Fine Gael justice minister Helen McEntee appointed convict, party candidate to peace commissioner role

Fine Gael Justice Minister Helen McEntee appointed a party colleague, who’s running in the upcoming local elections, as a peace commissioner despite his 15 criminal convictions.

Leitrim local election candidate Kevin Comiskey was appointed to the role, which allows him to issue garda search warrants, despite the Department of Justice saying in the past that it is “standard practice for peace commissioners who have been convicted of criminal offences to be removed from office". 

Last week The Ditch reported that Comiskey’s previous convictions include failing to submit a tax return, drunk driving and twice being caught by customs officers using illegal green diesel in his car.

‘Background checks’

Under the Courts of Justice Act of 1924 the minister for justice appoints peace commissioners. These commissioners’ powers include witnessing statutory declarations and, less frequently, issuing search warrants to gardaí.

The extent of these quasi-judicial powers was highlighted last week after a peace commissioner pleaded not guilty to issuing false search warrants.

Justice minister Helen McEntee claimed in 2021 – the same year she appointed party colleague Kevin Comiskey – that peace commissioners are vetted by gardaí.

“Appointees are required to be of good character… persons convicted of serious offences are considered unsuitable for appointment. To this end, a background check on nominees is carried out by An Garda Síochána,” wrote McEntee in November 2021 in response to a parliamentary question.

The Department of Justice has said in the past that its “standard practice” is to remove from office peace commissioners who have been convicted of crimes.

“(It is) standard practice for peace commissioners who have been convicted of criminal offences to be removed from office,” said a spokesperson for the justice minister’s office in March 2014 after Fianna Fáil ex-junior minister and peace commissioner Ivor Callelly pleaded guilty to fraud offences.

Kevin Comiskey has 15 previous criminal convictions from 1987 to 2010 and was twice banned from driving. In 2013, the Revenue Commissioners obtained a €14,990 court judgment against Comiskey after he failed to pay income tax.

McEntee declined to comment. 

The Ditch editors

The Ditch editors