Minister

On the 8th of May 2014, Frances Fitzgerald was appointed as Minister for Justice and Equality.

Since  taking  office  on  the  8th  May,  she has been actively involved in delivering the Government’s comprehensive programme of justice reform which is  aimed  at ensuing ongoing confidence in the performance, administration and  oversight  of  policing and justice in Ireland. 

Implementation of this programme  will  be  a key priority for the remainder of her term in office, including:
  • Establishment of a new Independent Garda Authority; 
  • Opening-up   of  Future  appointments  to  the  position  of  Garda Commissioner;
  • Enactment  of  new legislation to reform, strengthen and clarify the remit and operation of the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission, so as to  ensure  it  is fit for purpose and to further ensure that the men and women of An Garda Síochána, as well as the wider public, can have the fullest confidence in its workings.
In  addition, the Minister expects  to  receive  substantial  reports  from the Garda Inspectorate  on  the investigation  of  serious crime and a report on the review  of  An  Garda  Síochána  conducted  on  foot of the Haddington Road Agreement, and will consider the implementation of any necessary measures or
reforms recommended in these reports.

The  White  Paper  on  Crime, incorporating a National Anti Crime Strategy, will  also  be  finalised  in  the context of the reform programme and will provide  an  overall  framework for strategies to combat and prevent crime.
 

The Department's  focus  with  regard  to  crime  and  security  centres on combatting  crime  in  all  its  manifestations and dealing with the threat posed by terrorist groups who refuse to accept the principles of a free and democratic  society.  In this context, Minister Fitzgerald is further committed to supporting the  ongoing  recruitment and training of new members of An Garda Síochána, to  the  ongoing  provision of new Garda vehicles and to supporting measure and  reforms  to  enhance the efficiencies of Garda working, including, for example,  the  recently-announced  measure to improve the Gardai's capacity for  computer crime investigation. In addition, necessary measures to implement the EU Directive on victims of crime will be introduced.

In  line  with  the  Statement of Government Priorities 2014 – 2016, in the area of asylum seekers she will be bringing forward legislation to reduce the length of time the applicant spends in the system through the establishment of   a  single  applications  procedure.  This  will  be  achieved  by  the introduction of a Protection Bill.

Moreover,  work  on  Immigration and Residence Bill will also continue. The commitment  in  the  Statement of Priorities in respect of Direct Provision for asylum seekers will also be acted upon during the remainder of the term of office of the government.

In  line with the Statement of Government Priorities 2014 – 2016, Minister Fitzgerald is also committed to  bringing forward referendum on marriage equality in 2015.

She is currently  working  to  complete  the  establishment of the Court of Appeal,   the   legislation  for  which  is  currently  going  through  the Oireachtas.
 

She is committed  to  the  establishment of a new system for Legal Services regulation,  the  legislation  for  which  is  currently  going through the Oireachtas.

She intends to  progress a substantial legislative programme, with a view to enacting  key  elements  of  legislation including, but not limited to, the Children  and  Family  Relationships Bill, Judicial Council Bill,  Criminal Justice  (Sexual  Offences)  Bill,  Bail  Bill,  Assisted  Decision  Making (Capacity)  Bill,  Mediation  Bill  and  Sale  of  Alcohol  Bill. She is also committed  to  the  enactment  of  legislation  to  give  effect  to  those recommendations  of  Judge  Quirke  in  relation  to support for women were admitted  to  and worked  in a Magdalen Laundry which requires a statutory basis.
 

She is committed to reviewing the legislation in place pertaining to domestic violence,  with  a  view to expediting Ireland’s signing an ratification of the Istanbul Convention.
 

She has committed to implementation of the recommendations of the Report of the Inquiry by Ms. Emily Logan into the taking into care of the children of two Roma families.

The Department  is  continuing  to  review a range of matters, including in relation  to  judicial  appointments,   firearms licensing and penal policy, which   may   result   in   the  implementation  of  any  key  findings  or recommendations emerging.
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From 2011 to 2014, she was Ireland's first ever Minister for Children and Youth Affairs.

Among the key priorities during her time as Minister for Children were the need to protect children by putting Children First on a statutory footing, to deliver a Children's Referendum, to establish a dedicated agency for Children and Family Services, to continue to offer a free pre-school year for children, to develop youth services throughout the country, to end the practice of sending under-18s to St Patricks Institution, to open inter-country adoptions with countries such as Vietnam and to improve adoption and fostering systems in Ireland. 

