I move the following Supplementary Estimate:
Vote 2 - Department of the Taoiseach (Supplementary Estimate)
That a supplementary sum not exceeding €2,000,000 be granted to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of December, 2014, for the salaries and expenses of the Department of the Taoiseach, including certain services administered by the Department and for payment of grants and grants-in-aid.
A Supplementary Estimate is required by my Department for the funding of the commission of investigation to examine certain matters of public concern relating to An Garda Síochána and other persons. The reasons for establishing the commission are well known at this stage.
Following consideration of very serious matters relating to the operation of An Garda Síochána's telephone recording systems, the Government decided that the implications were potentially of such gravity that it was appropriate to establish a statutory commission of investigation to examine all matters of public concern relating to the issue. The Government also decided to establish a new Cabinet committee on justice reform to oversee the development of proposals for an independent police authority, and other associated reforms to the policing and justice system. We need to ensure full public confidence in, and support for, the Garda Síochána given the very difficult and important task it fulfils. We therefore wish there to be a full public debate on the issue of policing and justice reform, and the Government will very shortly commence a public consultation process on the issue of an independent policing authority.
Deputies will recall that the draft Government order providing for the establishment of the commission was approved by the Dáil on 15 April 2014. The draft order included a copy of the detailed and extensive terms of reference for the commission. The draft order was subsequently approved by the Seanad following a debate on 16 April. In accordance with the legislation the Commission of Investigation (Certain Matters relative to An Garda Síochána and other persons) Order 2014 was then made by the Government on 30 April 2014. The Government also formally appointed the Supreme Court judge, Mr. Justice Nial Fennelly, as chairman of the commission.
The commission's terms of reference envisage a final report to the Government no later than 31 December 2014 subject to section 6(6) of the Act. There have been calls for earlier reports on some elements of the investigation, particularly the sequence of events leading up to the retirement of the former Garda Commissioner. However, it is important to recognise the independence of the judge and, therefore, the Government has given the commission full flexibility on the nature, timing and sequencing of any part of the investigation. As required under the Act, my Department has made arrangements to publish the commission's terms of reference, the statement of costs and the timeframe for the investigation in Iris Oifigiúil.
The staffing requirements of the commission will reflect the scope of the terms of reference and the ambitious timescale involved. The exact requirements of the commission will become clearer in the coming weeks as it begins to scope its work in more detail. In accordance with the Commissions of Investigation Act 2004 the appointment of staff and their terms and conditions will be subject to approval by me with the consent of the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform. In addition to direct staffing costs, set-up and ongoing costs will arise in respect of the establishment of the commission's office, information and communications technology functions, administration, travel and subsistence etc. Specialist expertise may also be required given the subject of the investigation. Based on an initial assessment, a cost of €2 million is deemed to be a reasonable estimate for 2014 and it is therefore proposed to provide for this from the Vote of the Department of the Taoiseach. This estimate is based on the assumption that the commission completes it work by the end of 2014 as specified in the terms of reference. If it were deemed necessary to extend the commission's work beyond that date then further staffing and other costs would of course arise. In addition to salary and administration costs, third-party costs may also arise. In accordance with the provisions of the Act, following consultations with the commission and with the consent of the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform I will have guidelines prepared concerning this area. The extent and timing of any such costs are difficult to estimate at this stage.
The commission will be investigating serious matters which have important implications for An Garda Síochána and our justice system. My sole interest in addressing these matters, which are rightly of deep concern, is to establish the truth. I believe that the establishment of the commission is the most appropriate, timely and cost-effective way of getting to that truth and, therefore, I commend the motion to the House.