Wednesday 22 November 2017

Alex White slams Enda Kenny over resignation of Garda boss Callinan

Former Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan
Former Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan

Philip Ryan and Dearbhail McDonald

Junior Health Minister Alex White has launched a stinging attack on Enda Kenny over his handling of the resignation of the former Garda Commissioner.

Mr White, who is contesting the leadership of the Labour Party, insisted that Mr Kenny should tell the public about the events that led to Martin Callinan stepping down at the height of the garda controversies.

The South Dublin TD's comments will raise concern about serious cabinet tensions if he is elected as leader of he Labour Party following the resignation of Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore.

Speaking to the Sunday Independent, Mr White claimed that Labour was kept in the dark by its coalition partner in Fine Gael over Mr Callinan's resignation.

"It is not clear to me what happened that day and if it's not clear to me it's perhaps not clear to other people," he said.

"I think the whole public want to get to the bottom of what happened on that Monday. I think some of those issues have been sent to an inquiry but it would have been better in retrospect if we had more clarity closer to the day.

"The perception would be there among party members and people around the country that there was a lack of clarity as to what was going on."

Responding to Mr White's comments, the Taoiseach said he was contacted by the commission of inquiry investigating Mr Callinan's resignation and the secret recording of telephone conversations in garda stations.

Speaking at the Bar Council of Ireland's biennial conference yesterday, Mr Kenny said he intended to respond within the next two weeks.

"I made it perfectly clear and do so now again that I wanted my concerns and my anxieties about the information given to me by the Attorney General brought to the attention of the former Garda commissioner," he said.

Mr Callinan stepped down as Garda Commissioner on Monday, March 24, following a late-night visit from Department of Justice secretary general Brian Purcell.

Mr Purcell was instructed to call to Mr Callinan's home by the Taoiseach after Mr Kenny had been made aware of the potential implications of the widespread recording of telephone conversations in garda stations.

The revelation followed a raft of garda controversies which eventually culminated in the resignation of Justice Minister Alan Shatter.

At the time, Mr Callinan was under pressure to withdraw his controversial "disgusting" remark about the garda whistleblowers Maurice McCabe and John Wilson.

Labour leader Eamon Gilmore did not attend the meeting between Mr Kenny, Mr Shatter, Mr Purcell and Department of An Taoiseach secretary general Martin Frazer on the night before the commissioner's resignation.

In the Dail last week, Mr Kenny refused to reveal the exact details of what he told Mr Purcell to tell Mr Callinan.

Mr Kenny only said that he asked Mr Purcell to relay his "anxiety and concerns" about the secret recording of telephone conversations. He insisted that the Government acted properly by establishing a commission of investigation into the garda tapes.

However, Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin said the Taoiseach's version of events did not "stack up".

"It is bizarre," he said. "All that Mr Purcell was told was to go to the commissioner and tell him that the Taoiseach is filled with anxiety and not to say any more.

"Essentially, this is being buried for a long time for political reasons."

Mr Purcell was accused of "stonewalling" an Oireachtas Justice Committee last week when he was also asked about the commissioner's resignation.

Sinn Fein TD Padraig Mac Lochlainn described Mr Purcell's refusal to answer questions as "farcical".

Independent TD Finian McGrath accused the secretary general of trying to "run down the clock" by reading long, prepared answers to questions tabled by committee members.

Mr Purcell told the committee he was constrained from giving answers due to the ongoing inquiry.

A commission of inquiry chaired by Mr Justice Nial Fennelly is tasked with reviewing the events which led to the commissioner's resignation as part of its investigation into the garda station tapes.

The inquiry is due to report back before the end of the year but there have been calls for Justice Fennelly to address the resignation as a matter of urgency.

The investigation's prime objective is to establish how the widespread recording of incoming and outgoing telephone conversations continued in garda stations for more than 20 years.

Sunday Independent

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