Miriam Lord’s Week: Kenny’s €2m memory loss

Tánaiste demands answers to mysterious Callinan departure

Sat, Apr 19, 2014, 01:00

What with the queen and everything, we forgot about the state of Enda’s carpet.

Back in January, he told the Opposition he had to carry out a major spring clean of Government Buildings when he first moved in, shocked to see the unmerciful mess left behind by previous administrations.

So he rolled up his sleeves and got stuck in. With the help of Eamon Gilmore and willing Coalition Ministers, they got the place sparkling again before moving to deliver on the great promises made before the general election.


Enda told the Sinn Féin leader the slovenly ways of the past would not be repeated by the new brooms from Fine Gael and Labour.

“We have had discussions and questions here over the past several years about what is different. Let me say to you, Deputy Adams, that, on coming into Government, many of the political carpets that have been lifted, many of the financial carpets that have been lifted in the past period, have been infested with maggots. Now, this Government is in the business of clearing up a legacy of untold proportions.”

White tie and tails

That carpet was like a new pin in the early days.

But it’s easy to let things slide and allow the housework get on top of you. And the rug is beginning to walk again. Enda hasn’t noticed the difference. Comfortably ensconced now.

While we were away, the terms of reference for the inquiry into the Garda taping controversy were announced. Supreme Court judge Nial Fennelly will also investigate circumstances surrounding the resignation of former Garda commissioner Martin Callinan.

There wasn’t much of a fuss when details of this inquiry were announced on April 8th. This might have been because Enda and Eamon were busy getting into their white tie and tails for that historic Windsor Castle banquet on the same day, while the media was similarly occupied with Michael D’s historic state visit to the UK.

A most unfortunate coincidence.

And events at the Anglo trial provided another distraction this week.

But the Tánaiste took the opportunity on Tuesday to demand answers to the continuing mystery surrounding the sudden departure of Mr Callinan from the force he served for decades.

He “retired” following a visit to his home from Brian Purcell, the secretary general of the Department of Justice, who made his ominous trip after a meeting with the Taoiseach, his top civil servant Martin Fraser, and Alan Shatter.

“The public is entitled to know the full facts surrounding the resignation of the Garda commissioner last month,” Mr Gilmore told the Dáil with a straight face.

But, sadly, the Taoiseach, speaking in the same debate on the establishment of the inquiry, still couldn’t shed any light on what he did a few weeks ago.

Which is a worry, given that he’s in charge of running the country. All these weeks, racking his brains, to no avail.

Enda could say, however, that the investigation will cost €2 million.

Has Brendan Howlin, the Minister for Public Expenditure looked into this? There seems an obvious saving in that €2 million bill staring him in the face at Cabinet meetings. And a definite case to be made, under the Haddington Road agreement, for time-wasting.

Callinan crunch summit

The crucial Callinan crunch summit happened in Government Buildings on March 24th, followed by that night-time knock on the commissioner’s door. Enda accepted his resignation the following morning.

And now, the Taoiseach and his Minister for Justice need a full blown commission of inquiry to help them establish what they did, in the company of two other distinguished public servants, just a month ago.

It’s like being dropped into the middle of the Anglo trial. Enda and Alan are up there in the memory/record keeping department with the former financial regulator, Mr Heary-no-Evil Neary.

Why can’t they just tell us what they did? Why do two high-ranking elected representatives, privileged with a Dáil platform, require a Supreme Court judge to inform the nation of their recent actions?

And there’s the poor Tánaiste, up on his feet in the Dáil, nonplussed, pleading.

Could Eamon not ask just his friend Enda what happened? The Taoiseach knows. He was there. Does Eamon not see how ridiculous his Dáil cry for information looks when the man who can supply it sits next to him?

Why didn’t he tap the Taoiseach on the shoulder in Windsor Castle and whisper: “The public is entitled to know the full facts surrounding the resignation of the Garda commissioner?”

The Tánaiste could have asked the same question of the secretary general to the Government, Martin Fraser, who was also at the banquet.

Memory loss
As for Alan Shatter, he’s already been stuffed under Enda’s manky carpet. Brian Purcell is there too. No point in asking them.

Four trusted supremos at a meeting, just 28 days ago, on a matter of grave national importance – the Taoiseach, Minister for Justice and two of the most powerful civil servants in the land.

And they need a lengthy, expensive commission of inquiry, headed by a Supreme Court judge (who has enough to do) to stall the Dáil and refresh their memories.

That’s the real mystery.

Lift that carpet high lads – coming through!

Small talk on the big nights out
Don’t you wonder, sometimes, what sort of small talk goes on when monarchs and heads of state mingle?

In Windsor Castle recently, Michael D and The Lady of the House had a little chit-chat before circulating.

T hat night, the President and the queen were very taken by the melodies played by harpist Jean Kelly. As Michael D waxed lyrical about harps , Herself declared a particular interest in the instrument. “Charles plays the harp, you know,” she told him.

Meanwhile, the North’s Deputy First Minister, Martin McGuinness was figuring in a receiving line again, singled out for special attention along with Theresa Villiers, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, First Minister Peter Robinson and T ánaiste Eamon Gilmore.

According to onlookers, there was a “warm exchange” between the queen and McGuinness. The former IRA commander for Derry congratulated the queen on her “great role in peacemaking” while she complimented him on his role on “giving leadership ”.

After receiving the VIPs, President and queen headed in opposite directions to work the room. Then a funny thing happened, as recounted by one of the guests: “ All the Paddies galloped towards the queen in the hope of getting to talk to her. A worried-looking official from the Department of Foreign Affairs had to round some of them up and herd them in the direction of Michael D to make sure he would have a decent crowd too. ”

Ministers put in their place as handlers go to the ball
While they were not entirely absent from the party, remarkably few Irish politicians were invited to be part of the prestigious jaunt that was Michael D’s state visit .

Besides the Taoiseach and T ánaiste, the only Minister to make the grade was a white-tie -and -tailed Pat Rabbitte. (Born to it.)

However, some of the Coalition’s main handlers and advis ers made the cut.

Their presence did not go unnoticed back home.

One Minister told miffed political colleagues last week how he turned on his TV and “saw certain individuals in best bib and tucker looking like they were royalty themselves. Yis all know your place in the pecking order now.”

Mark Kennelly, the Taoiseach’s chef-de-cabinet and Mark Garrett, his Labour counterpart, attended the banquet with their partners.
The two Marks looked very pleased with themselves. Andrew McDowell, the Taoiseach’s special advis er, also got the nod for the nosebag, as did Liam Herrick, Michael D’s advis er.

The journalists, corralled close to deadline in an adjoining room and desperate for every small detail, almost wept while watching Wally Young, Michae l D’s media man, taking his place at the table.

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