Department of Justice official denies ‘see no evil’ policy on Templemore

Secretary General of Department of Justice said it was not aware of ‘red flags’ at college

The secretary general of the Department of Justice has denied it operated a "hear no evil, see no evil" approach to controversial financial practices in the Templemore Garda training college.

Addressing a late evening session of the Public Account Committee (PAC) on Tuesday which is investigating the issue, Noel Waters said there was no record of his department having being made aware of the issues at the college over the decades.

Fianna Fáil TD Bobby Aylward put it to the secretary general that this was “unbelievable.” Mr Waters replied that it was “unfortunate but it was true.” He denied the department operated a “hear no evil, see no evil” policy.

He said the department was aware of the funding model of Templemore over the years which saw private money from the college’s facilities being mixed in with public funds and a profit being turned at the college.


He agreed with Independents4Change TD Catherine Connolly that the model had "the blessing" of the Department of Justice but said that the department was not aware of the "red flags" at the college.

He said the department only became aware of these red flags in September 2015.

Ms Connolly said that “even by the standards of the time” the funding model of Templemore over the decades and the mixture of public and private money were not appropriate.

Mr Waters said this was a grey area that requires clarification.

“If it’s a grey area for the Department of Justice perhaps we’re being too hard on the guards,” Ms Connolly said.

Labour TD Alan Kelly asked Mr Waters if he believed Garda Commissioner Noreen O'Sullivan should have informed him sooner about issues at the college. The Commissioner said she became aware of issues in July 2015 but the department was not informed until September.

“If there was evidence of fraud, theft or criminality she should have informed us sooner,” Mr Waters said.

Mr Kelly replied: “So you don’t think she should have informed you quicker. That is incredible.”

The chair of the Policing Authority, Josephine Feehily, told the PAC she was "disappointed" with the financial controls in place in An Garda Síochána and that this disappointment would turn to "alarm" if these matters are not addressed soon.

Ms Feehily also expressed concern about the language in a letter sent by the Garda’s director of finance Michael Culhane to the Department of Justice in July 2010 which referenced attempts to “muddying the waters” for the Revenue Commissioners.

The letter talked about seeking to “muddy the waters” by using charitable status in its dealings with Revenue.

“I think it is fair to say it would be of concern. I spoke about the importance of openness and transparency. In the context of my current role, one would wonder about this type of language,” Ms Feehily said.

Ms Feehily, who was previously Chair of the Revenue Commissioners, said the Policing Authority will be seeking full reports on Templemore’s dealing with Revenue. She said she also imagines her successor in Revenue will be aware of the letter by Wednesday morning.

The hearings of the PAC on the Templemore issue have now concluded and the committee expect to prepare a report by September.

Conor Gallagher

Conor Gallagher

Conor Gallagher is Crime and Security Correspondent of The Irish Times