Department of Justice review over whistleblower emails deferred

A review of the Department of Justice following the Garda whistleblower email scandal will not take place before the end of the year despite a previous pledge by the Taoiseach.

The Government said a barrister has been chosen to look into why the department failed to forward emails concerning Sgt Maurice McCabe to a tribunal. The fiasco, which showed the department and officials knew about a Garda strategy to discredit Sgt McCabe, resulted recently in the resignation of then tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald.

A snap general election was nearly triggered as a result of the scandal.

The Government has agreed that senior counsel Michael Collins will conduct “an independent review of the practices and procedures employed by the Department of Justice and Equality in response to requests for documents from the Disclosures Tribunal”.

However, Mr Varadkar also confirmed yesterday that this review will not be completed before Christmas despite an initial commitment that this would happen. However, Mr Varadkar has asked that it be completed by January 19.

Terms announced for the review include an assessment of the department’s explanations, by December 21, on how it responded to the tribunal’s requests for documents. Crucially, the review will look at why three emails central to Ms Fitzgerald’s resignation, were not passed on to the tribunal. The emails are dated May 15, 25 and July 4, 2015.

The terms also state that the “reviewer shall be given all necessary co-operation by the department, including access to documents, records and other relevant materials”. The terms say Mr Collins may advise on what further measures, if any, might be taken to address concerns after his work is done.

Elsewhere, Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams has warned that homelessness numbers are at emergency levels, with more than 8,000 people without a home. He said the freezing temperatures are a reminder of the plight of the homeless and that eight people have died on the streets since August.

Mr Varadkar said he has in recent days met rough sleepers on the streets and visited hubs for the homeless. He said 200 extra emergency beds are being made available over the coming weeks during the cold weather. There have been a number of vacant beds on Sunday for services, which shows there is “adequate capacity” to cope with demands, he said.

“We need to do everything we can to reduce it, and eliminate it if possible, in the months and years ahead. In the past week or two I visited a family hub to meet some of the homeless families who live there and I met some rough sleepers to try to understand a bit better their experience and what they face,” he told the Dáil.

Meanwhile, Mr Varadkar also said he does not want to a see an RTÉ orchestra lost or two merged. The national broadcaster is reviewing the future of the national symphony orchestra and its concert orchestra. Fianna Fáil’s Micheál Martin said money should be ringfenced so that both are retained.

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