By Fiachra Ó Cionnaith
Department of Justice secretary general Noel Waters has retired with immediate effect and brought forward his planned departure from February 2018 today "entirely of my own volition" amid the McCabe e-mails scandal fallout.
Mr Waters - who told Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan of his initial February retirement two weeks ago during a phone call in which he also revealed the May 15, 2015, McCabe e-mail - told colleagues of the move in an e-mail to Department of Justice staff this evening after a barrage of criticism from Taoiseach Leo Varadkar over his department.
In the leaked internal e-mail, which has been confirmed by a spokesperson for the Department, Mr Waters hit out at the public admonishment of his department due to the Maurice McCabe e-mail affair.
The message - which was sent just hours after Mr Varadkar described the Department as "dysfunctional" and announced an external review to uncover why the Department failed to send the Monday night e-mails to the Charleton tribunal months ago - reads:
"This is a particularly difficult time for the Department of Justice and Equality and I have no doubt that you are trying to understand and make sense of the issues that are the subject of public discourse.
"The Department has 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.
"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.
"The Department makes an important contribution to Irish society, a contribution that more often than not 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.
"Please do not lose sight of your contribution to public service and continue to give of your best.
"As an organisation we are committed to making the necessary changes in the way we do our work. I firmly believe we are making significant progress on that score.
"We remain committed to living the values in our culture charter and I know you will all continue to work to further embed those values across the Department.
"As you will all recall I indicated earlier this month that I would be retiring in February of next year. I have now decided to bring forward my departure to today.
"I am doing this entirely of my own volition," he said.