Sunday 25 September 2016

What is the Fennelly Commission of Inquiry?

Published 12/06/2015 | 02:30

Martin Callinan
Martin Callinan

Justice Nial Fennelly's Commission of Investigation is investigating recordings of telephone calls at garda stations - including Bandon Garda Station in Cork where former journalist Ian Bailey was arrested.

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But following the controversial departure of Martin Callinan as Garda Commissioner, the Oireachtas Justice Committee recommended that Fennelly also investigate the circumstances of his leaving. Taoiseach Enda Kenny and the Government, under significant political pressure, acceded to the request.

Why is it controversial?

Mr Kenny has been accused of "sacking" Mr Callinan back in March 2014 amid Government concerns over the handling of justice issues.

Why is Mr Kenny accused of sacking him?

In March 2014, Mr Kenny met the Attorney General about the secret recordings in the garda stations and the manner in which it was handled by Mr Callinan and the Department of Justice.

Mr Callinan's treatment of two garda whistleblowers, Sgt Maurice McCabe and John Wilson, was also the subject of much concern within Government, especially his description of their actions as "disgusting".

Mr Kenny dispatched the then-Secretary General of the Department, Brian Purcell, out to Mr Callinan's home to inform him of the grave concern within Government as to the situation, but did so without the matter being discussed at Cabinet.

Mr Callinan announced his shock resignation the following day. Micheál Martin accused Mr Kenny of "sacking" him.

During last summer's leadership race for the Labour party, Minister Alex White said he would not tolerate being excluded from a process where the Taoiseach seeks to sack the Commissioner.

"I will not stand over a position where the Taoiseach looks to fire the Commissioner of the gardaí without as much as a phone call to the leader of the Labour Party," he wrote.

So, what has the Commission done?

Yesterday, after months of investigation and some delays, the Commission sent out draft findings to relevant parties who are named in the report. Both Mr Kenny and Mr Callinan are among those who are to receive copies of the findings.

Other recipients of the report are believed to include Mr Purcell, Martin Fraser (Secretary General at the Department of An Taoiseach) and former Justice Minister Alan Shatter.

What happens now?

Those contacted will have an opportunity to challenge or respond to any findings relevant to them. They are believed to have been given several weeks in order to formulate their response. Once they respond, the Commission must make a decision to accept or reject those responses.

A final version will be sent to Mr Kenny, who will then publish it.

When can we expect the full report?

It is not known when the interim report into Callinan's departure will actually be delivered, but it is expected later this year. But the final Fennelly report could take much longer. Daniel McConnell

Irish Independent

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