Taoiseach not calling for Callinan to withdraw comments

Garda Commissioner stands by remarks describing actions of whistleblowers as ‘disgusting’, in face of objections by senior Ministers

Taoiseach Enda Kenny:  “The relationship between the Taoiseach of the day and the Garda Commissioner of the day is one that has to be absolutely professional.” Photograph: AP Photo/Virginia Mayo

Taoiseach Enda Kenny: “The relationship between the Taoiseach of the day and the Garda Commissioner of the day is one that has to be absolutely professional.” Photograph: AP Photo/Virginia Mayo

Sat, Mar 22, 2014, 01:00


Taoiseach Enda Kenny has refused to join calls from a number of his senior Ministers for Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan to withdraw comments in which he called the actions of whistleblowers “disgusting”. Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore became the most senior Minister to do so yesterday, following similar calls by Minister for Transport Leo Varadkar and Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton.

Minister for Communications Pat Rabbitte also echoed these sentiments, but the commissioner was standing over his position last night.

A spokeswoman for Minister for Justice Alan Shatter said he would address these issues during a Dáil debate next week on the Garda Inspectorate report into the penalty points controversy.

Mr Callinan maintains he was describing the actions of Sgt Maurice McCabe and former garda John Wilson, in providing internal Garda records to people outside the force, as disgusting, rather than the character of the men themselves.

The Taoiseach expressed his confidence in Mr Callinan, who he said had already clarified the context in which he had made the “disgusting” comments.

“The relationship between the Taoiseach of the day and the Garda Commissioner of the day is one that has to be absolutely professional,” Mr Kenny said.

Confidence
“And the Garda Commissioner, in whom I have confidence, has responsibility for the day to day running of the Garda. He’s already clarified on a number of occasions the reason for his making [the] comments at the Public Accounts Committee and the context in which he made those comments.”

Mr Kenny said there were a number reports and investigations under way into the force, with the Garda Commissioner and Garda management “fully co-operating in respect of implementing all of the changes and the recommendations to be put in place”.

While Mr Gilmore yesterday cancelled scheduled media appearances because of an illness, his spokeswoman said he shared the views of Mr Varadkar and Ms Burton. “The Labour Party view was outlined by Joan Burton and that view is shared by Eamon Gilmore,” the spokeswoman said.

However, Mr Gilmore still had confidence in Mr Callinan, she said, adding that the latest statement did not mean the Tánaiste had changed his position. Mr Gilmore is expected to be asked about the controversy when he attends an Alliance Party conference in Northern Ireland today.

No withdrawal
Labour sources have indicated the party will not be pushing for a withdrawal from Mr Callinan.

“It would be a great pity if we couldn’t bring the controversial aspects of the saga to conclusion and, from that point of view, I think it would be helpful if the Garda Commissioner facilitated that,” Mr Rabbitte told RTÉ’s News at One .

He said Mr Callinan was a “decent and honourable” man.

“I think the Garda Commissioner could bring it to a conclusion . . . It would be better if the heat were taken out of it rather than people digging in their heels.”

Mr Rabbitte said the penalty points controversy had already achieved some good outcomes, such as giving the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (GSOC) more powers, as well as abolishing the position of the confidential recipient in the force. He said Mr Shatter was “probably badly advised” when he said whistleblowers Sgt Maurice McCabe and John Wilson failed to co-operate with internal Garda inquiries into the penalty points affair.