Micheál Martin claims Taoiseach ‘effectively sacked’ Garda commissioner

Enda Kenny confirms he sent a senior official to see Martin Callinan the night before he resigned

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin: asked why the commission of inquiry was announced on the day the commissioner resigned.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin: asked why the commission of inquiry was announced on the day the commissioner resigned.

Thu, Mar 27, 2014, 01:05

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has been accused of “effectively sacking” former Garda commissioner Martin Callinan after he confirmed he sent a senior official to see him the night before he resigned.

Mr Kenny said he sent the secretary general of the Department of Justice to see the commissioner in connection with the establishment of an inquiry into the system of taping phone calls at Garda stations for up to 30 years.

The Taoiseach did this because “I thought it appropriate given the nature of the information made available to me that the commissioner should be made aware of the gravity of how I felt about this and its implications”.

But Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said the confirmation meant “you essentially sacked him”.

Mr Martin said that “calling a spade a spade, that is what that means”. He described it as “appalling” because the commissioner had already written to the Minister for Justice two weeks ago and the Attorney General knew about the issue four months previously, he said.

Questioning the timing of the revelations about the phone taping system, which had been in place for almost 30 years, Mr Martin asked why the commission of inquiry was announced on the day the commissioner resigned.

‘Full story’
He also claimed the Taoiseach had not told Opposition leaders “the full story” when he briefed Mr Martin and Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams yesterday about the establishment of the commission.

Mr Kenny retorted that “it’s the first time you’ve accused me of being a liar” and “of going around sacking Garda commissioners”. Mr Kenny said: “I deplore what you’re suggesting.”

During Leaders’ Questions in the Dáil, the Taoiseach said he had phoned the Attorney General on Sunday and she had told him of an issue he should be aware of but the Opposition laughed when Mr Kenny said the legal adviser was not prepared to discuss it over the phone.

Independent TD Stephen Donnelly called on Mr Kenny to ask the Minister to stand down. He said Mr Shatter did not have the trust of rank-and-file gardaí, the Oireachtas, the Garda Ombudsman Commission or the public for the “Herculean” challenge of reform of the Garda.

But Mr Kenny said the Minister for Justice “is not liked by the judiciary. He’s not liked by the legal profession. He’s not liked by the gardaí. He mightn’t be liked by a lot of people but I’ll give you one thing. He’s got the courage to deal with the truth and to change it where it’s necessary in the interests of our citizens and our country.”

He told Mr Donnelly: “He’s never been afraid to deal with what’s been lying under a lot of carpets for many years.”

Mr Adams said the Taoiseach had told the Opposition he was informed on Sunday of very serious allegations of recording by gardaí but this practice had been brought to the Government’s attention on at least three occasions.

He added that on Tuesday the Taoiseach refused to answer him when he asked if the Garda commissioner knew of the phone recordings before he put in his letter of retirement. But it had emerged that “not only did he know but he wrote to the Government about this”.

He asked Mr Kenny “what sort of Government are you running” when the Taoiseach was not told until Sunday about the issue. The Sinn Féin leader said personal loyalty was admirable “but incompetence is not a qualification for being a Minister for Justice and Equality”.

He said that if he kept backing Mr Shatter, “you’re bringing your own office into the controversy”. He said the Taoiseach should ask the Minister to stand down.

But the Taoiseach retorted: “You only want a head.”