Purcell tells TDs little about late-night call on Callinan
Published 29/05/2014 | 02:30
THE country's top Justice official, Brian Purcell, has described his late-night visit to the home of the former Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan last March as highly "unusual".
Appearing before the Oireachtas Justice Committee, Mr Purcell said that it was the only time that he called to Mr Callinan's home.
However Mr Purcell's refusal to go into detail about what exactly occurred on the night in question led to him being accused of "stonewalling" by committee members. Angry politicians accused him of "running down the clock" by giving long-winded answers to questions.
Independent TD Finian McGrath said Mr Purcell's behaviour was "farcical".
Sinn Fein's Padraig Mac Lochlainn, clearly frustrated, accused Mr Purcell of "talking down the clock" by reading from prepared scripts rather than complying with the normal practice of providing succinct brief replies to questions.
Mr Purcell said that he was precluded from answering questions as to how he came to call to the home of Mr Callinan less than 24 hours before his resignation in late March.
He said he was "deeply concerned" that any answers he might give could prejudice the various Government commissions of investigation into recent Justice and garda scandals.
"There is an implication that I might be lying. I find myself in a very unusual position. I don't want to be accused of trying to run down the clock. I don't agree I am obstructing the questioning," he said.
He said the only visit to Mr Callinan's home he ever made was the one which was followed by the commissioner's resignation a day later.
During questioning, Mr Purcell said that most instances of contact with the Garda Commissioner outside of office hours occurred over the phone, but said he had met Mr Callinan in person outside of those hours.
"I have met the commissioner outside normal hours, yes, I have met him outside of nine to five," he said.
Mr Purcell said those meetings would normally happen in his office or in the Garda Headquarters.
"I have no wish to obstruct the committee, but I am not able to speak specifically about this issue," he said.
When asked to speak in general terms, he said that the meeting with the then Commissioner Callinan at his home in March was unusual.
"Yes, it is unusual for such a meeting to take place for such a meeting to take place in the home of the commissioner or my home," he said. "I wouldn't turn up unannounced at anyone's home."
At yesterday's Oireachtas hearing, Mr Purcell apologised to garda whistleblowers and all others who had been affected by failings in his department.
The committee chairman, Fine Gael's David Stanton, said that the recent severe criticism of the department had damaged its reputation and standing but added that much of the criticism was not well founded.