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Burton now backing calls for Garda chief to withdraw remark


Call: Social Protection Minister Joan Burton. Photo: Frank McGrath

Call: Social Protection Minister Joan Burton. Photo: Frank McGrath

Call: Social Protection Minister Joan Burton. Photo: Frank McGrath

A SECOND minister wants Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan to withdraw his comment that the actions of two whistleblowers were "disgusting".

Transport Minister Leo Varadkar was the first senior minister to call on the commissioner to withdraw the controversial remark, calling the actions of Sgt Maurice McCabe and former Sgt John Wilson "distinguished".

"There have been many words used to describe their actions. But if I was to use one word, the word I would use is 'distinguished'," he said earlier this week.

Mr Callinan used the word 'disgusting' to describe the actions in front of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) in January.

"I think the Commissioner should withdraw that remark which was made on the record of the Dail and make any other corrections he needs to make to the testimony he gave to the Public Accounts Committee," Mr Varadkar said.

Now Social Protection Minister Joan Burton has heaped more pressure on Mr Callinan. She has rowed in behind her cabinet colleague and become the second senior minister to call on Mr Callinan to withdraw the comment saying she believed "it would be helpful".

Minister Burton's comments mean that senior members of both Government parties have now urged the commissioner to reconsider and withdraw what he said.

Speaking this morning, Europe Minister Paschal Donohoe of Fine Gael agreed with Mr Varadkar when asked on RTE Radio if he thought the whistleblowers' actions were distinguished, but fell short of calling Mr Callinan to withdraw his remarks, saying that the Garda Commissioner had already clarified his comments.

So far, neither Labour Party leader Eamon Gilmore, nor Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny have indicated a position on the calls of the ministers.

Mr Callinan has maintained that his comment did not refer to the character of either of the two whistleblowers.

Instead last week he insisted that he was referring to the manner in which "personal and sensitive" data was appearing in the public domain.

Mr Callinan has said that he will not be backing down and that he stood over his remark.

"The Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan clarified his use of the word 'disgusting' last week," a statement said.

One of the whistleblowers, former Sgt John Wilson, underwent emergency surgery for bowel cancer this week.

Mr Wilson's wife Ann said the illness arrived suddenly and was "undoubtedly" brought on by the stress her husband endured since he exposed flaws in the penalty points system.