A legal firm set up by former justice minister Alan Shatter has received more than €660,000 in payment fees from Tusla, the Child and Family Agency (CFA), so far this year.
Data released by Tusla in response to a Freedom of Information request, showed the amount paid out to Gallagher Shatter Solicitors up to the end of December 17 totalled €669,423, including Vat.
The firm — claiming to be the first in the country to establish a separate family law unit — received the second-highest amount in legal fees this year from the CFA towards representing guardians ad litem in the family law proceedings.
Shatter who joined the firm in 1976 is widely regarded as an authority on family law in Ireland, having written extensively on the subject.
Earlier in 2014, the HSE said that Gallagher Shatter Solicitors received €392,646 in fees for acting for guardians ad litem in 2013.
The largest amount paid out in 2014 by Tusla to solicitors was to Pol O’Murchu & Co Solicitors, which got €1.14m in fees.
The figures indicate that the total spend on solicitors representing guardians ad litem — who provide an independent voice for children in family law proceedings — totals €5.5m in 2014.
Compared to a figure of €4.85m for 2013 representing a jump of 13.5% in one year.
Other solicitors in receipt of payments from the CFA representing guardians ad litem to feature in the top 10 recipients are: Gerard O’Brien, €587,628; Rosemary Gantly, €525,425; Caldwell & Robinson Solicitors, €502,542; Gary Irwin, €315,421; Augustus Cullen, Law €300,281; Noonan Linehan Carroll Coffey Solicitors, €214,548; McCarthy & Associates, €166,788; and St John’s Solicitors, €152,484.
In briefing documents prepared by Charlie Flanagan, in May, the secretary general of the department noted that legal costs at Tusla were “amongst the issues giving rise to expenditure problems” for the agency and referred to the “inadequacy of the budget” transferred from the HSE for this purpose.
The agency states that although future legal costs would be reduced, “this will not be evidenced in 2014 as a consequence of the level of inherited commitments”.
The current children’s minister, James Reilly, has stated that “Tusla is engaged in a comprehensive and ongoing process of reform of its interactions with the courts system, with the aim of reducing the considerable legal costs the agency faces”.
Source : http://www.irishexaminer.com/