Taoiseach defends Callinan and criticises ministers

Enda Kenny says views on Garda Commissioner should not be aired in public


Taoiseach Enda Kenny has defended Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan and criticised members of his own Cabinet - including Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore - for publicly calling on Mr Callinan to withdraw comments in which he called whistleblowers “disgusting”.

Mr Kenny said Ministers should not be “restricted” in their views, but added he would prefer if they weren’t “aired in public”.

The Taoiseach was speaking in Brussels at the end of an EU summit. He refused to support calls for Mr Callinan to withdraw his remarks from Mr Gilmore, Minister for Transport Leo Varadkar, Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton and Minister for Communications Pat Rabbitte.

Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn tonight joined his cabinet colleagues in supporting the whistleblowers, calling on Mr Callinan to “end the controversy”.

Mr Kenny expressed his confidence in Mr Callinan, who the Taoiseach insisted has already clarified on a number of occasions the context in which he made the “disgusting” comments.

“The relationship between the Taoiseach of the day and the Garda Commissioner of the day is one that has to be absolutely professional,” Mr Kenny said.

“And the Garda commissioner, in whom I have confidence, has responsibility for the day to day running of the Gardai. He’s already clarified on a number of occasions the reason for his making (the) comments at the Public Accounts Committee and the context in which he made those comments.”

Mr Kenny also said he would have preferred if the Ministers expressed their views in private.

“I certainly have a preference that if any Minister has an issue to raise, they raise it at the Cabinet, or raise it where we would have discussions and deal with them rather than have them aired in public,” Mr Kenny said.

“I’m not saying that people have to be restricted in their views on anything but there is a process by which these things should be dealt with.”

Mr Kenny said there are a number reports and investigations underway into the force, with the Garda Commissioner and Garda management “fully co-operating in respect of implementing all of the changes and the recommendations to be put in place”.

Speaking to reporters at the Fianna Fáil ardfheis in Co Kerry tonight, party leader Micheál Martin said Mr Kenny’s comments represented a “severe rebuke” to his cabinet colleagues.

He said the Taosieach “clearly wants to shut this debate down as fast as he possibly can because he understands more than most that the longer this debate carries on in the public domain, the more it inevitably undermines the position of his close colleague Minister for Justice Alan Shatter”.

Separately, Minister of State Fergus O’Dowd said “the whistle blowers did a fantastic job”.

“We know there is criticism of some of the things they did from an independent source, from the information commissioner,” he told LMFM.

He said the truth had to be listened to but it was time to move on.

“There will be no more fixing of points by anybody anywhere nor should there ever have been. I would like to the whistle-blowers reinstated in their positions absolutely,” he said.

Asked about calls on Mr Callinan to withdraw his comments, Mr O’Dowd said: “He has said he was speaking about the issue (and) putting in the public domain information which was privileged and private. That is what was criticised by [the Data Protection Commissioner].”

“I think the key thing is we respect and acknowledge what the whistle-blowers have done and we move it onto the next phase which is ensuring it never happens again and secondly that they are reintegrated fully back into the gardaí.”