Fennelly Fallout: Labour: Attorney General must not be made scapegoat

Labour has insisted attorney general Máire Whelan must not be made a “scapegoat” for the Fennelly report crisis.

Public Expenditure and Reform Minister Brendan Howlin said there is no risk of the situation occurring despite reports the Labour appointee could be sacrificed in order to quell public concern over the issue.

Responding to moves from Sinn Féin to put down a motion of no confidence in both Mr Kenny and Ms Whelan, Mr Howlin said the long-time Labour member will not be removed.

Fennelly Fallout: Labour: Attorney General must not be made scapegoat

Brendan Howlin

Despite serious criticism of Ms Whelan in the Fennelly report surrounding the fact she did not inform Cabinet of the Garda phone recordings scandal until March 2014 despite being informed of it the previous November and toned down her initial view the taping was “criminal”, the Labour minister said there is no reason to be concerned.

Asked if she will be scapegoated, Mr Howlin responded: “Absolutely not. The attorney general, I’ve worked with her for four and a half years in Government and before that, she is an immensely competent, able, diligent, law officer to the State, that we would be deeply wounded as a nation to lose.”

Mr Howlin said it is an “extraordinary question to put” as “what was made known in November 2013 wholly and materially differed from what she [Ms Whelan] became aware of that weekend”.

He rejected suggestions the attorney general “called it wrongly”, and insisted she did everything possible “to alert the Taoiseach to the potential consequences of widespread taping”.

Speaking at a separate events yesterday morning, Communications Minister Alex White and Transport Minister and Fine Gael TD Paschal Donohoe said Ms Whelan continues to have the full confidence of the Cabinet.

Fennelly Fallout: Labour: Attorney General must not be made scapegoat

Paschal Donohoe 

Mr Donohoe said the attorney general had raised “very serious” issues and “brought them to the attention of Government because of the gravity of the matter”.

He added that, despite a continuing opposition belief that the Fennelly report shows Mr Kenny effectively sacked Mr Callinan by proxy, “the commission makes clear the Taoiseach discharged his duties in an absolutely appropriate and responsible way”.

Fennelly Fallout: Labour: Attorney General must not be made scapegoat

Martin Callinan

Speaking in France where he is on a two-day state visit, the Taoiseach said Ms Whelan continues to have his “full and absolute confidence, she’s really an absolutely dedicated public servant”.

He said he will be “very happy” to debate the no confidence motions in the Dáil, and suggested rival opposition parties may have “individual agendas” and be seeking “publicity”.

However, despite the insistence ms whelan’s position is safe, during high-profile media interviews on Wednesday in which they defended Mr Kenny a number of Fine Gael cabinet members including Health Minister Leo Varadkar and junior minister at the Department of Finance Simon Harris attempted to deflect some of the blame to ex-garda commissioner Mr Callinan, ex-Department of Justice secretary general Brian Purcell and Ms Whelan.

On Wednesday, Sinn Féin put forward a motion of no confidence in Mr Kenny and Ms Whelan, an unprecedented step against an attorney general that some believe may be unconstitutional.

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