Taoiseach Enda Kenny has been accused of an abuse of power by “engineering” the removal of the former Garda commissioner from his post.
Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin launched the latest attack on what he considers the Taoiseach’s lack of honesty over the sudden departure of Martin Callinan, ahead of a Dáil motion of no confidence in Mr Kenny.
Mr Martin said that Mr Kenny “essentially engineered” the removal of Mr Callinan by sending a senior Department of Justice official to visit him late at night, hours before he announced his retirement.
The Fianna Fáil leader insisted Mr Callinan had been pressurised into going and that the Fennelly report into the affair did not offer the Taoiseach the clean hands Mr Kenny claims.
“It says, however, objectively looking at it, sending the secretary general out at midnight without precedent, without any notice, to tell him that the Taoiseach viewed this as a grave matter and that he might not have confidence in him the following morning at that Cabinet meeting,” said Mr Martin. “It had that very intention; it had that very purpose in mind.
“It was essentially an abuse of his position and an abuse of power and, in my view, it was an unethical way to behave. It was shocking that the Taoiseach would send out the secretary general to do ‘wrong’ like that.”
With an opinion poll showing just 12% of voters believe the Taoiseach over the controversy, joint leader of the Social Democrats Stephen Donnelly said Mr Kenny still had questions to answer.
Mr Donnelly said the level of political interference in policing exposed by the Fennelly report was reminiscent of the situations in Russia or Egypt.
Labour business minister Ged Nash said the key issue raised by the Fennelly report was the “dysfunctional” nature of the Department of Justice.
“There’s a lot being made of this by the Opposition for a variety of reasons, and I think the important thing is that this raised a whole range of different issues around the dysfunctionality of the Department of Justice,” Mr Nash said.
Mr Nash insisted the Fennelly report found that Mr Kenny did not sack the commissioner, and said no one would accept lectures in ethics from Fianna Fáil.
The no-confidence motion move was dismissed as unnecessary by Independent TD Maureen O’Sullivan, who said voters would make their judgement at the looming general election.
“We’re going into the last few months, whether it’s two months or five months,” said Ms O’Sullivan, adding that it would be a better use of Dáil time to discuss the housing crisis.
“The electorate are going to have their opportunity to have their vote of confidence or no confidence,” she said.
Sinn Féin will also table a no-confidence motion in the Taoiseach, and have said they wish to table one focusing on the Attorney General.
Former Justice Minister Alan Shatter was strongly critical of Mr Kenny’s evidence to the Fennelly inquiry, but said he will not vote either way on the confidence motion.
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