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WHISTLEBLOWER APOLOGY: Martin Callinan and Justice Minister Alan Shatter. Photo: Steve Humphreys

WHISTLEBLOWER APOLOGY: Martin Callinan and Justice Minister Alan Shatter. Photo: Steve Humphreys

WHISTLEBLOWER APOLOGY: Martin Callinan and Justice Minister Alan Shatter. Photo: Steve Humphreys

FORMER Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan was prepared to withdraw his "disgusting" comments regarding whistleblowers, but was advised not to by government officials before he resigned

Mr Callinan last week indicated he was willing to make a statement and clarify his remarks on the contentious issue that has dogged the garda force and government for months before he was effectively pushed out of office.

A justice department official advised the former commissioner not to make the statement and withdraw his use of the word 'disgusting' which could have eased pressure on him on the issue of garda whistleblowers.

ATTITUDE

Subsequently last Monday night, secretary general at the department of justice, Brian Purcell – a man once targeted by Martin Cahill's criminal gang – visited Mr Callinan and delivered the message that the cabinet's attitude was that the senior officer would be unlikely to emerge unscathed from Tuesday's cabinet meeting.

Mr Callinan shocked the nation when he announced his "retirement" as the cabinet went into deliberation.

The Department of Justice acknowledged yesterday evening that there had been ongoing discussions between its officials and Mr Callinan about the penalty points controversy before he resigned.

Towards the end of last week, it said, those discussions centred on the possibility of him making a further statement about his comments at a meeting of the Dail public accounts committee in January.

The department said the talks also focused on the form the statement might take.

But it stressed there was no question of the department suggesting that this possibility be ruled out.

"Those ongoing discussions were, unfortunately, overtaken by subsequent events", the department added.

Mr Shatter has not yet commented on what and when he knew about the Taoiseach's decision to ask Mr Purcell to talk to Mr Callinan and to explain how he did not know until Tuesday morning about a crucial letter, regarding recorded phonecalls at garda stations, sent to the department by the Garda Commissioner on March 10.

DETAILS

This letter provided key details about the garda investigation that had been under way since November, on Mr Callinan's instructions, to establish the extent of phone recording at the force's 26 divisional headquarters.

None of the Cabinet, except the Taoiseach and Mr Shatter, knew about the letter until the Cabinet met.

Communications minister Pat Rabbitte said Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore first heard about it at a pre-Cabinet meeting on Tuesday morning.

Asked about why it had taken so long for information about the recordings to get to the right people, Mr Rabbitte said information regarding a particular litigation file on the civil side had been the subject of discussions between people in the Attorney General's Office, people in the Department of Justice and An Garda Síochána.

Fianna Fail justice spokesman Niall Collins said last night that the idea that the most senior garda in the country would be effectively blocked from doing the right thing and gagged from withdrawing comments he knew to be appropriate by Mr Shatter's officials was outrageous.

"By remaining silent, and thus protecting the minister, the commissioner steadily built further and further pressure on his own situation, which culminated in the events of this week", he added.

READ GERRY GREGG, P 14


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