Brian Purcell is unlikely to be given a position in any State organisations with responsibility for justice and security matters after he steps aside as secretary general of the Department of Justice.
Mr Purcell decided this week to leave his post following a hard-hitting report which found a “closed, secretive, silo-driven culture” at the department with “significant leadership and management problems”.
The Government agreed to his request to be reassigned in the public sector and Minister for Health Leo Varadkar yesterday suggested there might be a contractual obligation to maintain his current €200,000 salary level in whatever role he takes up.
In an email to the Department of Justice staff this week, Mr Purcell said he would remain as secretary general until a new person took over.
Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald said the position would be filled through open competition, but sources yesterday said Mr Purcell's successor was unlikely to be in situ until the end of the year and that he would move as soon as a new position was found for him.
New Garda commissioner
Coalition sources also said Mr Purcell was likely to be moved from the justice and security sector entirely, and would not be given a post with the 33 agencies under the Department of Justice’s remit.
Ms Fitzgerald yesterday announced the start of the open recruitment process to fill the position of Garda commissioner, now held by Nóirín O’Sullivan on an interim basis.
The new, permanent commissioner will also be appointed by the end of the year.
Ms Fitzgerald said the Public Appointments Service started the process yesterday “by seeking proposals from executive search firms to conduct a global executive search campaign to supplement an advertised recruitment process”.
Speaking separately on the Pat Kenny show on Newstalk radio yesterday, Ms Fitzgerald said she did not ask Mr Purcell to resign. “I didn’t ask him to stay, I didn’t ask him to go. I asked for his view on the report,” she said.
“I didn’t ask him to move on. I wanted him to consider the report. He got the report, he came to me and he felt that in the interests of the department, himself, my job as Minister, he felt to stay on, given all the recent events, would be a distraction.”
Mr Varadkar was asked about Mr Purcell maintaining his salary of some €200,000 despite leaving his role. “I imagine Mr Purcell has contractual rights and so on and it may relate to that, but really it’s a matter for Minister Fitzgerald to comment on rather than me,” Mr Varadkar said. He had not yet had a chance to read the report, he added.
Mr Varadkar said he did not think it necessary for Taoiseach Enda Kenny to outline what happened on the night Mr Purcell went to see then Garda commissioner Martin Callinan in March.
Mr Kenny received information on phone tapping and sent Mr Purcell to Mr Callinan’s home the evening before the commissioner announced his departure from the force. “We have a commission for investigation under Justice Fennelly, Mr Varadkar said. “He should be allowed to do his work.”
Ms Fitzgerald said Mr Callinan was not fired by Mr Kenny.