Saturday 22 October 2016

Editorial: Callinan in tough position ahead of Cabinet meeting

Published 25/03/2014 | 02:30

Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan
Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan

The time is long past when the Garda Commissioner should either apologise for his use of the word "disgusting" in relation to the two garda whistleblowers, or seriously consider his position. It is believed that Mr Callinan has no plans to go beyond what he has already said and in effect it will be up to the Taoiseach and his Cabinet to decide if they can live without the "helpful" apology that a succession of ministers would like to hear.

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Undoubtedly, Mr Callinan was distressed that the garda internal Pulse system was compromised and information was disseminated among various groups, including TDs and the media. It is now irrelevant whether the commissioner was referring to the gardai themselves or to the fact that internal information had come into the public domain.

A majority of people believe that the whistleblowers did the right thing and the matter is now a political issue rather than one of whether garda procedures were properly followed.

In such circumstances, the issue of the word "disgusting" left the Garda Commissioner in a very invidious position. No doubt he needs to defend his "force" and he has the task of maintaining the integrity of internal security systems.

But equally there was a problem with the penalty points system as it was operated. Clearly people 'in the know' were able to have penalty points wiped, although it is also undoubtedly true that many penalty points were cancelled legitimately and within the rules.

So where does all this leave Mr Callinan ahead of today's cabinet meeting? In a very difficult position, it seems. While he did explain his "disgusting" remark, an apology would have defused the situation.

Undoubtedly, the Transport, Tourism and Sport Minister Leo Varadkar upset the cosy government consensus when he said it would be "helpful" for Mr Callinan to apologise. He was following the example of the chairman of the Road Safety Authority, Gay Byrne, who, on his Lyric FM show, led the way.

It was also clear that a number of Labour Party TDs were unhappy with the situation and wrote to the newspapers to say so. In doing so, they were ahead of their party leader Eamon Gilmore and Social Protection Minister Joan Burton, who have since joined the growing chorus for Mr Callinan to apologise.

Should he decline to bow to the wishes of senior ministers, Justice Minister Alan Shatter may have to intervene, as he possibly should have done much earlier.

Irish Independent

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