Thursday 20 October 2016

Scandal not about use of a single word

A retraction from Callinan wouldn't have made a blind bit of difference, says Gene Kerrigan

Published 30/03/2014 | 02:30

There was a moment last week – serious and all as the week was – when I got a fit of the giggles. It was right after "sources close to" the former Garda Commissioner leaked some astonishing news. It seems that last Friday week Mr Callinan was about to retract his infamous "disgusting" remark. With one bound, our hero would be free of the calls for his resignation.

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But, said the "sources", Mr Callinan was "advised" not to do so – by a senior Department of Justice official.

That's when I spluttered Complan all down the front of my "Keep Calm and Pretend It's Not Happening" T-shirt.

Shortly afterwards, sources close to the Department of Justice leaked the claim that the story from "sources close to" the commissioner wasn't true.

I cleaned up, and changed into my "Ah, Here, This is Getting Ridiculous" T-shirt and began making notes.

First, do these people really believe that this scandal is about the use of a single word? And that a retraction of that one word is an appropriate response? Here's what's giggle-worthy. These people run the country. Callinan presided over a force of 13,000 officers. His "adviser" in Justice has enormous influence. They are both adults.

Consider the depths of the absurdity to which these people have descended. They expect us to keep straight faces when unnamed "sources" claim that Callinan the adult "intended" to retract a word, after thinking about it for weeks. He was to issue a "further explanation" of his previous "clarification" of what this one word meant. Or what he intended it to mean.

But this man, who for decades has held responsible positions, was diverted from this course by an unnamed official. Except that, sources close to the unnamed official . . .

Jesus Christ.

Has there ever been a time when the Irish establishment has been so cruelly exposed? These, remember, are the cream of our elites. The top cops, the top civil servants, the top legal officer (Attorney General), the top politicians (Taoiseach, ministers). And none of these operates alone – they all have a retinue of deputies, assistants, advisers and consultants.

I'm glad Callinan is gone.

Not because he refused to withdraw his disgusting remark. Because he said it in the first place. Because his first instinct was not to say, "Well, I accept your good faith and I'll examine your evidence".

No, his first response was to declare McCabe and Wilson "disgusting". We need a police commissioner whose first instinct isn't to spit blood and feathers at critics.

Remember, we had an internal inquiry, at a top level, which took months, didn't interview McCabe or Wilson, and which found no real problem with the penalty point system. Do all the people involved in that inquiry, now that Callinan's gone, shuffle up one rung on the promotion ladder?

Listen – I wouldn't want these people investigating the theft of my bike, if I had a bike.

To hell with what the commissioner thought he was going to do last Friday week. I want every last allegation by McCabe and Wilson properly investigated by independent officers, preferably from outside the country. I want to know who leaked part of the RITS report to Paul Williams. I want to know who leaked part of the Garda Inspectorate report to Paul Reynolds. This was manipulation, an abuse of position by someone in power.

Why did the commissioner set up a "working party" on the cop-shop tapes? Didn't he know, or have people who knew, all about this stuff? Was sophisticated recording equipment installed and operated, as one garda claimed, "by accident"?

Why wasn't the AG involved in this cops-only "working party"? (These cops presumably came from the same gene pool that brought us the internal inquiry.)

I want to know why months have gone by since alarm bells rang and still there's no one capable of answering basic questions about the recording of phone calls. This could be very serious, or it might not be. Not even the Taoiseach seems to know. No one will tell him. Wasn't anyone in charge?

I want to know why everyone is so relaxed about children being fed into the Pulse system. I want to know if the AG thinks her phone is tapped, or does she think it's the Taoiseach's phone? And who's tapping? Would they be the same people Mr Shatter assures us didn't bug GSOC? I want to know why Clare Daly ended up in handcuffs after she made allegations about penalty points. I want to know how the political parties became so corrupt that they'll accept any old tosh from their leaders (I won it on the horses, the whistleblowers wouldn't cooperate).

On second thoughts, no – I don't want to know who set up what or why. I don't care. I want them all out. These people – Jesus, would you put any of them, from Kenny down, in charge of a sweet shop, if you owned a sweet shop and you badly needed a holiday?

Are these people actually paid for doing what they do, or is it a hobby?

There are two scandals. How did recording equipment supposedly used for 999 calls and bomb threats come to record anything else? And, four months after the recording was stopped, and the AG was told – and a week after the Taoiseach found out – why can't the authorities answer basic questions?

It's the Ian Bailey saga that reportedly triggered the current panic. What we thought was a can of worms is now turning out to be a container-load of reptiles.

It's many a year since anyone with any knowledge of the case, and an open mind, believed that Ian Bailey murdered Sophie Toscan du Plantier. There's no more evidence that he did it than there's evidence that I did, or you, or Alan Shatter.

The report of the DPP review of the case is devastating. Obsessional cops went around telling people locally to beware of Bailey, he might "kill again". Is this the standard of which we're proud? Why is the State defending this conduct?

Is it necessary, whenever the State is challenged, to fight aggressively to the bitter end, even when the State knows wrong was done?

We need a quick review of the Bailey debacle. That Olson chap from the Garda Inspectorate – let's have him, or someone with his standards, look into whatever the hell has been going on.

Mind you, God love him, a chap can take only so much of this crap before going doolally.

One last little fantasy, the kind of mental exercise that I use in these impossible days in an effort to keep my blood pressure down.

Callinan opens his front door to find a top civil servant with a message from Enda. "Wait now", says the commissioner, "please, don't . . ."

At home, turning over in bed, Enda murmurs into his pillow. "I'm not in danger. I am the danger."

"Sorry love", says Fionnuala, "what was that?"

Enda smiles in his sleep. Fionnuala can barely hear his whisper. "I am the one who knocks."

Sunday Independent

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