Labour leader Joan Burton has backed Taoiseach Enda Kenny’s version of the Fennelly commission’s verdict over what caused ex-garda commissioner Martin Callinan to retire, despite opposition parties calling on the Fine Gael leader to resign.
In a statement, the Tánaiste said the findings of the detailed 300-page report into the political and justice controversy have cleared Mr Kenny of any wrongdoing and that he did nothing wrong.
Backing her Coalition colleague’s insistence that the investigation has given an “unambiguous” clean slate over the issue, Ms Burton said: “The report makes clear the ultimate decision to retire lay with the then garda commissioner, and that there was no directive issued by the Taoiseach to the commissioner,” she said.
A spokesperson for Ms Burton confirmed this means Labour is of the view the report has cleared Mr Kenny of any wrongdoing in the affair.
However, the defence of Fine Gael by its Coalition partner has jarred considerably with the view of Opposition parties, which rounded on the Taoiseach and his “conflict of evidence”, and called for him to resign.
Speaking to reporters outside Leinster House, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said Mr Kenny’s spinning of the report’s findings has been “scandalous” and “outrageous”.
He said his position on the report is “untenable” and that the visit by Brian Purcell to Mr Callinan’s home was “engineered” to force a resignation, but stopped short last night of saying his role as head of Government is also now untenable and that he should resign.
“Let’s get back to the real world here,” said Mr Martin. “The secretary general is out at 11pm the night before a cabinet meeting telling the Garda commissioner the Taoiseach has sent him out, that he sees the matter as very grave and that he might not have confidence in him the following morning if the matter arises at Cabinet.”
Mr Martin said anyone looking at what happened in the lead up to Mr Callinan’s retirement could only conclude that Ireland’s top garda “was given no alternative but to resign”.
Sinn Féin said Mr Kenny must now “consider his position” and that the Dáil should be reconvened next week to discuss the revelations instead of waiting until its planned return on September 22.
“The Taoiseach’s spin in relation to the findings of this report is not credible and he must now consider his position,” said the party’s social protection spokesman, Aengus Ó Snodaigh.
“It was inevitable that commissioner Callinan would see no other option but to resign following a visit by the secretary general of the Department [of Justice] to his home on the orders of the Taoiseach.
Aengus Ó Snodaigh
“The conflicting evidence contained in the Fennelly report raises questions as to why the Taoiseach felt the need to send Mr Purcell on the Government’s behalf in the manner in which he did, rather than waiting until the following morning’s cabinet meeting to discuss commissioner Callinan’s position.
“Furthermore, this report calls into serious doubt the position of the attorney general who was aware of important information for months and decided not to communicate this information with Cabinet members and other relevant parties.”
The view that Mr Kenny has fresh questions to answer over the scandal was further echoed by Independent TD Clare Daly, who said while the Taoiseach thinks he has ridden the storm “it is only just beginning”.
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