Thursday 22 February 2018

Varadkar admits lack of notes an issue after 'extraordinary' finding

Health Minister Leo Varadkar
Health Minister Leo Varadkar
Niall O'Connor

Niall O'Connor

The manner in which the Government discusses significant pieces of business should be re-examined in light of the findings of the Fennelly Commission, according to Health Minister Leo Varadkar.

Mr Varadkar said he believed important decisions taken at meetings involving ministers and top Government officials should be formally recorded.

He made the remarks in response to staunch criticism by the Fennelly Commission in relation to manner in which the "crucial" meeting of March 24 was conducted.

Here, the decision was taken to dispatch Brian Purcell to the home of the then-Garda Commissioner to convey the concern of Government over the garda tapes.

But in an "extraordinary" finding , Mr Justice Nial Fennelly reports that not a single note or record was taken of this unprecedented meeting, which lasted four hours.

The revelation that no notes were taken has come as a major embarrassment for Taoiseach Enda Kenny, who has, on a number of occasions, claimed that there are no records relating to the night of the bank guarantee.

In July 2012, Mr Kenny said: "I find it incredible that the Department of the Taoiseach does not have a single solitary slip of evidence, paper, about any of these discussions or the rationale that resulted in the incorporeal decision being made in the manner it was."

He has further claimed that any records taken on the night of the guarantee were "shredded".

Mr Kenny has since withdrawn the remarks after they were disproved by Fianna Fáil. The party revealed through a Freedom of Information request that at least 17 files exist in the Department of An Taoiseach.

But the lack of records relating to the meeting that was central to the resignation of Martin Callinan was strongly criticised by Mr Justice Fennelly.

The Commission said it was astonished that a decision of such gravity is not supported by written documentation.

"The Taoiseach, the head of the Government, instructed the secretary-general of the Department of Justice to deliver a message about a matter considered to be of the utmost national gravity to the head of the national police force, the commissioner of An Garda Síochána.

"Yet there is not available to the Government, in any of its aspects, to this commission or to the public, any written record to verify the nature of that mission," the report states.

The commission said it "can only register its astonishment at a system of administration which apparently quite deliberately adopts a practice of not keeping any record of a meeting where an important decision is made."

Pressed on the lack of notes yesterday, Mr Varadkar said it is an issue that should be examined. "These are serious powerful personalities, so I think if there is a criticism made by the Commission that has some merit, that is one. And maybe it is the case that in future when we have such meetings, we should at least record decisions , maybe not record the entire content of the meeting but maybe record the decisions," Mr Varadkar said.

Irish Independent

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