News Irish News

Thursday 21 November 2019

Garda commissioner stands by 'disgusting' comment - despite Varadkar's criticism

Niall O’Connor Political Correspondent

GARDA Commissioner Martin Callinan is standing over his controversial remarks about two garda whistleblowers despite being criticised by a cabinet minister.

Transport Minister Leo Varadkar called on the Commissioner to withdraw remarks he made at an appearance in front of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) in January.

The garda chief faced calls to resign after he described  as "disgusting" the leaking of details of the scrapping of penalty points by Sgt Maurice McCabe and former Garda John Wilson.

But in an unexpected twist, Mr Varadkar today became the first minister to call on the remark to be withdrawn, before describing the actions of the whistleblowers as distinguished.

"I think the Commissioner should withdraw that remark which was made on the record of the Dail and make any other corrections he needs to make to the testimony he gave to the Public Accounts Committee," Mr Varadkar said.

And at a speech in Dublin this morning, the Fine Gael minister personally thanked the two whistleblowers on behalf of his department and the thousands of families who have lost loved ones on the roads.

They (Sgt McCabe and Mr Wilson) may not have got everything right but they did shine a light into a dark place and forced those who would rather turn a blind-eye to face up to the truth.," Mr Varadkar said at a Road Safety conference.

 "There have been many words used to describe their actions.  But if I was to use one word, the word I would use is 'distinguished'," he added.

However, in a statement to, Mr Callinan  stood by his 'disgusting' remark.

"The Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan clarified his use of the word "disgusting" last week.

"In that statement, he said that his use of the term at the Public Accounts Committee was not in reference to the character of either Sgt McCabe or former Garda Wilson, but the manner in which personal and sensitive data was inappropriately appearing in the public domain without regard to due process and fair procedures.

The Commissioner used the term at the PAC in the context of outlining how he would support any member of An Garda Síochána who reports wrongdoing of any kind, but it should be done through the mechanisms and procedures for doing so.2

Mr Varadkar's decision to call on Mr Callinan to withdraw the remark has come as a surprise to those in government.

Sources say it represents a "solo run" and will heap pressure on Taoiseach Enda Kenny to back his cabinet minister.

Mr Kenny is currently at an EU summit in Brussels and is expected to address the issue later today.

Online Editors

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News