Taoiseach Enda Kenny said the Fennelly Commission report clears him of allegations that he sacked the former Garda commissioner, Martin Callinan.
The one-time police chief stepped down last year after a string of controversies in the force, including unsubstantiated allegations that the Garda Ombudsman’s offices were bugged and other scandals such as the taping of phone calls at Garda stations and his criticism of whistle-blowers.
Mr Kenny said a long-running judge-led investigation into his handling of the affair found he did not force Mr Callinan out.
However, the Taoiseach also said he accepted that his decision to send a top civil servant to the then commissioner’s house, on the eve of his departure, to discuss his handling of Garda phone recordings, was the “immediate catalyst” in him quitting.
Mr Kenny said he had been vindicated by Judge Niall Fennelly.
Mr Callinan’s departure in March was embroiled in controversy as it followed a house call on a Sunday night by the then head of the Department of Justice Brian Purcell.
That meeting occurred as revelations of taped phone calls at Garda stations compounded criticisms of Mr Callinan’s stewardship of the force, his attack on whistleblowers and the unprecedented deterioration in relations between top brass and watchdogs.
The visit prompted allegations from the opposition that Mr Kenny had sent a messenger to sack the police chief or put pressure on him to quit.
Mr Kenny said: “While I note the commission’s conclusion that the ‘immediate catalyst’ for the commissioner’s decision to retire was the visit of the secretary general, I reiterate the commission’s conclusion that the commissioner decided to retire, and that he could have decided otherwise, and that I had no intention of putting pressure on the former commissioner to retire.”
Mr Kenny said he was first made aware of recorded phone calls in Garda district headquarters, going back to the 1980s in some cases, on Sunday, March 23.
The inquiry found a letter had been sent by former commissioner Callinan to the Department of Justice alerting officials and the then minister Alan Shatter to the looming scandal two weeks earlier, but it was not acted on.
The Fennelly inquiry criticised Mr Callinan for sitting on that information for a period of time.
The Taoiseach said he did not know about the letter before arranging a high-level meeting the following day with Attorney General Máire Whelan and officials to plot a course of action to deal with the taping issue.
He said: “What is deeply regrettable — and very significant — was that neither I, nor any of the other participants in that meeting, were made aware of the existence of a formal letter from the then commissioner on the taping issue which had been sent to the Department of Justice.”
The Taoiseach said if he had known about it he would not have sent Mr Purcell to the commissioner’s house on the Monday night.
Mr Kenny said he would have produced the letter at Tuesday’s cabinet meeting instead.
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