Miriam Lord: Nobody likes taste of their own medicine
Minister for Justice Alan Shatter and former Garda commissioner Martin Callinan. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons/The Irish Times
It’s a strange irony at the end of a remarkable political week: the man who couldn’t hide his contempt for Garda whistleblowers is treated to a taste of his own medicine. He isn’t taking it well.
But then, as those whistleblowers could tell him – it’s not nice to be at the receiving end.
So while Enda Kenny laughably continues to protest he did not assist the Garda commissioner to arrive at his unexpected decision to “retire,” Martin Callinan’s confidential recipients are making it known that their man was very definitely pushed.
This should be of comfort to Alan Shatter, who must have been very hurt and annoyed by the commissioner’s shock decision to cash in his pips. After all, the Minister for Justice went to considerable trouble for Callinan, getting a special Government exemption for him to stay on in his job beyond the compulsory retirement age of 60. Then his man suddenly quits with well over a year of service left.
Shatter must have been astounded by this ingratitude, until “sources” close to the decommissioned commissioner revealed he didn’t go willingly. The Taoiseach, by sending the secretary general of the Department of Justice to Callinan’s home for a quiet word, put compulsory retirement firmly back on the table again for the lawman his Cabinet had voted to keep.
And Alan Shatter wasn’t there to help on this occasion. Although once the politically expedient decision to “retire” the commissioner was taken, the least our self-proclaimed “Minister for Time” could have done was send a nice gold watch over to Martin along with the chop. Particularly as Callinan’s “retirement” helped Shatter stay in his job.
He was cast adrift because the Taoiseach, all of a sudden, became very worried by reports that gardaí were secretly recording phone-calls. (Not exactly fresh news, as it transpires.)
He dispatched the top man in Justice to let the commissioner know just how gravely concerned he was about the implications of this practice.
Poor Martin must have been delighted. At last, somebody was taking notice. He must have felt like John Wilson and Maurice McCabe when Micheál Martin took up their case. The commissioner had closed down the recording of Garda conversations last November. He had meetings with Justice officials about it, flagging up the dangerous implications of this practice. He set up a working group to investigate.
He even couriered a letter, marked for the Minister’s attention, to his office. Disseminating important material for the greater good, just like Wilson and McCabe.
Whistleblower Callinan didn’t need the Taoiseach to explain the gravity of the situation to him. Unlike this week’s tribunal-like stream of top politicians and public servants who had no idea of what had been going on, at least the commissioner was on the ball. Then he was shouldered off it.