GRA insists Callinan removed by ‘political interference’
Garda body maintains opinion despite Kenny saying Fennelly report clears him
Former Garda commissioner Martin Callinan was “removed from his office”, according to the head of the Garda Representative Association PJ Stone. File photograph: David Sleator/The Irish Times
The Garda Representative Association (GRA), which represents rank and file Garda members, has said it believes the former Garda commissioner Martin Callinan was removed from office despite conclusions to the contrary by the Fennelly Commission.
The GRA said it had already expressed its clear view that Mr Callinan was removed from office by political interference, in which Taoiseach Enda Kenny was involved.
That remained the opinion of the association following its first review of the Fennelly Commission interim report into the circumstances of Mr Callinan’s departure from office.
The statement by the GRA, who represent about 10,500 rank and file gardaí in a force numbering almost 13,000, will heap renewed pressure on Mr Kenny, despite his claim that he had been exonerated by the Fennelly interim findings.
The commission has found that Mr Kenny “did not intend to put pressure on the Garda commissioner to retire” and that no proposal had been made by Government to consider Mr Callinan’s removal.
The commission said Mr Kenny’s actions were reasonably interpreted by Mr Callinan as an invitation to consider his position as Garda commissioner.
However, it said the decision on whether he should remain in office or retire was Mr Callinan’s to make and that he had made it.
It also emerged Mr Callinan had offered to serve out a notice period of two or three months but that Mr Kenny rejected this saying he must step down immediately, which he did.
A GRA spokesman told The Irish Times on Thursday that association general secretary PJ Stone had sent out the organisation’s position on the matter at its annual conference in April. He added those comments still represented the association’s view.
“I think it’s been obvious for some time and I think the removal of Mr Callinan as commissioner clearly illustrates to me at least that the Garda Síochána is subject to political whim,” Mr Stone said at the annual delegate conference in Killarney just one month after Mr Callinan’s departure.
“The force has been under severe pressure and issues have arisen which have spiralled out of control,” Mr Stone said at the time.
When asked at the April conference if he felt Mr Callinan was effectively sacked by politicians, he said he believed a difficult situation had been engineered from which the former commissioner had no option but to leave office.
“I am saying Martin Callinan was removed from office and that is obvious to everybody,” he said.
The association told The Irish Times on Thursday, though it had reviewed the Fennelly report, further more detailed comment on it would only be made when the GRA had time for its national executive to meet and discuss the report.
However, Mr Stone’s comments in April were still the association’s view following its initial review of the report published on Tuesday.
“I think it is a disgraceful way to treat the head of a police force,” Mr Stone said in April.
“If you dispatch after a political meeting a head of a department, one can only conclude that there had to be political interference.”
Mr Stone was referring to the visit of then Department of Justice secretary general Brian Purcell to Mr Callinan’s home after Mr Kenny was made aware that telephone calls to and from Garda stations had been secretly recorded for decades.
Mr Callinan was already under pressure as commissioner over his handling of whistleblowers who raised concerns about the termination by gardaí of motorists’ penalty points for no apparent legitimate reason.
He had referred to some of the whistleblowers actions as “disgusting” when he appeared before the Public Accounts Committee in January 2014.
In March, as the controversy around the handling of the whistleblowers allegations continued, Leo Varadkar called them “distinguished”.
He urged Mr Callinan to withdraw his remarks and five days later, as the Garda station taping controversy emerged, he decided to retire from office after the late night visit by Mr Purcell on behalf of the Taoiseach.
Mr Callinan proposed to stay on for three months before shortening that period of notice to two months. However, Mr Kenny rejected that proposal and in a text to the secretary general of his department he said he had come to his decision after considering it “all night”.
“Once decision on early retirement is made it simply has to be immediate. Otherwise Cabinet accepts reason for stepping down but allows it to continue. This would simply not be feasible in any circumstance. Has therefore to be with immediate effect.”