Monday 18 December 2017

Joan Burton calls on Callinan to withdraw 'disgusting' comment

Joan Burton, Minister for Social Protection
Joan Burton, Minister for Social Protection

Daniel McConnell and Niall O'Connor

Social Protection Minister Joan Burton last night added her voice to Leo Varadkar's calls for Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan to withdraw his comments that the actions of the whistleblowers were "disgusting".

Ms Burton said "it would be helpful" if Mr Callinan withdrew his statement.

Ms Burton said she "believes the whistleblowers acted in the public interest and, while noting the commissioner's clarification, believes it would be helpful if the commissioner withdrew that particular remark".

Her spokesman said: "On a wider level, she agrees with her Labour colleagues that consideration should be given to the establishment of an independent garda authority to monitor the performance of the garda and to which the force would be accountable."

Her comments lift the lid on the divide within the Cabinet over the handling of the whistleblower controversy by Justice Minister Alan Shatter and his relationship with Mr Callinan, which has been the subject of intense criticism.

Ms Burton and Mr Varadkar, who are constituency rivals and enjoy a turbulent relationship, rarely agree and her backing of Mr Varadkar is significant.

Senior Labour party sources last night said Ms Burton's views on the matter were shared by many within Labour, who were "decidedly uncomfortable" with the commissioner's use of the word "disgusting" at the Public Accounts Committee on January 23.

"Joan would be speaking for many within the party who have not been happy with how this has played out in recent weeks. Many of our guys think what (Maurince) McCabe and (John) Wilson did was absolutely in the public interest," said one senior Labour figure.

Wicklow TD and Justice Committee member Anne Ferris said she was "delighted" at the comments made by Ms Burton and Mr Varadkar.

"Many of us backbenchers have been calling for this, but it is great to see the ministers now saying it," Ms Ferris said.

Ms Ferris and other Labour TDs have also expressed their continued concern at the fact that the post of Garda Commissioner is currently not subject to oversight by the Garda Ombudsman Commission (GSOC).

Irish Independent

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