McDowell criticised for failing to mention Curtin nomination

Thu, Jun 17, 2004, 01:00

Fine Gael has attacked the Minister for Justice, Mr McDowell, after he failed to mention the nomination of Judge Brian Curtin to the Garda Complaints Appeals Board in a reply to a parliamentary question.

The Circuit Court judge is the subject of Oireachtas proceedings to remove him from the bench following his acquittal on charges of possessing child pornography.

It emerged yesterday in a separate parliamentary question reply that Mr Curtin was nominated to the Garda panel by the then minister for justice, Mr John O'Donoghue, in May 2001, six months before his appointment to the bench.

The panel is made of up of individuals who may be appointed by the Garda Commission to chair individual disciplinary appeal cases. The judge was never made chairman of such a board, and his membership of the panel ceased when he became a judge.

However, such information was omitted from an earlier reply from Mr McDowell, which cited Mr O'Donoghue's appointment of Mr Curtin to the Refugee Appeals Tribunal in August 2001.

In the question, Fine Gael's justice spokesman, Mr Jim O'Keeffe, had asked whether Judge Curtin had ever been appointed as a member of a State agency, board, committee or other similar post.

The latest information followed a fresh parliamentary question from Mr O'Keeffe in which he asked whether the judge had been appointed to the Garda Complaints Appeal Board.

In a letter last Friday to Mr O'Keeffe, Mr McDowell attributed the original reply to an "oversight" by his Department. He said he would have referred in his original reply to Mr Curtin's nomination to the Garda panel if he had been aware of it.

However, the Fine Gael leader, Mr Enda Kenny, said Mr McDowell had misled the Dáil, and had failed to apologise.

"It has been a noticeable trend in recent years that Ministers have become arrogant about their parliamentary responsibilities, and the principle of providing full and complete answers to questions," said Mr Kenny.

This was rejected by a spokesman for Mr McDowell, who said "the Minister was pro-active in correcting the record as soon as the new information had emerged".