Thank you Deputy for this question. To provide some background to this issue, you will be aware that counsel fees were reduced in both 2009 and 2010 respectively as part of a broader Government agenda to reduce escalating legal costs. A further reduction was imposed in 2011 primarily to control spending under the Criminal Legal Aid Scheme. These reductions were underpinned by Government decisions and formed part of a broader Government need to reduce costs across the public service.
I fully acknowledge and appreciate the very important work undertaken by barristers who prosecute criminal work on behalf of the State and my Department has engaged constructively with key stakeholders including the Bar Council of Ireland, the Office of Director of Public Prosecutions and the Department of Justice in relation to this matter. In particular it has sought evidence to support any claims that the reductions imposed are linked to significant recruitment and retention issues, thereby potentially adversely impacting the administration of justice. While my Department has not yet been provided with evidential data to support such claims., it remains available to review any further information that may be provided.
My Department has also sought advice from the Attorney General's Office as to whether the State has an obligation in relation to these professional fees.
My Department will continue to keep this issue under review and engage with key stakeholders, as appropriate.