Tuesday 12 December 2017

Kenny's and Shatter's version simply does not stand up to examination

John Downing

John Downing

OVER a period of 18 hours, Enda Kenny and Alan Shatter saw the Garda Commissioner step down and the Government decided to set up a judicial inquiry into garda station phone call recordings.

But it was only after all that tumult that the Taoiseach and the Justice Minister got to see a detailed letter from the commissioner about the very events they were deciding upon.

When you strip out all the noise and additional detail, that is what the people of this Republic are being asked to believe. And around Leinster House, few people on any side of the political divide appear to believe that proposition.

Most on the government side can certainly live with that version of events because it promises hope of calming, if not ending, this three-month controversy, which has embroiled Alan Shatter and the Government.

But even the Labour ministers feel obliged to say they cannot understand how or why Mr Shatter never got to see that commissioner's letter, which was despatched 15 days before those key decisions were taken.

In a quiet conversation with this writer, one backbench Fine Gael TD let the mask slip: "But does it matter?" the deputy asked.

Put another way, that Fine Gael TD was saying: "People won't really notice. It's all too detailed. People are too busy and they have lives."

Our Fine Gael buddy may well be right – for now. But anyone who takes a small bit of trouble over this one will see that things simply do not add up.

Let's recap a few things.

Monday, March 10 was when Commissioner Martin Callinan wrote a formal and lengthy letter about the garda station tapes to Justice Department secretary general Brian Purcell, also asking that it be brought to the minister's attention.

Let us quickly pass on questions being asked about why the greater part of a fortnight should elapse. For some, the answer is that Mr Purcell had a family bereavement and Mr Shatter was on a St Patrick's Day trip to Mexico.

But let's just consider those two meetings on Monday and Tuesday of last week when the key decisions were taken. On Monday, the Taoiseach met the Attorney General and a group of senior officials.

Arising from this meeting, Mr Purcell was despatched to the commissioner's home to sum up the extent of the Government's concern at the garda tapings.

The next day, Tuesday, news of Mr Callinan's retirement/ resignation came through as the Cabinet met and took a series of decisions – including the establishment of a statutory inquiry led by a senior judge.

It was only after this cabinet meeting, at 12.40pm on Tuesday, March 25, that Mr Shatter finally got to read the commissioner's letter of March 10.

He told the Taoiseach some time later that day about it.

Key decisions were taken – a central document apparently ignored.

Irish Independent

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