Monday 16 September 2019

Fennelly inquiry seeks more time to probe recordings

Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan
Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan
Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

A second high-profile commission of investigation may not be able to report until after the General Election.

The judge inquiring into the recording of phone calls in garda stations has asked for an extension of his December 31 deadline to produce a report on the controversy.

Mr Justice Niall Fennelly issued the request to Taoiseach Enda Kenny along with an interim report, a Government spokesman confirmed.

It comes just days after it emerged there were major concerns over when another inquiry, looking into IBRC asset disposals, would be completed.

The length of the extension required by Mr Justice Fennelly was not disclosed. He had been given until the end of the year to issue his final report.

However, Government sources speculated it could add months onto the lifetime of the inquiry and possibly push the final report out until after the General Election.

"It appears to be an issue with the volume of work involved," said one source.

Mr Kenny intends to publish the latest Fennelly interim report next week after consulting with Attorney General Maire Whelan on the issue.

It is the second high-profile commission of investigation set up by the Government to run into difficulties in the past week.

Last Sunday it emerged the IBRC inquiry had encountered problems with investigating write-downs due to issues around confidentiality and legal privilege.

Mr Justice Brian Cregan, the sole member of the IBRC inquiry, is understood to have said it would take "several years" before any detailed report could be produced. He is also understood to have sought to have a second judge assigned to the inquiry, which was supposed to report by the end of this year.

While the issues encountered by the Fennelly Commission do not appear to be as serious as those impacting on the IBRC probe, the delay causes another headache for the Government.

Earlier this year, the Fennelly Commission published a separate interim report on the events surrounding the departure of former Garda commissioner Martin Callinan.

That interim report found Mr Kenny did not intend to put pressure on Mr Callinan to retire when he sent a senior civil servant, Brian Purcell, to his home to speak to him.

However, it also found Mr Callinan interpreted the message delivered to him by Mr Purcell as an indication he should consider his position.

Irish Independent

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