Thursday 29 September 2016

The Yates Anthology: Enda's a lame duck after report exposé

Published 05/09/2015 | 02:30

Enda Kenny
Enda Kenny

The fog surrounding the publication of the Fennelly Report has cleared and we're left with 'inconvenient truths' about the sequence of events leading to the 'retirement' of Martin Callinan. Despite the support of his colleagues, there remain serious credibility issues around Taoiseach Enda Kenny's position.

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The report's reference (32.3) to "conflicting sworn evidence from responsible ministers and officials at the highest level in the State" is lethal. Everyone can't be right. Alan Shatter, Martin Fraser, Brian Purcell and Martin Callinan all believe that the import of that meeting to dispatch Purcell to Callinan's house on March 24 was not merely "information gathering". Shatter described this notion as a "fantasy".

A serious flaw in the commission reporting process is a failure to attach transcripts of such sworn evidence. Unlike in tribunals, interviews are conducted in private. Publication of statements from these four figures at the apex of state security would provide first-hand clarity as to what really happened.

The second dilemma for the Taoiseach is the sequence of paragraphs in section 36. If Mr Kenny's role was not to seek termination of Callinan's career, why did he text Mr Fraser to seek retirement with "immediate effect". It's clear Callinan's preference was to leave with dignity over two/three months. Insistence on an instant departure reveals the reality of Kenny's intentions.

The politics of this is disastrous for Labour. All Labour cabinet members, as of March 2014, including Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore, were kept out of the loop and decision-making process. Kenny seems not to have confided in FG colleagues either. The Taoiseach's unilateral actions show scant regard for Cabinet collegiality. Dick Spring would have combusted if so treated.

The ultimate legal definition of constructive dismissal is determined on a daily basis at the Employment Appeals Tribunal. Its track record of case law for ex-employees suggests on a prima facie basis of the Fennelly findings that it would arbitrate that Callinan was politically pressurised out of his job.

A four-hour meeting in the Taoiseach's office without any contemporaneous notes, let alone minutes, smacks of deliberate approaches to ignore proper, normal (CYA - cover your ass) procedures.

The smoking gun for Enda is held by Shatter, though the two were once 'joined at the hip' with Callinan. He has described Purcell's no-confidence ultimatum as "horrendous" in a text. Mr Kenny can circle the wagons to survive an imminent Dáil confidence vote. But Shatter could yet reappear to wield a devastating blow - à la Sean Doherty to Charlie Haughey over phone tapping.

The craziest aspect of the whole debacle is that the Taoiseach would've been completely on side legally and had political cover for his actions if he included cabinet colleagues. His solo run was impetuous and wrong. Covering up that crucial error of judgement makes him a lame duck leader.

Is resistance hurting Gen Secretary role?

A succession of garda controversies led to Department of Justice scrutiny externally through the Toland Report. Their findings last year were utterly damning - revealing a secretive silo culture, inculcated by decades of combating subversive terrorism.

It's inexplicable, despite two rounds of open international recruitment competitions, that the key post of Secretary General remains unfilled. Noel Waters continues to act on an interim pro-tempore basis, pending his retirement. Any former minister will testify to the value of a fundamental reliance on a Sir Humphrey Appleby confidante to navigate minefields of crime, prison and court controversies.

The recent u-turn between Justice Minister and Garda Commissioner over the true state of existence and activity levels of provisional IRA members reflects the absence of joined up thinking.

Implementing administrative change amongst 2,200 officials without a permanent Secretary General with at least a five-year mandate is impossible. It's a headless chicken. If confidence is to be restored at the Department of Justice, this vacuum can't continue. Is resistance to an 'outsider' preventing both an appointment and profound culture change?

Contract move far from boxing clever

This week's winners are the top brass of Irish Amateur Boxing Association. IABA handling of a revised contract for Ireland's head boxing coach Billy Walsh (pictured) emphasises its amateurism in the extreme. There's a real risk the high-performance unit could fall apart in his absence. Since 2002, the Sports Council has financed and ring-fenced this unit's costs, including Georgian assistant coach Zaur Antia.

Arguments that Billy has already signed a contract up to the Rio Games can't justify rejection of his reasonable case for enhanced terms. The Wexford man is entitled to a pension. Medal hauls at successive Olympics, European and World Championships compare admirably to all large states or prior results. If we want to sustain the successes of Katie Taylor, John Joe Nevin, Paddy Barnes, Michael Conlon and Darren O'Neill, Billy's terms should be acceded to.

This reality is understood by sports ministers Pascal Donohoe and Michael Ring. A little birdie tells me that a negotiated resolution is now in sight despite resistance from boxing blazers - not before time. Let's face reality: Corinthian ethos is fine and dandy, but winning gold requires investment and professionalism. Now is time to do the deal.

Irish Independent

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