Kenny comments a ‘severe rebuke’ to cabinet colleagues
FF leader says Taoiseach wants to ‘shut down debate’ on whistleblowers to protect Shatter
Fianna Fáil leader Micheal Martin has described the Taoiseach’s comments on the Garda whistleblower row as a severe rebuke to his cabinet colleagues. Photograph: Alan Betson.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny’s comments about the ongoing Garda whistleblower controversy represent a “severe rebuke of the Tánaiste, Minister Burton and Minister Varadkar”, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin has claimed.
He said Mr Kenny “clearly wants to shut this debate down as fast as he possibly can because he understands more than most that the longer this debate carries on in the public domain, the more it inevitably undermines the position of his close colleague Minister for Justice Alan Shatter”.
Mr Martin said he believed the Labour party and the Minister for Transport, Leo Varadkar, “are no longer prepared to defend the indefensible. That’s essentially what one can take from the comments they have made.”
He renewed his call for Mr Shatter to correct the record of the Dáil and for Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan to withdraw his remarks at the public accounts committee, when he described the allegations made by the whistleblowers as “disgusting”.
Mr Martin was speaking to reporters before the start of the party’s ardfheis. He was responding to comments made by the Taoiseach in Brussels, where he said ministers should raise their concerns within the Cabinet.
Asked about the whistleblower controversy, Mr Martin said Mr Kenny’s remarks that concerns should be raised within Cabinet was a severe rebuke to his Labour colleagues in Government and his party colleague Mr Varadkar, who yesterday said the Commissioner should withdraw his remarks.
Asked if he believed Commissioner Martin Callinan should resign, Mr Martin said: “I’m not going to politicise the operational details of An Garda Síochána.
“We’ve had too much politicisation to date. One of the consistent criticisms of Minister Shatter’s behaviour has been the degree to which he’s politicised An Garda Siochana.”
He added: “[Mr Callinan is] taking comfort from his boss who happens to be the Minister for Justice and the whole trend from Mr Shatter has been and continues to be to undermine the whistlelblowers and that’s indefensible now and Minister Varadkar’s saying that.”
He said the two whistleblowers had been vindicated in the Garda Inspectorate’s report. “I don’t think the Minister for Justice has any excuse but to unequivocally apologise to the whistleblowers and apologise for his remarks.”
“It’s the right thing to do. And that’s what Leo Varadkar was saying yesterday.”
The Fianna Fáil leader said that if he were taoiseach the first priority would be that the Dáil record should be clear. “The overriding objective of a Government is to ensure its Ministers do not mislead the Dáil.”
He said that where wrong has been done it should be corrected, and that the simplest thing for Mr Shatter to do would be to go into the Dáil, apologise for what he said, and withdraw his remarks.
“The Minister seems to have a huge problem saying ‘I got that wrong’,” he said, adding that Mr Varadkar was saying “for God’s sake this is obvious”.
He said the Road Safety Authority had given advice to the Government on these issues and it took a long time for Mr Shatter to take this on board.
“And we’re now beginning to see the fallout from all of that at Cabinet level, where incoherent messages at best are emanating and where the Taoiseach is desperately trying to shut down debate and suppress legitimate concerns” by his Cabinet colleagues.
Earlier Mr Martin said the ardfheis would debate more than 200 motions covering a wide range of issues “majoring in health, education, social protection and we’re dealing with a number of topics that have a wider societal impact such as mental health”.
He said: “We’ve had a fairly exhaustive selection process involving about 16,000 members of the party exercising their franchise in selecting candidates for the local and European elections. It’s the largest ever participation of members in the selection of candidates.
“We’ve over 400 candidates and it’s a good balance between trusted experienced public representatives and new people, about 35 per cent of the candidates are new and entering politics for the first time.”