Taoiseach defends decision not to publicly advertise top justice job

Leo Varadkar says gardaí may have to do anti-social rosters as crime figures rise again

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has defended the Government's decision not to publicly advertise the position of secretary general vacancy in the Department of Justice.

His comments follow confirmation of the appointment of Aidan O’Driscoll, currently secretary general of the Department of Agriculture, as the new top civil servant in the Department of Justice.

Mr Varadkar said there is “no requirement that all secretary general positions be open to public competition”.

Mr Varadkar said the Government believed that it was important that the appointee “had the experience of being the secretary general of a department”.


He said “it is effectively a promotion” and involved someone moving from “in important but relatively small department to being a secretary general in a much more challenging and complex department”.

Independent TD Tommy Broughan had expressed concern that there was no public competition.

“Everybody believes most jobs in Government should be filled by public competition. Why was there no competition in this case?”

He said Mr O’Driscoll “has a fine track record but we would have expected a public competition”.

The job in one of the State’s key and most troubled departments, was advertised in 2015 and the competition was run by the Public Appointments Commission, following the departure of Brian Purcell.

None of the candidates was considered suitable. Noel Watters, then an assistant general secretary, became acting chief civil servant of the department from October 2014 and then took the job on permanently in October 2016.

He stood aside a year later in the crisis over the department’s failure to send documentation to the Charleton tribunal.

Mr Broughan also raised concerns about the “disturbing” CSO report on recorded crime in the year to the end of March, which showed a general significant increase in crime across nearly all categories.

Sexual offences rose by almost 15 per cent to over 3,000 while murder threats, assault and harassment crimes were up 14 per cent to over 19,000 crimes. Robbery, extortion and hijacking increased by 16 per cent while theft and related offences were up 8 per cent to almost 70,000 crimes.

Mr Broughan said there needed to be an increased visible Garda presence on the ground.

The Taoiseach agreed and that was why they increased recruitment with 600 more gardai now than two years ago and they needed civilianisation of jobs.

But he warned that they had to change rostering of gardai who are “often not rostered when they are needed”.

The Taoiseach added that “that may mean asking people to do rosters that they consider to be anti-social”.

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran is Parliamentary Correspondent of The Irish Times