Last year, the Department of Justice and Equality sought sanction from my Department for payment of a proposed fee structure to legal Counsel as part of a new independent panel for reviewing allegations of Garda misconduct. The correspondence from that Department noted that the Minister for Justice and Equality had decided to set up this panel to consider allegations made to the Minister for Justice and Equality under the provisions of the Protected Disclosures Act 2014.
The stated rationale for the new panel was to provide independent advice to the Department of Justice and Equality regarding how each case should be treated and to make recommendations about possible options based on the documentation provided. According to the request for sanction, the Minister for Justice and Equality was of the view that the panel would help foster confidence in An Garda Síochána that allegations would be treated in a proper and unbiased manner because of its independent nature. The correspondence also referred to the additional benefit of the practical legal expertise of the panel members which not be available in the Department of Justice and Equality.
Overall, I gather that the motivation of the Minister for Justice and Equality was to ensure that disclosures can be dealt with in a proper, fair, professional and independent manner.
There were no other discussions with the Department of Justice and Equality on the policy matter of setting up the panel, especially given that the Minister for Justice and Equality had already consulted with the Attorney General's Office regarding the setting up of this panel structure. Rather, my Department considered the merits of the fee structure for the panel and engaged with the Department of Justice and Equality on this issue. Ultimately, my Department provided sanction for the proposed fee structure on condition that this would represent value for money.