Tuesday 19 November 2019

Martin Callinan wasn't pushed, he quit of his own accord, insists Kenny

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Leo Varadkar meets with members of the Irish Coast Guard
Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Leo Varadkar meets with members of the Irish Coast Guard

Greg Harkin and Fionnan Sheahan

TAOISEACH Enda Kenny is insisting Martin Callinan decided himself to retire and wasn't pushed out the door.

Mr Kenny has again denied sacking Mr Callinan despite sending out a senior civil servant to talk to the commissioner about his concerns around the phone taping scandal.

The Taoiseach said he felt it was "very important" that his anxiety about the implications of phone conversations at garda stations being recorded were conveyed to Mr Callinan. But the opposition claimed this week that it amounted to Mr Kenny sacking him.

Mr Kenny sent Department of Justice secretary general Brian Purcell to see Mr Callinan at his home on Monday evening.

"The only people I can dismiss from office are ministers with the consent of Government, or ministers of state," the Taoiseach said. "The garda commissioner made his own decision." Mr Kenny also said it was important arrangements were made to deal with potential problems that may arise as a result of the phone recordings.

Transport Minister Leo Varadkar said it was "news to him" that Mr Callinan had planned to withdraw his "disgusting" remarks about garda whistleblowers, which he publicly called on him to do.

He was speaking in Co Donegal where he was opening a Coast Guard station in Killybegs. Asked if he regretted making his public call for Mr Callinan to withdraw the comments, he said: "No. It is news to me that he had planned to withdraw his remarks.

"You have to bear in mind that he had made the remarks in the first place and he was always in the position where he could withdraw the remarks or not."

Mr Varadkar said he approached the issue from a road safety point of view: "And that's the thing that matters most to me and road users. The Garda Inspectorate report, which was published on March 12, showed clearly that by and large the whistleblowers were telling the truth. They weren't treated very well for over a year and a half, quite frankly, and I think the opportunity was there on March 12 for them (the comments) to be withdrawn.

"The important thing is that when it comes to the law – and that means any law – that people know that the law is enforced equally on everyone regardless of who you know or what place you have in society.

"The whistleblowers exposed the fact that this wasn't the case and the important thing for me now is that that changes and I want to work with the Justice Minister and the new commissioner on that."

A former minister who was at yesterday's event said it was her view that Justice Minister Alan Shatter would survive the crisis.

"He'll hold on, that's what I think will happen," said former Tanaiste Mary Coughlan.

Irish Independent

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