Long line of senior gardaí who have clashed with government

Background: Callinan not the first commissioner to leave office amid controversy

Martin Callinan one of a long line of senior gardaí who departed from office in the midst of political controversy. Photograph: PA

Martin Callinan one of a long line of senior gardaí who departed from office in the midst of political controversy. Photograph: PA

 

Martin Callinan was one of a long line of senior gardaí who departed from office in the midst of political controversy.

Since the foundation of the State four Garda commissioners and two deputy commissioners have left office in such circumstances while others were the subject of serious contention.

The first and most famous clash involving a government and Garda commissioner was the decision of the then recently elected Fianna Fáil government to sack Gen Eoin O’Duffy in 1933.

Éamon de Valera, leader of the government who was then entitled president of the Executive Council, defended the sacking but refused to give any grounds for the decision. “He was removed from office because, in the opinion of the Executive Council, a change of commissioner was desirable in the public interest,” de Valera told the Dáil, adding that he did not propose to state the reasons as it was not desirable in all cases to give reasons.

Close association

It was widely believed O’Duffy was sacked because of his close association with the security policy of the Cumann na nGaedheal government which had run the country for the previous decade.

O’Duffy went on to become leader of the Blueshirts which posed a direct challenge to the government’s authority. On his death in 1944 he was given a State funeral by the Fianna Fáil government.

Eamonn Coogan, who had been O’Duffy’s deputy commissioner and had played an important role in developing the unarmed force as a respected institution, was dismissed from his post in 1936. Coogan, father of journalist and historian Tim Pat Coogan, was also removed without explanation. It was widely believed his dismissal followed an altercation with an executive of de Valera’s newspaper the Irish Press.

Although he was sacked as deputy commissioner he was given a position as chief superintendent but he retired from the Garda in 1941 and was elected as a Fine Gael TD for Carlow-Kilkenny in 1944.

In 1978 the newly installed Fianna Fáil government dismissed Ned Garvey, who had been commissioner since 1975 and had been associated with the tough anti-IRA measures adopted by the previous Fine Gael-Labour government.

Garvey was asked by the government to resign his post and when he refused he was sacked without explanation. He then took a legal action against the State and won. The High Court and Supreme Court found he had not been accorded natural justice and his sacking had been illegal.

The upshot of the case was that in future any government would be obliged, before exercising its power to remove a Garda commissioner from office, to inform him or her of the reasons for the proposal and allow them to respond.

Just five years later another clash with government developed – this time involving Garda commissioner Patrick McLaughlin and the deputy commissioner Joe Ainsworth.

Tapped

The archives for 1983, released two years ago, showed that the then minister for justice Michael Noonan was authorised by his cabinet colleagues to tell the two men that their continuance in office could come into question, but in light of the Garvey judgment they were invited to respond before any action was taken.

Noonan met the two men for lengthy discussions which led McLaughlin to write to the minister. “Having regard to our conversation of last night, it is apparent that you and the government feel that I have not lived up adequately to my responsibilities. In particular I am thought by you not to have measured up in the exercise of control relative to the matters discussed,” he wrote.

“In the circumstances it would not be appropriate for me to try to continue in the post of commissioner and accordingly I have decided to retire as from 1st February, 1983.”

Mr Ainsworth also retired.

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