Taoiseach rejects claims he lied about Callinan

Heated Dáil exchanges over White’s claim Kenny sacked former Garda commissioner

Taoiseach Enda Kenny  insisted he is telling the truth about the circumstances surrounding the departure of former Garda commissioner Martin Callinan (above). Photograph: Alan Betson

Taoiseach Enda Kenny insisted he is telling the truth about the circumstances surrounding the departure of former Garda commissioner Martin Callinan (above). Photograph: Alan Betson

Thu, Jun 12, 2014, 01:07

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has insisted he is telling the truth about the circumstances surrounding the departure of former Garda commissioner Martin Callinan, rejecting Fianna Fáil claims he is hiding behind the Fennelly commission investigation into the controversy.

Rejecting opposition claims he lied over the circumstances surrounding Mr Callinan’s resignation, Mr Kenny suggested Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin was “not familiar with the truth” over claims the Taoiseach fired the then commissioner.

During heated exchanges at Leaders’ Questions in the Dáil, Mr Martin accused Mr Kenny of hiding behind the Fennelly commission investigating the issue and said “for some reason you will not come into the House and tell the truth”.

The Fianna Fáil leader referred to a letter sent last week by Minister of State Alex White to 5,000 members of the Labour Party in which he said: “I will not stand over a position where the Taoiseach looks to fire the commissioner of the gardaí without as much as a phone call to the leader of the Labour Party.”

Mr Martin asked if Mr Kenny had spoken to Mr White and if he agreed with what he said because the Garda commissioner could only be removed by the Cabinet and “essentially you set in train a series of events to remove the former commissioner without telling your Cabinet colleagues”.

Mr Kenny said he had not spoken to Mr White, whom he said was involved in a leadership contest and “I do not accept Minister White’s assertion”.

In turn he told Mr Martin: “You made a charge in this House and you’re going to have to stand over it and you won’t stand over it for very long.”

‘Some neck’

Mr Martin said: “One of your own Ministers has made the charge and you haven’t done anything about that. You haven’t even talked to him. You’ve some neck to come in here and lecture me about that when one of your own Government Ministers has made the assertion.”

The Taoiseach said: “I’m well aware of the legislation regarding the removal of a person with the stature of the Garda commissioner.”

It was “my duty and my responsibility” to bring to the commissioner’s attention his grave concerns about the revelations by the Attorney General about the unsolved murder case in west Cork of Sophie Toscan du Plantier and the taping of phone calls to garda stations.

Mr Kenny said he brought those concerns to Mr Callinan’s attention “because I would have to inform the Cabinet in the morning of those concerns and anxieties”.

But Mr Martin rounded on him and told the Taoiseach to “stop changing your story as it goes on”. He said it was the commissioner who first brought the issue of phone recordings to the Department of Justice and the issue “wasn’t actually about a specific garda recording either. It was about the wider issue of phone recordings at Garda stations that you claim to be so concerned about.”

Mr Martin also claimed that the morning after Mr Kenny sent the Department of Justice secretary general to see Mr Callinan, the secretary general phoned Mr Callinan to say the Cabinet’s concerns about the issue had not dissipated, “despite the fact that the Cabinet knew nothing about it”.

He said: “Square that with the truth. You can’t hide behind Fennelly for a year and a half and hope that it will be buried.”

But Mr Kenny told Mr Martin that given this revelation he might have to answer to the Fennelly commission and “be candid about who told you that”.