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Minister Fitzgerald publishes Report of the Independent Review Group on the Department of Justice & Equality

  • Minister commits to implementing a comprehensive 'Programme of Change'
  • "Hard-hitting" report highlights staff strengths, commitment and capabilities; but reveals serious management failures
  • New Secretary General to the Department of Justice and Equality to be recruited through open competition
  • Minister says Department must become a 21st century organisation to meet 21st century challenges

Frances Fitzgerald TD, Minister for Justice and Equality, has today published, in full, the Report of the Independent Review Group on the Department of Justice and Equality.

The Minister is committed to implementing a comprehensive 'Programme of Change' in the Department as outlined in the report’s recommendations, including strengthening the leadership and management practice in the Department, including the role of the management advisory committee (MAC) and the oversight of external agencies; as well as improving key functions such as internal communications, risk management and audit.

Minister Fitzgerald noted the decision today by Cabinet to proceed with the open recruitment of a new Secretary General to the Department of Justice & Equality. The Minister said that “the newly-appointed Secretary General will play a pivotal role in managing and embedding the recommendations of the Report in the workings of the Department.”

Following consideration of the Report, Mr. Brian Purcell has offered, in the best interests of the Department, to be reassigned to other duties in the public service. The Minister thanked Mr. Purcell for his contribution to the State including his service to the Department of Social Protection and his 23 years service in the Department of Justice and Equality, including as Director-General of the Irish Prison Service and most recently in his role as Secretary General of the Department of Justice and Equality.

The Review Group, chaired by Mr. Kevin Toland, was established on 3rd June 2014 following a decision of Government. The Toland Review Group was asked to examine the performance, administration and management of the Department and to make recommendations to the Minister. The Review Group interviewed all members of the Department’s senior management team along with a range of other relevant parties.

The Minister thanked the Review Group for their time and effort in preparing the Report.

Minister Fitzgerald stated: “Given the significant recent disquiet over the administration and oversight of justice in this State, I believe this Report represents another important step in this Government’s justice reform programme. Ensuring an effective Department of Justice is essential to ensuring the full delivery of broader reforms to policing and justice in Ireland.”

Minister Fitzgerald has described the key findings of the report as "serious and hard-hitting."

The Report notes that a number of core strengths are “very evident in the Department and these provide robust foundations and building blocks that will ensure a strong future for the Department”. These core strengths include the “willingness, flexibility and can-do attitude of many of its loyal staff” as well as “the significant depth of specialist knowledge and experience in the Department”.

The Minister acknowledges the report’s finding that “the evident capability and commitment of staff…. engenders full confidence…. that (reforms) can be quickly and professionally implemented.”

However the report finds fault with leadership, management and oversight systems referring particularly to the existence of “a closed secretive and silo driven culture”, “significant leadership and management problems” and “ineffective management processes and structures to provide strong strategic oversight of the key agencies”.

The Report found that the Department had developed a ‘deferential relationship with An Garda Síochána”. In response, the Minister stated that “the planned establishment of a new Independent Policing Authority will assist in providing a valuable additional layer of transparency and public accountability between the Department and Gardai.”

The Report concluded that “the overall Departmental culture has not changed or adapted to the world in which it now operates.”

Minister Fitzgerald stated: “The Department of Justice and Equality must become a 21st century organisation to meet 21st century challenges.”

“Leadership and management practices in place in the Department must equally be transformed to provide an effective workforce setting in which all staff can achieve their best.”

The Minister noted the Review Group’s report was constructive in its criticism. The Minister said: "While the findings of this Report are challenging, the Report is also highly constructive in that it maps-out, though its extensive recommendations, the pathways forward for the Department.”

“This will require work and change at many different levels; and the contribution of many players, most importantly of the dedicated staff of the Department who I look forward to working with in responding to this report.”

The report is available at



Independent Review Group

On 3rd June 2014 the Government approved the proposal of the Minister for Justice & Equality to establish the Independent Review Group on the Department of Justice & Equality.

The Group was asked to undertake a comprehensive review of the performance, management and administration of the Department; and to particularly assess and report on

· the roles, responsibilities and capabilities of the Department, including concerns in respect of the governance and oversight of external organisations identified particularly in the report of Mr. Sean Guerin, SC;

· the Department’s performance in discharging its responsibilities, implementing its programmes and achieving its desired strategic outcomes, as set out in its Statement of Strategy;

· the effectiveness of the Department’s current structure, systems, management and capabilities.

In making its recommendations the Group was asked to have regard to the policy, legal, institutional and resource framework within which the Department works. Based on the conclusions and lessons drawn from this assessment, the Group was asked to make recommendations to the Minister.

The membership of the Group comprised:

· Mr. Kevin Toland, CEO of the Dublin Airport Authority and former CEO of Glanbia, USA; (Chairman)

· Mr. David Byrne, SC., former Attorney General and EU Commissioner;

· Mr. Pat McLoughlin, CEO of the Irish Payment Services Organisation.

· Ms. Kathleen O’Toole, incoming Chief of Police, Seattle and former Chief Inspector, Garda Inspectorate;

· Mr. Greg Sparks, Founding Partner, OSM Farrell Grant Sparks;

· Ms. Geraldine Tallon, former Secretary General, Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government.

Summary of findings

That the top five issues that the Independent Review Group found, as outlined in the Executive Summary, are:

1) A closed secretive and silo driven culture.

2) Significant leadership and management problems.

3) Ineffective management processes and structures to provide strong strategic oversight of the key agencies, both to hold them accountable and to ensure their effectiveness is maximised.

4) A Management Advisory Committee (MAC) that is neither sufficiently focused on key strategic priorities that impact on the Department and its key agencies nor ensuring that emerging issues with agencies or with political consequences are identified and managed proactively.

5) Relationships with key agencies tend to be informal and unstructured without strong central management from the Department.

Summary of recommendations

The Report contains an extensive range of recommendations aimed at delivering a comprehensive ‘Programme for Change’ in the Department of Justice & Equality.

The key recommendations, as outlined in the Executive Summary, are:

1) A programme for fundamental and sustained organisational and cultural change and renewal.

2) A change in the leadership and management routines, systems and practices to underpin both the performance of the Department and key agencies.

3) An upfront commitment to additional skilled and specialised resources and training and development programmes to lead and drive the change programme.

4) A change in the scope and approach of the MAC to provide better strategic management and support.

5) A structured approach to how agencies and key relationships are managed to hold them more accountable and drive better performance across the broader justice landscape.