Justice Department head may face questions from Dáil committee

Oireachtas committee wants Brian Purcell to answer questions about Guerin report on whistleblower claims

Brian Purcell: the secretary general of the Department of Justice may appear before an Oireachtas Committee to address criticisms of his department’s response to allegations made by Sgt Maurice McCabe. Photograph: Frank Miller.

Brian Purcell: the secretary general of the Department of Justice may appear before an Oireachtas Committee to address criticisms of his department’s response to allegations made by Sgt Maurice McCabe. Photograph: Frank Miller.

 


An Oireachtas committee has requested that secretary general of the Department of Justice Brian Purcell appear before it on Thursday.

It wants Mr Purcell to address significant criticisms of his department’s response to allegations made by a Garda whistleblower.

The all-party Committee on Justice has written to Mr Purcell inviting him to discuss the report of senior counsel Seán Guerin on the manner in which the relevant authorities, including the Department of Justice, dealt with a dossier of 10 cases of alleged Garda malpractice or incompetence compiled by Garda whistleblower Sgt Maurice McCabe.


Criticised
The report severely criticised the way former minister Alan Shatter and his department addressed the complaints, stating the response of senior gardaí­ was accepted “without question”. Mr Shatter resigned on foot of the report’s findings and there have been increasing questions about Mr Purcell’s position since the report’s publication on Friday.

The pressure on the top official in the department has intensified after Minister for Transport Leo Varadkar described the department as “not fit for purpose”.

New Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald declined to answer questions inviting her to express full confidence in Mr Purcell last Friday. Government officials explained she was hardly a day in her new position and could not be expected to reach such conclusions.

Mr Purcell is expected to respond today to the invitation to appear before the committee.

Sinn Féin justice spokesman Pádraig Mac Lochlainn, a member of the committee, told The Irish Times last night he thought Mr Purcell’s position was in “serious question”.

Mr Mac Lochlainn said: “We are hopeful that he will do the right thing and appear before us. As the most senior civil servant in the justice department, he needs to answer questions and clear up serious matters raised in the Guerin report. This too is a matter of national importance.”


Cabinet briefing
Ms Fitzgerald will brief Cabinet colleagues this morning on her initial assessment of the report, the issues it raises, as well as other issues affecting her department, the Garda and the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission. She is expected to outline five priority actions, including an open recruitment for the next Garda commissioner, more powers for the ombudsman, the setting up of a Garda authority, the establishment of a commission of investigation, as well as a review of her own department.

Separately, another Garda whistleblower is expected to come forward this week with a claim that colleagues told him he had made “a fatal mistake” by arresting and charging a member of the force for drink driving.

The man, a serving garda, is alleging that he came under pressure from within the force and was treated as a pariah by his colleagues after the arrest.

The report on the inquiry conducted by Mr Justice John Cooke into three suspicious breaches of security at the ombudsman headquarters may also be given to Government by the end of this week.