Tuesday 19 November 2019

Callinan was advised not to withdraw comments

Former Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan and Minister for Justice Alan Shatter
Former Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan and Minister for Justice Alan Shatter
Alan Shatter and Eamon Gilmore at the funeral of Nicky McFadden.

Tom Brady, Security Editor

Former Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan had prepared a statement retracting his comments describing the actions of the whistleblowers as 'disgusting' but was advised twice by a senior Justice official against issuing it.

Mr Callinan had completed the statement of retraction and considered issuing it last Friday and again on Monday.

But it has been learned he pulled back on each occasion after discussing it with a senior official from the Department of Justice.

This emerged as the list of unanswered questions surrounding events leading up to his resignation continued to grow.

The Department of Justice said last night that there was no question of its officials suggesting that a new statement should be ruled out.

However, it did not address what advice had been given to Mr Callinan by officials.

It acknowledged there were ongoing discussions between officials and the former garda commissioner about the penalty points controversy.

Towards the end of last week, it said, those talks focused on the possibility of Mr Callinan making a further statement in relation to his use of the word "disgusting" during a hearing at the Dail's Public Accounts Committee last January.

But those discussions had been overtaken by subsequent events, it added.

The department argued that the issuing of a fresh statement and its contents was a matter for Mr Callinan but it did not explain why an official had advised the ex-commissioner to put the statement. This advice had been offered in advance of the decision by Taoiseach Enda Kenny to ask the Justice Secretary General Brian Purcell to talk to Mr Callinan on Monday night about the proposed cabinet debate on the recording controversy.

As revealed yesterday in the Irish Independent, Mr Purcell called to Mr Callinan's home and the commissioner realised from what he was being told about the Government's attitude that he would be unlikely to emerge unscathed from the cabinet meeting.

Minister Pat Rabbitte confirmed yesterday that nobody on the Labour side of the Coalition knew anything about the new controversy until Tuesday morning.

Shortly before the Cabinet met, the Taoiseach briefed Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore about the affair but the other Labour ministers did not learn the details until Mr Kenny outlined them at the cabinet meeting.

In his unpublished statement, Mr Callinan did not apologise to the whistleblowers as he believed he was correct in his view that the widespread trawl of the garda's internal Pulse computer system and the subsequent dissemination of confidential and personal information was wrong and a breach of the Data Protection Act.

REMARKS

He believed that Friday presented him with an opportunity to clarify his remarks and withdraw the "disgusting" term in the wake of public comments from Data Protection Commissioner Billy Hawkes supporting his viewpoint that the trawl was wrong.

Mr Shatter has not yet commented on what he knew about the Taoiseach's decision to ask Mr Purcell to talk to Mr Callinan. Significant questions also remain about how Mr Shatter did not know until Tuesday morning about a crucial letter sent to the department by the commissioner on March 10.

This letter provided key details about the garda investigation that had been under way since November.

Irish Independent

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