Wednesday 21 February 2018

Ministers line up to defend their 'vindicated' Taoiseach

Leo Varadkar
Leo Varadkar
John Downing

John Downing

Cabinet ministers have relied heavily on 17 words from the 300-page Fennelly Report as they rallied to defend Taoiseach Enda Kenny.

A string of ministers were yesterday sent out to bat for Mr Kenny, who himself declined to take questions from the media while at an event he attended in the Aviva Stadium.

They all pointed to the one line in which the commission "accepts that the Taoiseach did not intend to put pressure on the Garda Commissioner to retire".

Health Minister Leo Varadkar, who had raised concerns during the various justice controversies in 2014, said Mr Kenny believed the taping of calls at garda stations was a serious situation and he defended the decision to send Justice Department secretary general Brian Purcell to the Commissioner's home late on March 24, 2014.

Mr Varadkar said the then-Commissioner was being given a "heads up" so he would respond to Mr Kenny's concerns ahead of a Cabinet meeting next morning. This was not a case of constructive dismissal, he argued.

Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald insisted that the Fennelly Commission findings had completely cleared the Taoiseach of any allegations of wrong-doing.

In an interview on RTÉ's 'Today With Seán O'Rourke', she said only the Cabinet can sack a Garda Commissioner and no such attempt was made by the Taoiseach or the Government.

Ms Fitzgerald said Commissioner Callinan was not obliged to leave his post. "The commissioner could have decided otherwise. The Fennelly Commission is very clear that he made that decision," the Minister said.

Ms Fitzgerald also insisted that Attorney General Máire Whelan, whom the opposition said did not emerge well from the commission findings, had her full confidence. She said justice reforms were being advanced.

Transport Minister Paschal Donohoe said the Taoiseach had handled a series of very difficult situations in accordance with the law.

Richard Bruton, the Jobs Minister, said he believed Mr Kenny was "absolutely vindicated".

Irish Independent

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