Frances Fitzgerald was appointed as Minister for Justice & Equality on the 8th May 2014.
Since taking office, the Minister has been actively involved in delivering the Government’s comprehensive programme of justice reform which includes the planned establishment of a new Independent Garda Authority; the appointments of the Garda Commissioner by open competition and the introduction of new legislation to reform, strengthen and clarify the remit and operation of the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission. In addition, Frances has overseen the recommencement of training for new Garda recruits.
In line with the Statement of Government Priorities 2014 – 2016, Frances is committed to bringing forward the new Protection Bill which aims to reduce the length of time the applicant spends in the system through the establishment of a single applications procedure. Other legislation being progressed by Frances includes 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.
Frances is committed to bringing forward a referendum on marriage equality in 2015; and is working on the establishment of the new Court of Appeal andon a new system for Legal Services regulation.Frances is also overseeing major reviews in areas including judicial appointments, firearms licensing, penal policy, legislation pertaining to domestic violence; and the implementation of the EU Directive on victims of crime.
In June 2014, Frances published the Report of the Inquiry by Ms. Emily Logan into the taking into care of the children of two Roma families and is committed to the implementation of its recommendations.
Between March 2011 and May 2014, Frances served as Ireland's first-ever senior Minister for Children and Youth Affairs. In this role Frances led a programme of comprehensive reform of child protection and welfare in Ireland including: the establishment of Ireland’s first-ever dedicated Child & Family Agency, the holding of a referendum to amend the Irish Constitution to strengthen child protection and children’s rights; the introduction of new legislation to put the Children First guidelines on a statutory footing; the introduction for the first time of the National Standards for Child Protection and independent inspections of child protection services by HIQA; the commencement of development of a €50 million National Child Detention Facility project at Oberstown, Co. Dublin; the introduction of the ABC (Area-Based Childhood Programme) and major improvement on the promotion, regulation and enforcement of standards in early years and childcare settings. Frances represented Ireland at the EU Council of Youth Ministers and in 2013, during Ireland’s EU Presidency, she chaired the Council hosting two Presidency events in Dublin: an EU Youth Conference and an Expert Roundtable event on youth employability. As Minister for Children & Youth Affairs, Frances published the 2011 Report of the Commission of Investigation into the Catholic Diocese of Cloyne; and the 2012 Report of the Independent Child Death Review Group. Frances has been a keynote speaker at a number of major national and international conferences including: the WHO Global Conference in Helsinki in 2013, the ISPCAN 13th European Conference on Child Abuse & Neglect in Dublin in 2014 and the EU Equity Action Health Conference in Brussels in 2014.
Frances is TD for Dublin Mid West, having secured over 9,000 final votes in the 2011 General Election. Between 2007 & 2011 Frances served as Leader of the Opposition in the Irish Senate; having previously served as TD for Dublin South East for ten years before that.
As an opposition Parliamentarian, Frances served in six different portfolios under three different Fine Gael leaders - John Bruton, Michael Noonan and Enda Kenny. On her first day in the Dáil Frances was appointed as Fine Gael Spokesperson on Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht and went on to serve as Spokesperson on Defence, Social Community & Family Affairs, Equality & Family Affairs, and Social Welfare. She served as Spokesperson on Health and Children while in the Senate. Frances has served on various Dáil and Seanad committees including Justice, the Committee on the Constitution, the National and Economic Social Forum, the Forum for Peace and Reconciliation, Social Affairs and Health. Frances was a member of the Joint Committee on the Constitutional Amendment on Children and co-authored several Oireachtas Committee reports. She 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 has previously served as a member of Dublin City Council.
Frances has held numerous senior positions in the Fine Gael party, including as a member of the party’s Executive Council; and Director of Elections for the 2013 Meath East by-election.
Prior to her election to the Dáil, Frances served as 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 in Ireland 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. Frances 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. She also lectured in social work in Adult Education Courses and in Trinity College, Dublin.
Frances is married and has three sons in their twenties, an actor, an accountant and a student.