Department rejects claims it advised Callinan

Justice spokesman says ‘ongoing discussions’ were overtaken by subsequent events

Minister for Justice Alan Shatter, TD with former Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan in 2011. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

Minister for Justice Alan Shatter, TD with former Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan in 2011. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

Thu, Mar 27, 2014, 20:44

The Department of Justice has rejected reports that its officials advised former Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan to delay his withdrawal of the of the word “disgusting” to describe the behaviour of garda whistleblowers.

It was reported this evening that Mr Callinan was considering withdrawing the controversial remark last week but delayed after consulting the officials.

A spokesman for the Department of Justice said in a statement however that any further public comment from the former commissioner on the issue was “a matter for the former commissioner himself” and there was “no question” of the department getting involved.

“There were ongoing discussions between officials and the former Garda commissioner about issues relating to the penalty points controversy,” said the statement.

“At all times it was recognised that the question of the commissioner making any further statement in relation to comments he had made at the Public Accounts Committee and the content of any such statement was a matter for decision by the former commissioner himself.

“Towards the end of last week there were discussions about the possibility of his making a further statement in relation to those comments and the form any such statement might take. There was no question of the department suggesting that this possibility be ruled out.

“These ongoing discussions were, unfortunately, overtaken by subsequent events,” the statement added.

Pressure on the Coalition has eased after the apology in the Dáil yesterday by Minister for Justice Alan Shatter to the two Garda whistleblowers.

But there is still concern in both Government parties over when Mr Shatter and Attorney General Máire Whelan first became aware of the widespread recording of phone calls to and from Garda stations and why the Cabinet had not been informed earlier.

Mr Shatter yesterday withdrew his earlier assertion in the Dáil that Garda whistleblowers Sgt Maurice McCabe and former garda John Wilson had failed to co-operate with an investigation into the penalty points system.

In a separate speech earlier in the day, Mr Shatter gave an explanation as to why a letter sent earlier this month by Mr Callinan, outlining the scale of phone taping, failed to reach him until Monday afternoon.

Mr Shatter said his department received other correspondence about recordings but insisted he was not aware of the wider practice until he was briefed by officials on Monday evening.