Callinan forced out of office for ‘political expediency’

Garda association leader says policing needs to be disentangled from politics

PJ Stone, GRA general secretary, speaking to reporters at the  association’s annual delegate conference in Kilkenny. Photograph: Conor O’Meara

PJ Stone, GRA general secretary, speaking to reporters at the association’s annual delegate conference in Kilkenny. Photograph: Conor O’Meara

Thu, May 1, 2014, 06:59

The former Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan was forced out of office for political expediency and that was obvious to everyone, the largest Garda staff association in the force has said.

In a strongly worded attack at what he saw as political interference in the force, general secretary of the Garda Representative Association (GRA) PJ Stone said recent controversies culminating in Mr Callinan leaving office underlined the need for policing to be completely disentangled from politics.

He also said the promotions system within An Garda Síochána was biased, with the sons or daughters of serving or former senior officers more likely to be promoted than others from his organisation seeking to become sergeants and move on up the ranks.

“It has been obvious for some time and I think the removal of Mr Callinan as Commissioner clearly illustrates to me at least that the Garda Síochána is subject to political whim,” Mr Stone said at the closing session of his association’s annual delegate conference in Killarney, Co Kerry today.

“The force has been under severe pressure and issues have arisen which have spiralled out of control.

“None of the members of my association are responsible for any of these debacles and I think it is now time to ensure that confidence is restored. “And in order for that to happen in a meaningful way, I think we need an independent oversight body which would take control of the Garda Síochána; its budgets, its resources, its capital expenditure and more importantly its promotion system.”

When asked if he felt Mr Callinan was effectively sacked by politicians, he said he believed a difficult situation had been engineered from which the former commissioner had no option but to leave office.

“I am saying Martin Callinan was removed from office and that is obvious to everybody,” he said. “I think it is a disgraceful way to treat the head of a police force. If you dispatch after a political meeting a head of a department, one can only conclude that there had to be political interference.”

Mr Stone was referring to the visit of Department of Justice secretary general Brian Purcell to Mr Callinan’s home after Taoiseach Enda Kenny was made aware that telephone calls to and from Garda stations had been secretly recorded for decades. Mr Callinan was already under pressure as commissioner over his handling of whistleblowers who came forward to highlight the termination by gardaí of motorists penalty points for no apparent legitimate reason.

In particularly his use of the word “disgusting” to describe the actions of two Garda whistleblowers was seen as particularly problematic and saw him come under pressure from several Cabinet ministers to withdraw the remark and apologise.