Sunday 18 March 2018

Pressure continues on Taoiseach to speak about Commissioner

Taoiseach Enda Kenny with RTE's Sean O'Rourke at a broadcast from Collins' Barracks in Dublin yesterday
Taoiseach Enda Kenny with RTE's Sean O'Rourke at a broadcast from Collins' Barracks in Dublin yesterday
John Downing

John Downing

Tánaiste Joan Burton has revealed that she never asked the Taoiseach about what role he may have played in the abrupt departure of Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan from his post last year.

Ms Burton said the events of March 2014, when Commissioner Callinan stepped down, were before her appointment as Tánaiste. She had never talked with the Taoiseach, in either a personal or professional capacity, about what happened and now felt the matter was better left to the judge conducting the inquiry.

"I anticipate now and I hope that the judge, who is independent in his functions, will be in a position to make his report as soon as possible," Ms Burton told Newstalk radio.

The Tánaiste's comments came as Taoiseach Enda Kenny insisted he did not effectively sack Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan last year. In a lengthy interview, Mr Kenny also definitively ruled out involvement by the British royal family in the 1916 centenary celebrations next year.

He said the countries involved in Easter 2016 commemorations will be represented by their ambassadors.

Mr Kenny again faced questions about his reluctance to discuss whether he was recalled for more questions by the Fennelly Commission which is examining alleged garda misconduct.

This inquiry has included in its remit the commissioner's sudden departure from office 12 months ago. It is also investigating the secret tape-recording of phone calls to key garda stations over 30 years.

Opposition TDs have challenged the Taoiseach to explain how Government members learned via media about Commissioner Callinan's surprise decision to retire on March 25 last year. Mr Callinan's announcement followed a meeting between the Commissioner and the then-head of the Justice Department who was acting for the Taoiseach.

The Opposition argues that only the government can remove a garda commissioner - and they want urgent explanations from Mr Kenny.

The Taoiseach told RTÉ presenter Sean O'Rourke that he could not discuss his evidence to the Commission headed by the former Supreme Court Judge, Nial Fennelly. He said he had complied fully with his duties to the independent Commission and would publish its report.

"But be clear on this: the only people I can sack in the country are ministers," Mr Kenny added, clearly signalling that he did not cause Commissioner Callinan to be sacked.

Mr Kenny also said he did not apply a double standard in his previous criticisms of Bertie Ahern, who as Taoiseach was investigated by the Mahon Tribunal. In September 2007, Mr Kenny had said the office of Taoiseach was too important to await the outcome of Mahon investigations and Mr Ahern should make a full statement.

The Taoiseach said the Mahon Tribunal took years but Fennelly would work quickly.


Enda in hot water over 'two-pint man'

The Taoiseach is famous for his fondness for beginning illustrative parables with the words, "I met a man/woman in [insert name of town] who told me [insert praise for government]".

And yesterday during Leaders' Questions in the Dáil, in response to anti-water charges criticism from Sinn Féin's Gerry Adams, Enda Kenny highlighted a man he had met last week who "had two pints in his hand" who was "shouting about the price of water, how he couldn't pay", explaining he had told him the drinks would pay for 10 weeks' worth of water.

However, the Taoiseach had used the same parable almost verbatim in the Dáil chamber - "A man approached me with two pints of water complaining about the charge" - on February 17, six weeks ago.

Oh dear. Enda's out of his depth over numbers again.

Irish Independent

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