Saturday 25 May 2019

Taoiseach: We will wait until Cabinet to discuss whistleblower apology

Niall O'Connor, Political Correspondent

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has said the cabinet will tomorrow discuss whether Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan should be asked to apologise to the two whistleblowers.

But Mr Kenny refused to say whether he "slapped" Transport Minister Leo Varadkar over his surprise intervention in the row last week.

The cabinet is braced for one of its most tense meetings in months after ministers openly disagreed over whether Mr Callinan should withdraw his claim that the actions of Maurice McCabe and John Wilson were "disgusting".

Speaking briefing on his way into a radio conference in Dublin, Mr Kenny said the issue of an apology will be discussed tomorrow.

"We'll discuss it at the cabinet meeting tomorrow. We'll see how we get on. Don't be concerned," he said.

It come as Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore suggested that Justice Minister Alan Shatter should "clear up" his claims that the two garda whistleblowers did not cooperate with a garda inquiry into the quashing of penalty points.

In a fresh twist in the ongoing whistleblower controversy, the Labour leader today appeared to heap pressure on Mr Shatter.

Asked specifically if he believed the Justice Minister should withdraw claims made in the Dail that Maurice McCabe and John Wilson did not cooperate with the garda inquiry, Mr Gilmore replied:

"I think there are always phrases that are used and comments that are made, I think it's always best that they are cleared up as quick as possible but I think that's a matter for the minister for justice."

It is the first time that any cabinet minister has called on Mr Shatter to row back on his remarks.

Mr Gilmore dismissed suggestions that the cabinet is in disarray over Garda Commissioner Martin's Callinan's controversial remarks about the garda whistleblowers.

Speaking at an event in Croke Park this morning, Mr Gilmore accepted that there are "different views" among ministers over the issue but said the matter will be discussed at tomorrow's cabinet meeting.

Mr Gilmore stood by calls from Labour ministers for Mr Callinan to withdraw his claim that the actions of Sergeant Maurice McCabe and former garda John Wilson were "disgusting".

"I think on this particular issue, my views are well known on this. I think public office holders and senior civil servants, from time to time, say things or use phrases that are a bit unfortunate," he said.

"And I think it's always better that these things are cleared up as soon as possible so that we can get on and deal with what are the substantive issues," he added.

Mr Gilmore also said he believed the government will now set up a police authority, similar to the body in existence in Northern Ireland.

Mr Gilmore's intervention came as the Transport Minister Leo Varadkar said he is not "resiling" from his position that Mr Callinan should withdraw the 'disgusting remark'.

However, Mr Varadkar said he did not wish to comment when asked if he has spoken to Mr Shatter over the issue.

"I'd prefer not to answer that question," he told reporters this morning.

"The Taoiseach expressed that view after I had given my views. And I always give my views at cabinet. But like I say, I said what I said at the road safety conference on Thursday. I'm not resiling from my position but I'm not going to say anymore at this stage at least until we've had a chance to speak about it as ministers tomorrow."

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