Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has been called on to correct the record of the Dáil following concerns being raised about the accuracy an answer he gave over the vacancy at the most senior garda position at the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement (ODCE).
Leader of the Labour party Brendan Howlin is to raise the issue in the Dáil after seeing a letter released to RTÉ’s This Week under Freedom of Information.
In that letter, the Director of Corporate Enforcement Ian Drennan expressed concern about the accuracy of the information given in the Dáil in a strongly worded letter to the Acting Garda Commissioner, Dónall Ó Cualáin.
Mr Varadkar told the Dáil on 7 November that the most senior garda role at the ODCE, which has been vacant for over a year, was being filled on a part time basis.
He was responding to a question by Mr Howlin about the lengthy vacancy, which was reported on RTÉ’s This Week programme last May and again on 5 November.
Mr Varadkar told Mr Howlin: "On the vacancy to which Deputy Howlin referred in respect of a garda detective inspector in the ODCE, I understand the duties and role have been undertaken by another detective inspector in addition to other duties".
In a statement, the Department of Justice told the programme that it had provided the information for the Dáil answer to the Taoiseach in a briefing "following consultation with An Garda Síochána".
Following Mr Varadkar answer in the Dáil, the Director of Corporate Enforcement Ian Drennan wrote to the Acting Garda Commissioner Ó Cualáin to express his concern that the Dáil had been informed that the Detective Inspector position had been filled on a part time basis.
In his letter to Comissioner Ó Cualáin, dated 14 November, Mr Drennan wrote: "As you will be aware, the [Detective Inspector] post, and the fact that it has been vacant for over a year, has been the subject of recent press coverage and, as I understand it, has also been referenced in Dáil Éireann.
"In the context of the foregoing, it has, as I understand it, been reported in recent days that the position is not actually vacant but, rather, that a Detective Inspector was, some months ago, assigned to the ODCE on a part time basis. Those reports are not accurate and, as such, are a matter of concern."
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Referencing an earlier 30 March letter to ODCE from Garda National Economic Crime Burea (GNECB), which advised him of the part-time assignment, Mr Drennan’s letter outlines to Commissioner Ó Cualáin that the part-time duties being undertaken by a GNECB Detective Inspector amounted to "internal Garda line management", as confidential information relating to investigations could not legally be shared with him.
As a result, the 14 November letter states, the part-time role has had "no practical effect whatsoever".
It says: "The Detective Inspector...was not assigned to the ODCE and, as such, has at no point come under the direction of the Director [of Corporate Enforcement]. Consequently he is not, and at no point has been, an officer of the Director within the meaning of the Companies Act 2014.
"As such he cannot be delegated with any of the Director’s powers under the Companies Act nor can confidential information be shared with him as would be the case with an officer of the Director. Accordingly the allocation of responsibility referred to in the letter of 30 March, 2017 has had no practical effect whatsoever".
Mr Drennan also informed Commr Ó Cualáin that he had expressed his unhappiness about the proposed part-time advisory arrangement at a meeting on 29 March 2017 before it was confirmed to him in writing the following day.
Mr Drennan reiterated his concern at the "inaccuracy" in the conclusion to his letter to the commissioner and called for the vacancy to be filled: "The primary purpose of this letter is to address the inaccuracy in the recent reporting of this matter and, specifically, to address the suggestion that a Detective Inspector was, some months ago, assigned to the ODCE on a part time basis.
"As outlined above, that is not the case ... the fact that the Detective Inspector post within the ODCE has now been vacant for over a year is, for a variety of reasons – all of which are obvious, most unsatisfactory. In that context, I am again requesting that the matter be addressed".
Mr Howlin told RTÉ’s This Week: "Would give the benefit of the doubt to the Taoiseach, he presumably read out the information he was given, but it wasn’t the truth and that needs to be corrected in the Dáil – I’ll certainly be raising it myself next week – and much more importantly why there would be a pretence that such an important role was being filled when it patently wasn't, much to the annoyance of the Director of Corporate Enforcement who depends on senior staff such as that to do the job that the Oireachtas has set him".
In a statement, An Garda Síochána told 'This Week' that the role is to be filled on an interim basis from Monday 27 November and that the Detective Inspector will be based full-time within the ODCE.