Republic’s new justice minister vows to listen to whistleblowers

Frances Fitzgerald who has been appointed the new Irish Justice Minister
Frances Fitzgerald who has been appointed the new Irish Justice Minister

The Republic of Ireland’s new justice minister has vowed to listen to whistleblowers and critics as she declared a new era and culture of policing has begun.

Frances Fitzgerald was handed the job after the shock resignation of a party colleague who was found to have inadequately handled allegations of corruption and malpractice in the Garda.

The former social worker and mother-of-three, promoted after three years as Children’s Minister, said the attitudes and actions that led to recent crises of confidence in policing have to be changed.

Ms Fitzgerald took up her new role on the eve of the publication of a devastating report which forced Alan Shatter to resign. The 300-page document, compiled by senior counsel Sean Guerin, has uncovered damning failures in the way the Department of Justice handled allegations of malpractice, negligence, corruption and falsification of records by officers. Twelve complaints were first sent to Mr Shatter more than two years ago.

Ms Fitzgerald said one of her first tasks as Justice Minister will be to open consultation on the make-up of an independent Garda authority to work alongside the Garda Ombudsman and Garda Inspectorate in providing oversight of the Garda.

“I recognise there’s a very large amount of work to be done in the department, a huge range of challenges that must be met,” she said.

Mr Shatter was forced to stand down weeks after the Garda chief Martin Callinan stunned the country with his resignation amid a storm of controversies involving his force.

The Guerin report to be published today into the handling of complaints is expected to shine a light on the inaction in the Department of Justice and the Garda which played a part in both men’s downfall.