New commissioner must be from outside State - Wallace

Clare Daly says Callinan had ‘lost credibility’ with members of force

 Independent TD Mick Wallace outside Leinster House this morning. Speaking to The Irish Times, he  said there were “a number” of people in senior positions in the Garda who are “unfit” for duty and that the new commissioner should come from outside the jurisdiction.  Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Independent TD Mick Wallace outside Leinster House this morning. Speaking to The Irish Times, he said there were “a number” of people in senior positions in the Garda who are “unfit” for duty and that the new commissioner should come from outside the jurisdiction. Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Tue, Mar 25, 2014, 15:19

Independent TD Clare Daly, who first raised the penalty points controversy in the Dáil, has said Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan had “lost a huge amount credibility” with members of the Garda as well as the public.

Mr Callinan announced his resignation as Garda Commissioner this morning.

“We’ve made no secret of the fact his position had become absolutely untenable,” said Ms Daly. “He had to go. He had lost a huge amount of credibility with the public and, in our experience, increasingly with the members of An Garda Síochána who weren’t happy with the way in which he has handled recent matters. I think if it was in any other country he would have gone long ago.”

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She said the move “really puts the pressure back on Mr Shatter” and reiterated calls for him to resign. “They were always a double act – everything they did involved the two of them – I don’t think the situations would have developed in the manner in which they did had that relationship not existed between the two. Now that one of them is gone, it puts the pressure very much on Minister Shatter.

“He’s proven to be unfit for office in relation to this situation which has gone on for a long time. It’s his handling of not just the penalty points issue but of a whole number of other cases as well.”

Asked whether political pressure may have had anything to do with Mr Callinan’s decision, she said she would be “surprised if behind the scenes he wasn’t being spoken to”.

“It’s regrettable they felt they couldn’t carry out that debate in public because it should have been. But while they were putting on that front, were they behind the scenes putting him under pressure? You’d imagine that they would be.

“There’s a huge disconnect between what the Government has been saying – including the very weak gestures by the Labour Party – and the consciousness of ordinary people. We’ve been overwhelmed in the last two weeks in particular at the scale of discussion on these issues and the deep rooted nature of the disgust at the manner in which the commissioner has conducted himself – and the minister in fact.

“That’s beyond the normal people who would be giving out – across the board – from professional people, to ordinary workers, to dogs on the street, everyone has been talking about this and have been looking for action. Maybe he was more in tune with that than the Government or maybe they were talking to him behind the scenes. I don’t know.”

In terms of where the Garda goes from here, she called on the Government to re-examine legislation brought forward by Independent TD Mick Wallace eight months ago.

“Mick Wallace moved legislation eight months ago which got to the very heart of this. He put forward a number of concrete measures for how you could introduce a system of proper democratic accountability for the gardaí, which is what is needed.

“Now you can’t have that without a change at the top. That change has begun. I think it needs to be extended to Minister Shatter. That legislation should be re-looked at now and used as a model for going forward.”

Speaking to The Irish Times this morning, Mr Wallace said there were “a number” of people in senior positions in the Garda who are “unfit” for duty and that the new commissioner should come from outside the jurisdiction.

“More often than not, when a commissioner goes, some of the more senior gardaí in the force take his position,” he said. “But the problem is, we just have too much evidence -from ex-gardaí, from whistleblowers, from serving gardaí - that there are some serious problems in the force.

“It isn’t just the minster for justice, it isn’t just commissioner Callinan - it goes further down. There are a lot of people in senior positions in the Garda who are not fit for their positions. There is a danger some of them could get his job. I believe the new commissioner should come from outside the country. I really do.

“We have serious problems in how our force operates and if we’re serious about changing it, going forward, and really addressing the huge problems right through the force, then we are going to need new leadership, a new minister for justice, and we need an outsider to come in with a fresh approach and no baggage.”

It was getting more difficult for him to stay in position. My immediate reaction is surprise that the minister is still there. They’ve been joined at the hip since the start. The minister has stood by him lock, stock, and barrel. If the commissioner is unfit for office, I don’t see how the minster is either.

Mr Wallace said it was “really difficult” to see how Mr Shatter can remain in his position.

“Clearly from what we’ve seen from the last 18 months, the minster has dealt very poorly with any issues that have been brought into the public domain. He has shown absolutely no appetite for transparency and accountability.

“Wherever the commissioner did likewise, we had our minister for justice defending him 100 per cent. I think it’s become very difficult for the Coalition to stand by the minister. On the issue of policing, the minister has been nothing short of a disaster.

“It’s really difficult to see how he can stay in place. One episode after another, he has sought to cover up rather than reveal. There’s a litany of it for the last eighteen months. If people look at it in an objective way, it is just about impossible to defend the minister.

“He has undermined GSOC at every opportunity. Rather than defend them and make them stronger, he’s done the opposite. This is the oversight body. If you’ve the minister for justice undermining the oversight body, where is that taking us?”

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin also called on Mr Shatter to resign. “He is the overall head of the administration of justice in this country,” he said. “They’re using all sorts of verbal gymnastics to put a lid on this – but I’m afraid it’s not going to work.

“We would have preferred had they concentrated on the minster in terms of his stewardship of this. It’s made his position more difficult. I think there’s an onus on him to make a comprehensive statement to the house.

“I think his position is now untenable. He has made attempts to undermine the GSOC in relation to the bugging of their offices. He seems to be a person who gets adversarial very quickly and digs his heels in when confronted.”

Meanwhile, Minister for European Affairs Pascal Donohoe said the Cabinet will this afternoon “reflect” on Mr Callinan’s decision.

“The Cabinet will be discussing and reflecting on the resignation that just happened,” he said before an event starting just after the announcement. “Given that I have only just heard this news, I will be making no further comment.”

Asked whether Minister for Justice Alan Shatter still enjoyed his full confidence, Mr Donohoe said Mr Shatter “is doing very important and very good work as Minister of Justice”.

“He has already outlined measures he wants to put in place regarding dealing with recommendations from the Garda Inspectorate report on penalty points – there are 37 of them – he’s determined to implement that and he’s already indicated he wants to further strengthen the role of the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (GSOC) in relation to oversight of the Garda. That’s vital work that he’s well-placed to do.”