Taoiseach rejects claims he prompted Callinan to resign

Fianna Fáil is to table motion of no confidence in Minister for Justice

Fri, Mar 28, 2014, 14:02

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has denied Opposition claims that he put pressure on the former Garda commissioner Martin Callinan to resign.

The fallout from the Garda controversy continued today with Fianna Fáil planning to table a motion of no confidence in Minister for Justice Alan Shatter next week.

Speaking in Castlebar, Co Mayo today Mr Kenny said he believed it was important his concerns about the implications of phone conversations at Garda stations were to Mr Callinan by a senior official, and that it was important and proper to convey this to him.

Secretary General of the Department of Justice Brian Purcell visited Mr Callinan at his home on Monday evening and informed him of the Taoiseach’s concerns over the potential impact on court cases and tribunals arising from the recording of calls from Garda stations.

Mr Purcell conveyed to Mr Callinan that the Taoiseach was going to make public allegations of widespread potentially illegal taping of conversations in garda stations.

Mr Kenny said: “The only people I can dismiss from office are Ministers with the consent of Government, or Ministers of State. The Garda Commissioner made his own decision.”

Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton said today neither she nor the other Labour Ministers knew about the Garda tapes controversy until just before the Cabinet meeting on Tuesday.

When asked this morning if she was comfortable with the manner in which the news was conveyed to Mr Callinan, she responded: “What I’m happy about is that we have had a very clear correction of the record of the Dáil by the Minister for Justice and an apology to the whistleblowers.”

Rank-and-file gardai did not authorise or operate widespread surveillance of phone lines in stations, the Garda Representative Association (GRA) has said.

With concerns that the surveillance system may lead to a raft of appeals for convictions from gang bosses, murderers, rapists and terror chiefs, the GRA said they were only aware of recording of calls to control and communications rooms, 999 lines and some public offices but no other lines.

The organisation, which has about 11,500 members, said “The continued speculation in the media is impacting on the policing function - and until we have clarification and concrete facts the continued speculation undermines our members’ day-to-day work.”

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said: “Fundamentally we are of the view the public have lost confidence in the capacity of the Minister to administer justice in the Department of Justice”.

He criticised Mr Shatter’s attitude and approach to the GSOC bugging saga, the penalty points saga and the undermining of the whistleblowers in a consistent and persistent way he had undermined the Garda whistleblowers.

Mr Martin also accused the Taoiseach of putting loyalty to the Minister above everything else.

Earlier in the Dáil he had accused Minister for Justice Alan Shatter of “hiding away” while a profound crisis affects An Garda Síochána, one of the State’s most important institutions.

In a sharp attack on the Minister Mr Martin claimed that “instead of taking responsibility he limited himself to a couple of carefully scripted appearances” in the Dáil.

“This week the Minister for Justice went into hiding,” he said following the resignation of Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan, and the revelation of a system of taping phone calls to and from Garda stations, ongoing for up to 30 years.

In an outburst to the Dáil as he introduced his Seanad Reform Bill, Mr Martin excoriated the Minister and said that “for only the second time in our history the head of our police force resigned - and did so following an approach by a senior official at the request of the Taoiseach”.

He said: “By any definition this is a major public issue - yet the minister did not do a single interview. He hid from public sight entirely on Monday and Tuesday.”

But Minister of State Fergus O’Dowd said “I I utterly refute the content and tone, as well as the hypocrisy shown by the leader of Fianna Fail” and said that “in times of serious political issue” he voted with the “party’s former leader, Bertie Ahern, and kept him in power during the most appalling ruining of our economy”.

Mr O’Dowd was in the chamber to debate Fianna Fail’s legislation to reform the Seanad, which the Government rejected.

In his speech Mr Martin said the Garda Commissioner “was pushed aside following series of deeply suspicious events. Each element of this story has emerged drip by drip and there is not a person anywhere who believes that everything is now out in public.

Even the Government’s most craven supporters now concede that we are facing a profound crisis which touches on one of our most important institutions.

But “in the face of this we have for months seen a strategy of attacking opponents, false claims left on the record, a reluctance to investigate serious allegations and an absolute refusal to accept even the most basic principles of democratic accountability”.

He added: “Worst of all we as members of the Oireachtas but not members of Government had no powers to force him to be address this fundamental issue.

Additional reporting: PA