A Government decision to turn a Dáil debate on the Fennelly Commission and Taoiseach Enda Kenny into a motion of confidence in the Coalition has been deemed a “PR whitewash”.
The Coalition has derailed attempts by Fianna Fáil to move a motion of no confidence in Mr Kenny and instead will turn a debate into an attack on the opposition.
Fianna Fáil had proposed a two-day debate on findings by the Fennelly Commission and had tabled a motion of no confidence in Mr Kenny.
Opposition TDs say Mr Kenny effectively sacked former Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan.
The Fennelly Commission found Mr Kenny “did not intend to put pressure” on Mr Callinan to quit. However, it also concluded Mr Callinan could have concluded that he was invited to consider his position as Mr Kenny sent the head of the Department of Justice to his home to express unhappiness about recordings of calls at Garda stations.
The report concluded that “the fact that the commissioner made his own decision to retire, does not mean that the commissioner was wrong to arrive at the conclusion that he was expected to consider his position.”
A taoiseach does not have the power alone to remove a commissioner.
Government ministers say the interim report clears Mr Kenny of any suggestion of wrongdoing. Fianna Fáil believes Mr Callinan was essentially sacked to provide political cover for then embattled justice minister Alan Shatter during a wave of controversies around gardaí and other matters. Mr Shatter later resigned.
Fianna Fáil had planned a debate today and tomorrow but the Government, with its majority, has whittled this down to a three-hour motion today which expresses confidence in Mr Kenny.
Fianna Fáil justice spokesman Niall Collins said: “Enda Kenny clearly hopes that by issuing the report at the time and in the manner that he did, that politics will simply move on and that he will be able to avoid confronting what the report actually says. While his own backbenchers and those in the Labour Party may be happy facilitating the PR whitewash, the Fianna Fáil party will not.”
A Labour spokesman said party TDs and ministers would back Mr Kenny.
Meanwhile, the new Dáil term is expected to see a legislative logjam as parties prepare for the next election.
Legislation for an independent policing authority, better support for victims of crime, same-sex marriage ceremonies, better adoption tracing regulations, and more rights for the intellectually disabled are all expected to be moved forward before the end of the year. Legislation after the October 13 Budget will have to be debated in the Dáil and Seanad.
The Coalition also expect to push through reforms for an independent legal authority and further laws on overhauling sexual offences. Government chief whip Paul Kehoe will bring the legislative plans before the Cabinet today.
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