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Taoiseach Has Career Defining Decision To Make On Justice Questions

13 November 2017

Statement by Alan Kelly TD
Spokesperson on Health

Commenting on the statement by the Minister for Justice on the Charleton Tribunal, Deputy Alan Kelly has said the Taoiseach needs to do the right thing regarding unanswered questions from the Department of Justice.

Deputy Kelly said:

"The statement by the Department of Justice this evening is deeply worrying and an affront to the democratic institutions of our state.

"Minister Flanagan has once again failed to answer the series of questions that I have put to him. Yet again he has refused to give a straight answer to my question whether or not the Department of Justice were aware of the legal strategy adopted by former Commissioner O'Sullivan at the O'Higgins Commission? Its a very simple question. If the Department did not know, just say so. There is no need to hide behind the Charelton Tribunal as it wouldn't be part of it. So, what is Minister Flanagan hiding from?

"I have been asking numerous questions regarding this issue for weeks now and I will be asking more. I am being completely blocked in my attempts to get answers by this Government in the form of the Department of Justice. I have written to the Taoiseach and Minister Flanagan on the matter but to no avail. The Ceann Comhairle has today informed me that under Standing Order 40A he will be launching an investigation into why the Department of Justice are behaving in this manner.

"There is however another very noteworthy aspect to Minister Flanagan's botched statement.

"The statement completely disregards the legal relationship between the Minister of the day and the Commissioner of the day, as set down in the Garda Síochána Act 2005. Under section 26 (3) of that Act: “The Garda Commissioner is accountable to the Minister for the performance of the Commissioner’s functions and those of the Garda Síochána”. A statutory relationship of accountability requires as a very minimum that there be a giving of an account – that the Commissioner is legally obliged to account to the Minister for the performance of her functions.

"That is all I am seeking to ascertain in the series of questions I have asked – and which Minister Flanagan refuses to answer.

"What I want to know is if, in the discharge of her statutory duty to account to the Minister, the Garda Commissioner gave the Department any notice of the legal strategy she had authorised at O’Higgins. And I am asking this question as a TD – a member of the elected body to which Minister Charlie Flanagan in turn owes his constitutional duty of accountability.

"I do not need any childish lectures from the Minister about the Charleton Tribunal and its terms of reference, or about my responsibilities.

"What the public and I are entitled to is some appreciation by the Minister, his colleagues in Government and the Taoiseach of their responsibilities – that they are duty bound to reply truthfully and comprehensively to the Dáil when valid Dáil questions are asked of them. The Dáil doesn't close down just because we have a Tribunal in place. The constitution is still in place. Ministers are still accountable. The Ceann Comhairle has adjudicated that my questions are fully in order so Minister Flanagan is required to answer them in full and truthfully. He cannot decide because the political consequences would be catastrophic for this Government that he can avoid them or ignore them. 

"The Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has a career defining decision to make now. Is he going to as Taoiseach uphold the constitution and respect the democratic institutions of this state by ensuring that the Department of Justice answers all my questions in full. If he doesn't, this issue will follow him. It will not go away.

"The Taoiseach quite rightly once described Sargent Maurice McCabe as 'distinguished'. It had consequences, but I believe he did the right thing. He needs to do the right thing now."