Other achievements from her time as Minister for Children and Youth Affairs include:

  • Received Government approval for Children’s First Legislation;
  • Introduced legislation to establish a new Child and Family Agency (passed second stage in July 2013), appointed Norah Gibbons as Chairperson of its Board and has been given approval for the transition of existing HSE child protection and welfare services to this Agency;
  • Secured funding to end the practice of sending under-18s to St. Patrick’s Institution and has already announced the end of the practice of sending 16 year olds to St. Patrick’s;
  • Committed to a comprehensive pre-school reform agenda;
  • Allocated €7.5 million in Capital Grants Funding for childcare facilities around the country;
  • Announced €2.25 million in capital funding for youth cafes, youth projects and play facilities for 2012 and 2013Received Cabinet approval for the development of Ireland’s first ever National Early Years Strategy;
  • Launched the National Local Authority Play and Recreation Network;
  • Launched the 116000 Hotline for Missing Children which has been allocated to the Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children;
  • Launched a new joint protocol aimed at protecting vulnerable children between jurisdictions North and South of the border;
  • Launched the Retail Ireland Childrenswear Guidelines which were prepared by Retail Ireland following a recommendation by the Minister;
  • Provided €2.5 million in the 2013 budget for a new Area Based Approach to child poverty initiative;
  • Launched a children in care consultation report;
  • Delivered €0.8 million expansion of services for young people in Athlone, Arklow, Dundalk and Wexford;
  • Announced the review of Out of Hours Services Pilot Programme;
  • Prioritised the development of a closer working relationship with many countries when it comes to adoption and travelled to Hanoi to meet with her Vietnamese counterparts to progress intercountry adoptions between the two countries. A bi-lateral agreement with Vietnam has since been signed;
  • Hosted an EU Expert Roundtable on the contribution of youth work to youth employment;
  • Engaged with the Centre for Effective Services to undertake a high level review of implementation of the 2001 Youth Homelessness Strategy and to make recommendations on a new Implementation Framework to address youth homelessness over the next 5 years;
  • Committed to delivering 6,000 places in a new After-School Childcare Scheme;
  • Published research on obesity, discipline and self-concept among young Irish teenagers;
  • Named youth employment as a priority for her EU Youth Presidency 2013;
  • Met with Facebook to discuss the issue of Cyber Bullying and has made representations to the Latvian authorities in relation to concerns over ‘ask.fm’;
  • Launched a report on consultation with 66,705 children and young people;
  • Jointly published the Cloyne Report and personally took over the Chair of the Ryan Report Implementation Group. She delivered on the Ryan Report recommendation to recruit an additional 60 social workers in 2011.
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Frances is a T.D. elected by the constituency of Dublin Mid West. Frances previously served as Leader of the Opposition in the Senate on her election as a Senator to the 23rd Seanad and previously served as T.D. for Dublin South East for ten years.

She gained a B.Soc. Science in U.C.D. and an M.SC. in Social Administration and Social Work in the London School of Economics. Prior to her election to the Dail Frances was a high profile Chair of the National Women’s Council of Ireland (1988-1992) and Vice President of the European Women’s Lobby.

As Chair of the National Women’s Council she initiated and served on the second Commission on Women, chairing the Employment Sub-Committee. She held the first conference on Women and Decision Making and championed the cause of introducing equality proofing mechanisms. Frances also led a number of high profile health campaigns. She has served on the boards of the Employment Equality Agency, Arthritis Ireland, The O’Reilly Theatre and the Breast Research Unit in St. Vincent’s Hospital. Frances was also Vice Chair of Europa Donna, the European breast cancer campaign.

Frances trained as a social worker and family therapist. She worked in the Mater Hospital, St James’ Hospital and Ballymun Child and Family Centre for ten years. She also worked in inner city communities in London and Dublin. She specialised in family-work including adoption and fostering. She also lectured in social work in Adult Education Courses and in Trinity College, Dublin.

Since her first election to the Dail, Frances has been appointed to six different portfolios under three different Fine Gael leaders - John Bruton, Michael Noonan and Enda Kenny. On her first day in the Dail Frances was appointed to the Fine Gael front bench as Spokesperson on Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht and went on to serve as Spokesperson on Defence, Social Community & Family Affairs, Equality & Family Affairs, Social Welfare and served as Spokesperson Health and Children in the Senate.
Frances has served on various Dail and Seanad committees including Justice, Health, the Committee on the Constitution, the National and Economic Social Forum, the Forum for Peace and Reconciliation, Social Affairs and Health. Frances was also a member of the Joint Committee on the Constitutional Amendment on Children and co-authored several Oireachtas Committee reports. She recently co-founded the first ever Cross Party Group on Mental Health and worked closely with Amnesty International to help break down the stigmas associated with mental health issues. Frances has campaigned strongly on mental health, special needs, social policy and equality issues and worked professionally in these areas.

Frances is married and has three sons in their twenties, an actor, a trainee accountant and a student.