Alex White describes Callinan departure as ‘very bad practice’

Hopeful for leader of Labour says party should have been told of Taoiseach’s move

Minister of State Alex White has said the circumstances in which former Garda commissioner Martin Callinan resigned must not be repeated if he is elected Labour leader. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

Minister of State Alex White has said the circumstances in which former Garda commissioner Martin Callinan resigned must not be repeated if he is elected Labour leader. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

Fri, Jun 6, 2014, 16:04

Minister of State Alex White has said the circumstances in which former Garda commissioner Martin Callinan resigned must not be repeated if he is elected Labour leader.

Mr White said there had to be “parity of esteem” between the two Coalition parties and there ought to be “no question” of the Labour leader not being consulted before such a move is made.

Mr White condemned the decision by Taoiseach Enda Kenny to send the Secretary General of the Department of Justice Brian Purcell to Mr Callinan’s house without consulting the Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore as “very, very bad practice”.

Mr Callinan resigned the following morning after being informed by Mr Purcell of allegations of bugging at Garda stations.

“The Tánaiste and the leader of the Labour Party ought to have been kept closely informed of any decisions that were being made or being contemplated,” he said.

“That’s really important in terms of the parity of esteem and the equality between the two parties, notwithstanding that one party has more seats than the other.”

Mr White warned that, if he is elected leader of the Labour Party, that “cannot and will not happen”.

In a letter to Labour Party members, Mr White alleged that Mr Callinan was effectively fired from his job.

“I will not stand over a position where the Taoiseach looks to fire the Commissioner of the gardaí without as much as a phone call to the leader of the Labour Party,” he wrote.

Mr White is behind the frontrunner Joan Burton in the leadership race, but has upped the ante by stating that the time for austerity is over and that Labour will not stay in Government “at any cost”.

He continued: “Labour, under my leadership, will co-operate with Fine Gael as equal partners. We have a mandate from 20 per cent of the Irish people and we will not be taken for granted.”

Mr White’s letter also states that “the patriotic duty” of “bringing the country back from the brink” is now done.

“The time for cuts in public services and tax rises for people on average incomes is over . . . I will not stand over any significant cuts in spending in the two budgets which remain in the lifetime of the current Government.”

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin has said there is an urgent need for the Taoiseach to give a full account of the events leading up to the departure of the former Garda commissioner.

Mr Martin commented: “Minister Alex White’s extremely belated concern about the seriousness of these events is welcome - but it raises very serious questions for the Government.”