Wednesday 28 September 2016

Leo Varadkar says Government must examine manner in which significant meetings are held in light of Fennelly report

Published 02/09/2015 | 10:18

Health minister Leo Varadkar
Health minister Leo Varadkar

TAOISEACH Enda Kenny is this morning facing his Cabinet colleagues for the first time since the publication of the highly controversial Fennelly report.

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Mr Kenny is under pressure over his handling of the events surrounding the retirement of former Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan and now faces the prospect of a vote of no confidence in the Dáil.

Former Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan
Former Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan

While the 300 page report by the Fennelly Commission clears Mr Kenny of “sacking” Mr Callinan, it confirms that the former garda chief stepped down as a result of the “message” delivered to his home by Brian Purcell.

Mr Purcell, the former Secretary General of the Department of Justice, was dispatched  by the Taoiseach to convey the Cabinet’s concern over the revelations surrounding the recording of phone calls in and out of garda stations.

“The report says that “the immediate catalyst” for Mr Callinan to step down was the visit by Mr Purcell “and the message that was conveyed to him from the Taoiseach during that visit.”

While the Opposition prepares to heap further pressure on Mr Kenny, Health Minister Leo Varadkar today claimed the report “debunked” the idea that the Taoiseach sacked Mr Callinan.

Tuesday 01 September 2015. Science Gallery TCD. Taoiseach Enda Kenny is met by RTE Director General, Noel Curran on right and Ronan Mac Con Ionaire, RTE Head of Language on left.
Tuesday 01 September 2015. Science Gallery TCD. Taoiseach Enda Kenny is met by RTE Director General, Noel Curran on right and Ronan Mac Con Ionaire, RTE Head of Language on left.

But Mr Varadkar admitted that the Government must examine the manner in which significant meetings are held in light of the findings of the Fennelly Commission.

Mr Justice Nial Fennelly raised deep concern over the fact that no records existed of the crucial meeting in Government Buildings on March 24 – during which the decision was taken to dispatch Mr Purcell to Mr Callinan’s Glasnevin home late at night.

“If there is a criticism made by the position that has some merit, that is one,” Mr Varadkar told RTE’s ‘Morning Ireland’.

Asked whether the Mr Callinan was effectively subjected to “constructive dismissal”, Mr Varadkar pointed to the report’s finding that he stepped down himself.

“The commissioner decided to retire. He could have decided otherwise,” he said.

Meanwhile, Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin is to hold a press conference later today as he considers tabling a motion of no confidence in Mr Kenny.

He said: “I mean let’s get real here, a secretary general of the department of justice, and I have long experience of being in government, going out at midnight to a commissioner’s house and telling him the Taoiseach may not have confidence in you in the morning?

However, unless the Dail is recalled early, the motion will not be debated for another three weeks at the earliest.

Mr Martin highlighted the observation in the report that Mr Callinan had sought up to an additional three months to finish out his term but that this was rejected by the Taoiseach. Mr Kenny wrote in a text message to his most senior civiil servant Martin Fraser that the retirement must take place immediately.

“Why did he insist that it would be with immediate effect?  There was a very callous element to the report where the Secretary General comes back to the Taoiseach and says the commissioner has agreed to retire but he would like to wait two months, three months at the time but it was brought back to two months. The Taoiseach said ‘excuse me, he must go now’,” Mr Martin added.

However, Tánaiste Joan Burton has said that she believes the report puts the Taoiseach in the clear.

Ms Burton was briefed on some of the findings yesterday before the full publication of the report just before 6pm last night.

Renua leader Lucinda Creighton also expressed horror at the revelations that personal papers belonging to the former Commissioner were put into a number of black refuse sacks and subsequently shredded.

The findings also states that the SIM card in the Commissioner’s phone was removed and later destroyed.

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

Ms Creighton said she believed the revelation warrants a “garda investigation”.

“The idea that we would just throw our hands in the air and say ‘this is terrible’ but do we don’t pursue it is to my mind completely wrong,” she told ‘RTÉ’s Today with Sean O’Rourke’.

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