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Shatter must follow Callinan's exit with his own – only then can the damage be repaired

THE reverberations from the resignation of Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan are still rocking the force – and the country – today.

Callinan quit yesterday, following his refusal to fully apologise for calling whistleblowers' actions "disgusting".

This led to huge political pressure on him to go, which was bolstered last week by a statement on the part of Minister Leo Varadkar, who called the whistleblowers "distinguished".

Once the Tanaiste and other ministers backed Varadkar there was always going to be only one option for Callinan.

The commissioner's resignation still managed to take many by surprise, though.

In truth, Callinan (inset) was between a rock and a hard place and his position, already precarious, had become untenable by yesterday.


A recent statement in which he said he wasn't referring to the whistleblowers as individuals when he used the word "disgusting" seemed incongruous.

It certainly didn't allay the public's deep disquiet and concern on the issue.

This public concern was heightened last night as it emerged that garda were bugging their own stations for the past 30years, a scandal which is likely to completely dwarf the penalty points controversy.

Was Callinan's departure also linked to this?

Of course, during all his difficulties of late Justice Minister Alan Shatter backed the commissioner.

In fact, they appeared almost joined at the hip.

Leaving the bugging to one side for now I have repeatedly stated (and I've been criticised for it by some) that I believe Callinan's treatment of McCabe and Wilson was unjustified, unfair and unprofessional.

During the Public Accounts Committee hearing last January, Callinan came across as dismissive when asked legitimate questions about the penalty points system.

But the whistleblowers have been vindicated.

While Callinan is gone, Shatter remains, and his handling of the affair has been inept and incompetent. Serious questions now exist over whether he can continue in his role on this - let alone what he knew about the bugging of garda stations and when.

For his part Callinan could and should have apologised to McCabe and Wilson without losing face in front of his fellow officers. He would still have had the respect of the garda force, and the apology would have been right and proper and just.

On a personal level, I am sorry to see Callinan depart in these circumstances. I served with him and always regarded him as a decent policeman.


Worryingly though, the penalty points controversy has inflicted serious damage on the reputation of the force and has shaken the confidence of ordinary people in the administration of justice. The bugging scandal will add to this.

One cannot over-stress how important it is that our national police force retains the trust and respect of all the people of this island.

Before that can commence Alan Shatter must follow the example of the garda commissioner. The only honourable course of action open to him is to resign forthwith.