Thursday 8 December 2016

Contents of former garda chief's phone will never be known as SIM card was not handed back to HQ

Published 02/09/2015 | 07:08

Potentially valuable information from former Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan was lost after his personal papers were shredded and his mobile phone SIM card was not returned to gardai.

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The Fennelly Commission has found that Martin Callinan - on the day he announced his retirement last year - asked a superintendent to dispose of up to 10 filled bags of personal papers. All papers were shredded less than a fortnight later.

Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan arriving for the Dail Public Accounts meeting at Leinster House yesterday. Pic Tom Burke 23/1/14
Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan arriving for the Dail Public Accounts meeting at Leinster House yesterday. Pic Tom Burke 23/1/14
Former garda chief Martin Callinan and former Justice Minister Alan Shatter Photo: Steve Humphreys

A SIM card was not returned to Garda HQ by the former commissioner. The commission issued a discovery order to the mobile phone operators of Mr Callinan's phone, but text messages were irretrievable.

"The commission can only speculate as to whether any information of value to its investigations was lost because of these actions," the report said.

READ MORE: What those at the meeting believed was the message to Callinan

It can also be revealed that the Taoiseach insisted Mr Callinan's resignation should take "immediate effect" after the garda boss decided to resign following a visit to his home by a senior government official.

Enda Kenny (pictured) told the Commission that when he sent Brian Purcell to Martin Callinan's home late that night he did not intend to put pressure on the former Garda Commissioner to retire
Enda Kenny (pictured) told the Commission that when he sent Brian Purcell to Martin Callinan's home late that night he did not intend to put pressure on the former Garda Commissioner to retire

Mr Callinan informed Secretary General at the Justice Department Brian Purcell on March 24 last year that he wished to retire in three months.

The Fennelly Commission has concluded that "the immediate catalyst" for Mr Callinan's decision to retire was Mr Purcell's visit to his home with the message conveyed to him from the Taoiseach.

Read more: Key conclusions reached by Fennelly  

The commission has found that Mr Kenny's decision to dispatch Mr Purcell to Mr Callinan's Dublin home gave the clear impression to the garda chief that he had lost the support of the Cabinet.

The report by Mr Justice Nial Fennelly paints a government in complete chaos in relation to the handling of revelations that phone calls in and out of garda stations had been recorded for decades.

The commission found that the then Justice Minister Alan Shatter was not made aware of the recordings and that personal papers belonging to Mr Callinan were put in black refuse sacks and shredded instead of being made available to the commission.

 Read more: Fennelly report lifts the lid on a sorry story  

But the most extraordinary and potentially damning findings of the Fennelly Commission relate to the evening of March 24.

A four-hour meeting at Government Buildings - during which the decision was taken to dispatch Mr Purcell to Mr Callinan's home - was held without any notes being taken.

Later, a "shocked" Mr Purcell travelled to Mr Callinan's Glasnevin property at around 11pm to convey the Taoiseach's message of the Government's deep concern.

Although accepting that the Taoiseach was not trying to pressurise Mr Callinan, the commission states that "Mr Purcell's mission was likely to be interpreted as doing just that".

 Read more: Knives are out for Kenny after garda 'sacking' report  

The report adds that "the immediate catalyst for his decision to retire was the visit of the Secretary General . . . and the message that was conveyed to him from the Taoiseach during that visit".

The release of the Fennelly Commission report last night immediately prompted calls for Mr Kenny to consider his position.

In his 300-page report, Mr Justice Fennelly also raises serious questions over some of the decisions taken by Attor- ney General Maire Whelan, who brought the garda tapes revelations to the Taoiseach's attention.

The commission found that Ms Whelan, a Labour Party- nominated AG, did not contact Mr Shatter about the tapes controversy partly because of public remarks he had made about garda whistleblowers, as well as apparent "tensions" between him and Leo Varadkar.

Read more: Former Justice Minister welcomes findings  

The report says it has been striking how little documentary evidence is available.

In another extraordinary finding, Mr Fennelly said no notes were available from the meeting in which Mr Kenny decided to dispatch Mr Purcell to Mr Callinan's home.

"No note or record, of any kind, was made of what Mr Purcell was asked to say to the commissioner," the commission found.

And it is the decision to send Mr Purcell to Mr Callinan's home that has put Mr Kenny under most pressure.

Importantly for the Taoiseach, the report found that he did not sack or remove the commissioner, because a Government can only do so by invoking the legislation.

 Read more: Report rejects top civil servant's claim he was not told of garda tapes  

In fact, the commission does conclude that Mr Callinan made his own decision to step down.

Mr Kenny seized on this finding last night, insisting that he had been effectively exonerated because the commission found no evidence that he had sacked Mr Callinan.

The former garda chief told the commission that he felt he had no option but to step down as he was left with the impression that he did not have the Government's support.

"I want to be very clear, there was absolutely no options put on the table to me," Mr Callinan told the commission.

Read more here:

No notes were taken during 'crucial and decisive' four-hour meeting

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