A review of the Department of Justice's failure to initially forward certain documents to the Disclosures Tribunal has expressed concern over the lack of a clear system for the filing and storage of emails there.

The review carried out by Senior Counsel Michael Collins said this is a problem that needs to be addressed.

It was set up after the emergence of emails which led to the resignation of former justice minister Frances Fitzgerald from Cabinet last November.

The review was specifically tasked with examining why a number of emails from May and July of 2015 were not sent to the Tribunal until November 2017.

It also found that while the department and its officials acted in good faith in their interactions with the tribunal, the introduction of a general protocol to govern such interactions would be desirable.

Mr Collins concluded that the department did not focus sufficiently on the likelihood that it might hold documents of potential relevance to some of the terms of reference of the tribunal.

The findings state too that there appears to have been little communication at senior level within the department concerning interactions with the Tribunal (at least prior to November 2017), and no formal oversight or periodic review of the work carried out by the Policing Division.

The initial search for the documents did not include the email accounts of officials in the Policing Division or senior officials in the Department or the Secretary General's office.

Mr Collins said that no meaningful explanation has been provided for this omission, other than that it did not apparently occur to officials within the Policing Division to search such email accounts, possibly because they did not consider that the focus of the tribunal's investigations was on the department.

While the review identified certain shortcomings in the department's response, it found no evidence to suggest any deliberate concealment or withholding of material from the tribunal.

It says that the minister and the officials of the department acted at all times in good faith and believed that they were acting reasonably in the manner in which they conducted searches for documentation.

In a statement, Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan said he was "concerned" that emails of potential relevance for the Disclosures Tribunal were not found "as part of the department's discovery process". 

The minister said: "We have taken important lessons from this episode and my department is actively putting new measures in place that are aimed at ensuring that an oversight of this kind could not happen in future.

"These plans are referred to and endorsed by Mr Collins in his report."

Meanwhile, Labour TD Alan Kelly, has said the failure to hand over documents raises questions over previous Department responses to parliamentary questions and freedom of information requests.

Mr Kelly said the report effectively says the Department of Justice was not competent enough to meet the terms of the tribunal -  terms that it had set.

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, Mr Kelly said: "It's quite extraordinary, that in 2017, that the Department of Justice cannot accurately go in and properly search for information.

"That raises a whole load range of other questions relating to previous parliamentary questions, previous requests for information, FOI requests going on for the last couple of decades. Obviously many of these are not accurate."

Mr Kelly added it was unbelievable that the emails of senior people in the policing division of the Department of Justice were not checked.

He said it was important to find out if private emails were used, because this was not covered in the report.