Rabbitte’s dark hints throw new light on mystery
Miriam Lord discusses the Minister for Communications and the sources close to the ears the former Garda commissioner.
Pat Rabbitte: ‘I would strongly counsel, don’t draw any naive conclusions about anything in this particular regard’
Sources close to the ears of the former Garda commissioner must have been sweating profusely yesterday morning.
Why? Because it’s highly likely that Martin Callinan’s lugs were on fire.
Positively blazing, one expects, thanks to the things Pat Rabbitte was insinuating on the radio about senior Garda officers.
The heavy hints emanating from the Minister for Communications on Newstalk’s Breakfast Show explain in some part why the Taoiseach continued to talk in riddles during Leaders’ Questions about the circumstances surrounding the disposal of the commissioner.
The first one to be sacked in 30 years, as Micheál Martin helpfully pointed out.
Pat was on a panel discussing political events – something of a comedown for a man holding the exalted rank of Government Minister. Ministers usually get a slot all to themselves, due to their level of importance. But Rabbitte seemed very keen to unburden himself of certain views, no matter what the studio setting.
In the course of a chat with presenters Ivan Yates and Shane Coleman, the subject turned to the lead story in yesterday’s Irish Times . It said the Government rushed to establish a Commission of Inquiry because of fears that someone high up in the police force was trying to destroy recordings of phone calls to and from Garda stations.
Surely not, suggested Ivan. Didn’t Martin Callinan go to the data commissioner and contact the Attorney General’s office to see what he should do with the tapes? There is no evidence that anybody in the senior echelons wanted to destroy them.
“Well,” replied Pat, using his “I’m glad you asked me that question” tone of voice.
“I do know about that, Ivan. That’s the good news. And the bad news is, I’m not going to tell you.”
But the Minister, who sounded like he was bursting to tell all, did his best to convey the gist anyway.
“But it’s going to come out,” he darkly predicted. “And I would strongly counsel, don’t draw any naive conclusions about anything in this particular regard.”
At this point, Sources Close to the Ears of the Former Commissioner probably fainted.
Ivan wasn’t far behind them. “But that’s Earth-shaking – if gardaí were going to destroy these tapes . . .”
Whereupon Rabbitte went all coy.
“I’m not confirming or denying that. Eh, I happen to know, eh, what happened . . .”
Shane pressed him: “But there is evidence that you have been made aware of?”
Pat went off on a tangent. “Don’t forget the nonsense that was put about for a week now about the Garda commissioner meeting the Attorney General – which never happened – on the 11th of November, 2013 . . .”
Shane hauled him back.
“You’re aware of evidence – I know you can’t disclose that evidence, but evidence has been made available to the Cabinet. That’s the clear inference of what you are saying.”
Oh, God, not at all. Where did he get impression?
“No, I’m not confirming or denying anything.”
Shane: “You’re saying, don’t jump to conclusions – we know stuff and it will come out.”
The Minister repeated his advice about not making hasty judgments until the Commission of Inquiry reports.
Ivan changed tack. Did Pat think yesterday’s Irish Times story was correct?
“I’m not falling for that,” harrumphed Rabbitte, who had said quite enough, but wasn’t finished yet.
The Minister was making some pretty serious allegations. “Hugely serious. Hugely serious,” agreed Pat.
Shane tried one last time to pin him down. “And, if the evidence you’re not confirming exists – but that evidence, is it likely to come out in this inquiry by the Supreme Court judge?”
To which Rabbitte strongly replied: “I sincerely hope so.”
And as we picked our jaw up off the floor, we wondered if Sources Close to the Burning Ears of Martin Callinan had spontaneously combusted yet.
Meanwhile, the Coalition’s hint-dropper in chief returned to Dáil Éireann in time for Leaders’ Questions. He sat next to the Taoiseach for the entire session.
So no prizes for guessing where Enda Kenny stands on the mysterious tape destroying question.
Could this latest revelation/insinuation have any bearing on the Garda commissioner’s decision to “retire” following that night-time knock on his hall door from the secretary general of the Department of Justice?
The Opposition, a full week on since Callinan was given the push, is still trying to establish the reason why the Taoiseach decided the commissioner had to go. They got nowhere again, with Enda repeating his mantra that he merely sent Brian Purcell around to Callinan’s house because “I wanted my concerns communicated to the Garda commissioner.”
But what were those concerns?
Enda wouldn’t, or couldn’t, say. He simply ignored the question.
Instead, he coldly remarked that the commissioner “made his decision and I noted his press release the following morning regarding his retirement”.
The Taoiseach has no idea what sort of discussion might have gone on between Callinan and the civil servant he sent to his house.
“And I don’t wish to assume anything.”
Having sent Brian Purcell to do his bidding, Enda didn’t think to ask him how he got on.
And doesn’t want to know.
Micheál Martin said he wished he could have been a fly on the wall for that meeting.
When the Taoiseach’s concerns about the phone calls were conveyed to Callinan, he must have reminded the secretary general about the letter he sent him on that very issue two weeks previously.
The letter that, conveniently, the Taoiseach and his Minister for Justice didn’t see until after Callinan was fired.
Enda repeatedly protested that he acted swiftly and decisively upon receiving extremely “grave” information about a pending court case which he can’t really discuss.
“A woman was murdered in west Cork. It is a live, unsolved murder. I was briefed by the Attorney General and if you think I should sit up in my office and not do something about it, you’re badly mistaken.”
The Taoiseach is talking a lot, but saying little.
In the absence of a credible narrative from him, the Fianna Fáil leader decided “the inescapable conclusion is that the Garda commissioner was the scapegoat to protect the Minister”.
It looks that way, all right.
Unless there is another reason. The one that Pat Rabbitte was only itching to reveal on the radio yesterday morning.
And what will the Sources Close to the Former Garda Commissioner have to say about that?