Purcell accused over Garda probe
Published 28/05/2014 | 20:07
One of the country's top-earning public servants has been accused of obstructing a parliamentary inquiry into alleged Garda wrongdoing.
Brian Purcell, secretary general of the Department of Justice, repeatedly refused to answer questions from TDs and senators about his role in the shock resignation of former Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan.
The 200,000 euro-a-year official was sent to Mr Callinan's home the night before he stood down in the wake of several scandals involving the force.
Hauled before an Oireachtas Justice Committee, Mr Purcell said it was not unusual to meet with the Garda chief out-of-hours but accepted he had never before gone to his private residence.
"Of course it is unusual for a meeting like that to take place in the home of the (Garda) Commissioner, as it would be to take place in my home or your home," he said.
Asked if Mr Callinan knew in advance about the visit, he said: "I wouldn't turn up unannounced at anyone's door."
But Mr Purcell said he could not answer any further questions about the affair as it would prejudice an imminent State inquiry into the secret recording of telephone calls at Garda stations over three decades.
"I'm not hiding behind anything here," he insisted.
But Independent TD Finian McGrath said it was unacceptable for a public servant to "stonewall" a parliamentary committee, while Fianna Fail's Niall Collins accused Mr Purcell of obstructing the Oireachtas watchdog.
Among several frustrated TDs on the committee, Sinn Fein's justice spokesman Padraig MacLochlainn hit out at Mr Purcell for "talking down the clock".
Asked about the findings of the Guerin Report into the official handling of revelations by Garda whistleblower Sgt Maurice McCabe, Mr Purcell admitted the system for dealing with internal complaints "did not prove fit for purpose".
"Insofar as that may have involved shortcomings on the part of the Department, I have no hesitation in apologising to all those who have been affected by those shortcomings including the whistleblowers themselves," he said.
He also said it would have been "maybe better" if there was more engagement by department officials on the whistleblower allegations.
Alan Shatter resigned as Justice Minister after the Guerin Report found he and the Garda had failed in their duty to properly investigate the alleged corruption and malpractice.
The inquiry was also critical of the Department of Justice.
Earlier, Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin told the Dail there was "an extraordinary silence" over the "removal" of the ex-Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan.
"This has been buried for political reasons,'' he said.