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Fennelly report lifts the lid on a sorry story

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Yesterday, the Public Expenditure Minister, Brendan Howlin, was quite dismissive of the HSE demand for a €2bn rise in funding. The request was characterised as 'unrealistic'

Yesterday, the Public Expenditure Minister, Brendan Howlin, was quite dismissive of the HSE demand for a €2bn rise in funding. The request was characterised as 'unrealistic'

Frank Mc Grath

Yesterday, the Public Expenditure Minister, Brendan Howlin, was quite dismissive of the HSE demand for a €2bn rise in funding. The request was characterised as 'unrealistic'

Taoiseach Enda Kenny insists that the charge made against him that he sacked former Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan "doesn't stand up."

The thing about politics is that a charge doesn't have to stand, it can create its own destabilising impact just by hanging in the air.

The far-reaching findings of the Fennelly Commission have cut through much of the fog that we have been driving through since the commissioner stepped aside.

But the Taoiseach is adamant that: "The report is clear and unambiguous in its findings that there was no dismissal or sacking of the garda commissioner."

Yet it is still hugely problematic for Mr Kenny. It spells out fully what a difficult position the commissioner was placed in. It states that the message delivered by Brian Purcell carried the obvious implication that his position was in question. Mr Callinan made the choice, but the catalyst that informed it was the fateful and unprecedented visit by Mr Purcell.

Mr Callinan had concluded that he may no longer have had the confidence of the Government.

The build-up to the departure of the commissioner was in a febrile atmosphere - there were whistleblowers and garda tapes, and a general air of instability.

The report lifts the lid on a sorry story characterised by poor communications, poor relationships and a level of distrust. It raises core competency issues at the highest level in government. It is puzzling that neither Mr Kenny nor the Attorney General thought it appropriate to approach Mr Callinan about their concerns.

In any event by dispatching Mr Purcell to see the commissioner, the garda chief's fate was pretty much sealed. For the report bluntly states if the "circumstances are viewed objectively" the mission on which Mr Purcell was being sent was liable to be interpreted as suggesting to the commissioner to go.

We have been given a glimpse of ineptitude, panic and intrigue. The commission raises some incendiary questions which could yet detonate down the line. As of now we do not have all the answers. But Mr Kenny cannot claim that he did not play a significant role in the departure of Mr Callinan.

Investment in health is never unrealistic

A society is judged better by its standards than by what it spends - but sometimes the two intersect. Nowhere is this better seen than in the area of the public health budget.

Yesterday, the Public Expenditure Minister, Brendan Howlin, was quite dismissive of the HSE demand for a €2bn rise in funding. The request was characterised as "unrealistic".

That very much depends on your perspective. It is not unrealistic to expect investment in health, given the deficit of years of failure to do so when the money was there.

It is also not unrealistic to expect an adequate amount for the treatment of the sick and elderly and the elimination of waiting lists.

Nor is it unrealistic to expect better. But in the run-up to an election it is highly unlikely that any Government is going to introduce measures that are guaranteed to result in tax increases - as opposed to tax cuts, which will deliver votes. At some point we must ask ourselves are we prepared to fund the health service we aspire to have? It's not unrealistic.

But expecting a minister to bite the bullet just might be.

Irish Independent