Kenny to defend role in Callinan exit controversy

Heated Dáil exchanges likely over confidence motions as House resumes following recess

Fianna Fáil has tabled a motion of no confidence in Taoiseach Enda Kenny following the publication of the Fennelly report. Photograph: The Irish Times

Fianna Fáil has tabled a motion of no confidence in Taoiseach Enda Kenny following the publication of the Fennelly report. Photograph: The Irish Times

 

Taoiseach Enda Kenny will strongly defend his actions in the controversy that led to the resignation of former Garda commissioner Martin Callinan when the Dáil resumes on Tuesday after the summer recess.

Fianna Fáil has tabled a motion of no confidence in Mr Kenny following the publication of the Fennelly report and the Government has responded with a motion reaffirming confidence in Mr Kenny.

The report found the Taoiseach did not sack Mr Callinan but that the dispatch of a senior civil servant to his home in March last year was the catalyst for the then Garda commissioner’s resignation.

The confidence motion will be debated on Tuesday and Wednesday with a vote in the evening.

Mr Kenny is likely to miss the vote as he has to attend an emergency EU summit on migration on Wednesday but he will speak in the debate Tuesday evening and is expected to deliver a robust defence of his position.

Government sources say the Taoiseach will emphasise the finding by Mr Justice Niall Fennelly that that he did not sack Mr Callinan by dispatching Brian Purcell, then general secretary of the Department of Justice, to his home on March 24th last year.

Mr Kenny will insist that Mr Callinan chose to retire on his own accord and that the report backs him in this assessment.

Several senior Ministers from both Coalition parties are expected to contribute to the debate in defence of Mr Kenny.

Abuse of office

However, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin continues to insist that Mr Kenny “essentially engineered” the removal of Mr Callinan.

Speaking at the weekend Mr Martin said it was wrong of the Taoiseach to send Mr Purcell to Mr Callinan’s home on the night before the then commissioner retired.

“It was essentially an abuse of his position and an abuse of power and in my view it was an unethical way to behave,” said Mr Martin.

The Fianna Fáil leader refused to accept that the report found it was Mr Callinan’s own decision to retire.

“It says, however objectively looking at it, sending the secretary general out at midnight without precedent, without any notice, to tell him that the Taoiseach viewed this as a grave matter and that he might not have confidence in him the following morning at that Cabinet meeting. It had that very intention, it had that very purpose in mind,” said Mr Martin.

“It was shocking that the Taoiseach would send out the secretary general to do wrong like that.”

While some Labour TDs are uneasy at the implications of the report, senior party figures will defend the Taoiseach but also use the debate to defend the Coalition’s record in office by contrast with that the last Fianna Fáil-led government.

An attempt by Sinn Féin to table a motion of no confidence in Attorney General Máire Whelan, who also featured as a major figure in the report, is expected to be ruled out of order by Ceann Comhairle Seán Barrett.