Saturday 19 October 2019

No-confidence motions branded publicity stunt as Taoiseach backs AG

Brendan Howlin
Brendan Howlin

Niall O'Connor and Lise Hand

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has ridiculed the two main opposition parties over their move to submit motions of no confidence in himself and Attorney General Máire Whelan.

Mr Kenny suggested that the motions submitted by Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin following the publication of the Fennelly Commission Report are nothing but attempts to "gain publicity" and pursue their own political agendas.

And the Taoiseach poured cold water on the prospect of the Dáil being recalled early, despite the damaging findings contained in the report by Mr Justice Nial Fennelly.

"I accept that from an opposition point of view, people always rush to see who will get motions in before the other and there will be individual agendas being pursued there as well, as to see who can gain the most publicity and all of that," Mr Kenny said.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin submitted the first motion of no confidence in Mr Kenny - a move that was followed by Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald.

Both parties have claimed that Mr Kenny must be held responsible for the events that led to Mr Callinan's departure, including dispatching the former Secretary General of the Department of Justice to his home.

Ms McDonald subsequently announced her party believed Ms Whelan's position was now "untenable" as a result of the criticisms of her in the report.

Among a number of negative findings, the commission found that Ms Whelan modified her claims about the seriousness of the Garda tapes issue during later evidence.

It was also found that she did not contact the then Justice Minister Alan Shatter for various reasons, including her view that there were "tensions" between him and Health Minister Leo Varadkar over the whistleblowers' controversy.

But senior Coalition sources yesterday said the Sinn Féin motion was unlikely to be accepted because it was not in the remit of the Dáil to debate confidence in the AG.

Meanwhile, Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin claimed the country would be "wounded" if Ms Whelan vacated her position.

He was responding to revelations in the Irish Independent that Labour sent a warning to Fine Gael that it would not allow Ms Whelan to be used as the "scapegoat" amid fallout from the report's publication. "Absolutely not. The Attorney General, I've worked with her for four-and-a-half years in government and before that.

"She is an immensely competent, diligent, able law officer to the State that we would be deeply wounded as a nation to lose," he said.

Speaking in Paris yesterday following a meeting with French President Francois Hollande, the Taoiseach reiterated his full confidence in Ms Whelan.

"Yes, I have full and absolute confidence in the Attorney General. I might say that Máire Whelan works extraordinarily hard on behalf of our country and works extraordinarily lengthy hours.

"I've worked with her now for the last four-and-a-half years and she's really an absolutely dedicated public servant in the work that she does on behalf of our country," Mr Kenny told reporters.

However, Mr Howlin also hinted at a level of annoyance within the junior coalition partner over the decision not to inform the then Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore sooner in relation to the Garda tapes.

"I suppose, in hindsight, it probably would have been better had that discussion taken place with the Tánaiste on the Monday," Mr Howlin said.

A second Labour source, speaking privately, said it was clear that Mr Gilmore was "not kept in the loop".

"To be fair, I think Kenny knows that as well," the source added.

Irish Independent

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