Kenny: Coalition prepared to respond to no confidence motions
Taoiseach reacts to criticism, alleging possible individual agendas with eye to publicity
Taoiseach Enda Kenny: Happy to debate Fennelly conclusions when Dáil resumes. Photograph: The Irish Times
Taoiseach Enda Kenny has said the Government is prepared to respond in full to Fianna Fáil’s no confidence motion in him and Sinn Féin’s move against the Taoiseach and Attorney General.
The Opposition motions are as a consequence of the Fennelly commission’s findings and Mr Kenny was asked if his administration had sustained political damage as a consequence.
“From the Opposition point of view, people always rush to see who’ll get motions in before the other and there may well be individual agendas being pursued there as to who can gain most publicity,” said Mr Kenny.
“The fact of the matter is that this final interim report dealt with two elements of a major commission investigation . . . The commission investigation was pursued by Mr Justice Fennelly, an eminent former supreme court justice, who has spent 16 months taking evidence and producing his report in accordance with the mandate given to him by Government.”
Mr Kenny said he published the report as soon as he received clearance from the Attorney General. “The conclusions are very clear . . . We will be very happy to debate those in the Dáil when it returns. It’s necessary that there should be a debate on it . . . That’s the normal procedure in any event.”
Asked if he still has full confidence in Attorney General Máire Whelan, Mr Kenny replied: “Yes, I have full and absolute confidence in the Attorney General . . . She’s really an absolutely dedicated public servant.”
Regarding Garda Commissioner Noirín O’Sullivan, Mr Kenny said a “whole new system” had been established to appoint the commissioner. “As you know, Commissioner O’Sullivan came through that very strongly and is a very able person.”
On the Opposition motion of no confidence in the Taoiseach, former minister for justice Alan Shatter refused to be drawn. Mr Shatter was at the opening of Mount Carmel Community Hospital in Dublin.
“I’m not going to discuss any of that in here now . . . I’m here to celebrate the reopening of this hospital.”
Meanwhile, Minister for Public Expenditure Brendan Howlin has said his Cabinet colleague Ms Whelan will not be used as a scapegoat to protect the Taoiseach following the findings of the interim Fennelly report.
“The attorney general is an immensely competent, able, diligent, law officer to the State that we would be deeply wounded as a nation to lose,” Mr Howlin told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland programme, adding that it was “an extraordinary question” to task whether Ms Whelan would be sacrificed to save Enda Kenny.
The interim report by Supreme Court judge Nial Fennelly on the resignation of former Garda commissioner Martin Callinan in March 2014 was published earlier this week.
The conclusions found the events leading up to Mr Callinan’s resignation were “beset by serious information deficits and multiple failures of communication”.
Asked why the Attorney General failed to advise the Government on the Garda taping issue before March 2014, Mr Howlin said the information Ms Whelan had received in November 2013 was “wholly and materially different in every respect” from the detail she became aware of the weekend of March 21st and 22nd, 2014.
Mr Howlin said the Ms Whelan’s decision to brief the Taoiseach in March was brought about by the quarterly requirement to highlight “Cabinet matters of legal sensitivity” which included tape recordings from Bandon Garda station, the content of which had potentially serious implications for the Ian Bailey case against the State.
“In the cold light of that weekend, we had no idea what the implications either for the Bailey case or for a number of other cases would be when it was discovered that there was widespread, potentially unauthorised, illegal telephone recordings in Garda stations up and down the country,” said Mr Howlin.
The Minister said Ms Whëlan had made the correct judgement by alerting the Taoiseach to the “potential consequences of widespread taping in Garda stations”.
Mr Howlin added that the Taoiseach had made it clear he stood “solidly in support” of the former Garda commissioner Martin Callinan during debates over “penalty points, the GSOC bugging and evidence before the public accounts committee”.
The Taoiseach’s intention, when he sent senior civil servant Brian Purcell to brief Mr Callinan in March 2014, was to alert the Garda commissioner of his deep concern regarding the taping issue, said Mr Howlin.
Neither Mr Purcell nor Mr Kenny were in a position to request the resignation of Mr Callinan that night, he added.
“It wasn’t Brian Purcell’s call or in fact the Taoiseach’s call to make that decision,” said Mr Howlin. “The commissioner of an Garda Síochána in law can only be fired, if it comes to that, by the collective decision of the Cabinet. That point had not been reached.
“His task in asking the secretary general of the Department of Justice to visit the former Garda commissioner was to alert him to this new development that he the Taoiseach and the attorney general found disquieting.”