De­part­ing Jus­tice boss makes an un­prece­dented at­tack on Taoiseach

Irish Independent - - News Justice In Crisis - Shane Phe­lan

THE de­part­ing sec­re­tary gen­eral of the De­part­ment of Jus­tice fired a part­ing shot at TDs and the me­dia as he re­tired yes­ter­day with im­me­di­ate ef­fect.

Noel Wa­ters’s de­fi­ant email to col­leagues no­tably came within hours of Taoiseach Leo Varad­kar mak­ing a speech in which he de­scribed the de­part­ment as “dys­func­tional”.

Mr Wa­ters (pic­tured, in­set) claimed much of the crit­i­cism voiced in the Dáil and the press had been “un­war­ranted” and that he ex­pected the de­part­ment to be vin­di­cated by an ex­ter­nal in­quiry.

He had been due to re­tire in Fe­bru­ary, but on the same day as Tá­naiste Frances Fitzger­ald an­nounced her res­ig­na­tion, he told col­leagues at the de­part­ment he would in­stead be re­tir­ing with im­me­di­ate ef­fect.

His de­ci­sion came af­ter much crit­i­cism of the de­part­ment’s fail­ure to dis­close emails to the Charleton Tri­bunal when it sought in­for­ma­tion ear­lier this year.

Mr Varad­kar an­nounced he was or­der­ing an ex­ter­nal in­quiry into why im­por­tant emails “were not found and there­fore not sent on” to the tri­bunal. This in­quiry will re­port be­fore Christ­mas.

If the emails were de­lib­er­ately with­held from the tri­bunal, some­thing the de­part­ment de­nies, it would amount to a crim­i­nal of­fence.

The emails re­vealed Ms Fitzger­ald had been told about the “ag­gres­sive stance” then-Garda com­mis­sioner Nóirín O’Sullivan’s le­gal team was tak­ing against Sergeant Mau­rice McCabe at the O’Hig­gins Com­mis­sion.


Mr Varad­kar also said the Gov­ern­ment was ac­cel­er­at­ing re­forms al­ready in train, and was plan­ning “rad­i­cal ac­tion to re­store pub­lic con­fi­dence in the De­part­ment of Jus­tice”.

But in his let­ter to col­leagues, Mr Wa­ters claimed the de­part­ment had been sub­ject to “a bar­rage of un­war­ranted crit­i­cism in re­cent days and most par­tic­u­larly to­day”.

“I want to as­sure you that, in so far as is hu­manly pos­si­ble, this de­part­ment has sought at all times to act ap­pro­pri­ately, up­hold­ing the law and the in­sti­tu­tions of the State,” he said.

“Many of the claims about how the de­part­ment has acted that have been made in the me­dia and in the Dáil are not true, and I am con­fi­dent that the pro­cesses that the Taoiseach has an­nounced will show that to be the case.”

Mr Wa­ters told col­leagues that al­though he had in­di­cated ear­lier this month he in­tended to re­tire in Fe­bru­ary, he was now bring­ing for­ward his de­par­ture.

“I am do­ing this en­tirely of my own vo­li­tion,” he wrote in the let­ter.

He told col­leagues that the de­part­ment makes an im­por­tant con­tri­bu­tion to Ir­ish so­ci­ety, much of which goes unseen and un­no­ticed.

“It is im­por­tant, how­ever, that all of you know that your ded­i­ca­tion and hard work is val­ued and that your in­di­vid­ual and team ef­forts in the dif­fer­ent parts of our organisation are mean­ing­ful and im­por­tant,” he said.

“Please do not lose sight of your con­tri­bu­tion to pub­lic ser­vice and con­tinue to give of your best.”

Mr Wa­ters was ap­pointed in Oc­to­ber last year, hav­ing been act­ing sec­re­tary gen­eral since 2014. He ini­tially filled the role on a care­taker ba­sis when his pre­de­ces­sor Brian Pur­cell stepped aside fol­low­ing a series of con­tro­ver­sies.

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