Why won’t Enda tell Paddy what happened on Callinan Night?

It’s 35 years or so since a commissioner quit. Enda knows why but he won’t tell, writes Miriam Lord.

 The only toxic topic is the circumstances surrounding Mr Callinan’s resignation. Photograph: Gareth Chaney Collins

The only toxic topic is the circumstances surrounding Mr Callinan’s resignation. Photograph: Gareth Chaney Collins

Thu, May 15, 2014, 01:00

Never mind poor Paddy. He has a short little span of attention. “Paddy likes to know what the story is.”

That’s what the Taoiseach famously said in the general election afterglow when promising a new era of transparency in government.

Enda knows what the story is today. But he isn’t going to tell Paddy, aka the Irish people. Who cares? It’s only to do with the departure of the Garda commissioner under very mysterious circumstances following a meeting between four of the most important public servants in the land.

The Taoiseach was one of them. It was only two months ago. They can’t have forgotten already. It’s 35 years or so since a commissioner last stepped down. Paddy thinks that’s a very big deal. Enda knows why. But he won’t tell, even though nothing is stopping him from doing so.

Something to hide
And the more he doesn’t tell, cowering in the style of Fianna Fáil ministers during the Mahon tribunal behind the skirts of a judge and his commission of investigation, the more it looks like he has something to hide.

Enda did nothing to dispel that notion in the Dáil yesterday. What does it matter? Health and housing were on the menu during Leaders’ Questions. These are issues very close to Paddy’s weary heart. Honesty and apparent avoidance seem like mere fripperies under the circumstances.

Yet it would be the simplest thing in the world for the Taoiseach to step into the Dáil and tell Paddy and Patricia what they need to know. Or, failing that, to instruct the secretary general he dispatched to the commissioner’s home following that mysterious meeting to tell the truth before the justice committee with his blessing.

Are we missing something?

The most telling sentence spoken in the Dáil chamber came from the Ceann Comhairle, as deputy Róisín Shortall joined the chorus of colleagues demanding to know what transpired during this meeting between individuals of extremely high standing in the State.

“Will you switch off that microphone! Please!”

The Taoiseach said nothing. He just looked annoyed. To onlookers, Paddy’s need to know had just been abandoned by Enda’s need to keep schtum. Róisín Shortall’s microphone was duly silenced.

The Fianna Fáil leader brought up the expected appearance before the justice committee of Brian Purcell, secretary general of the Department of Justice and the man in the eye of the storm after the publication of the Guerin report on the Garda whistleblowers.

The findings were so grave that a new inquiry is to be set up to deal with them. Yesterday morning, Purcell wrote to the committee agreeing to appear, but stipulating he would not be answering questions to do with the resignation of the Garda commissioner.

Micheál Martin said they should be allowed ask these questions and the secretary general should answer them. Whereupon Enda nipped behind Nial Fennelly’s skirts. A commission of investigation has been set up and the issue will now be considered by the learned Supreme Court judge. It can’t be discussed now, apparently. Which isn’t true.

Sinn Fein’s Pádraig Mac Lochlainn was anxious to put him right. He pointed out that all manner of issues arising from various inquiries are not out of bounds for discussion by Purcell.

Toxic topic