mats and looking under rugs and sometimes you see things you don't want to see and you have to deal with them and we are going to deal with them," he added.


From Belfast Telegraph