Judge ‘should be asked’ if Purcell information could damage inquiry

Government TD seeks clarity on ‘privileged’ correspondence between AG and Justice

Department of Justice secretary general Brian Purcell.

Department of Justice secretary general Brian Purcell.


The judge chairing the inquiry into taped telephone calls at Garda stations should be asked if his work could be prejudiced by the Department of Justice’s secretary general answering questions on the Garda Commissioner’s resignation, a Government TD has said.

Labour deputy Michael McNamara, who represents Clare, said Brian Purcell, said the secretary general at the Department of Justice, “repeatedly refused” to discuss the matter at his recent appearance at the Oireachtas justice committee.

“Mr Brian Purcell told the committee that he could prejudice the Fennelly Inquiry if he discussed the matter,” Mr McNamara said.

Mr McNamara wrote to the chairman of the Oireachtas justice committee David Stanton on Monday suggesting that Mr Stanton write to the judge.

Mr Justice Nial Fennelly retired last May, having served on the Supreme Court since 2000, and was appointed by Government to lead the commission of inquiry into the taping of telephone calls at Garda stations.

Mr McNamara said Mr Justice Fennelly should be asked for “his view on whether Mr Purcell’s appearance before the Justice committee to answer member’s questions on Mr Callinan’s resignation would or could, in his view, jeopardise his important work”.

He also said the committee should seek legal advice on whether correspondence to and from the Attorney General’s Office from the Department of Justice was privileged.

Mr McNamara said the letter should stress the committee’s “respect for, and deference to” Mr Justice Fennelly’s inquiry.

The TD received a reply yesterday saying his letter would be brought to the attention of the committee at its next meeting.

When he appeared before the committee last month, Mr Purcell repeatedly refused to answer questions about the events leading to the retirement of former Garda commissioner Martin Callinan, including visiting Mr Callinan’s home the night before he announced he was stepping down.

He described the visit as “unusual” and said it had never happened before but said he was precluded from answering questions as a commission of inquiry into the matter was soon to begin under Mr Justice Nial Fennelly.

Mr Purcell insisted he was not “hiding behind anything” and would answer any questions the committee had once the commission finished its work.