Opposition leaders have accused Taoiseach Enda Kenny of trying to hide behind a non-existent law in a bid to evade questions about his role in the departure of former Garda commissioner Martin Callinan.
A full year after the commissioner’s sudden resignation, which occurred hours after Mr Kenny sent a senior civil servant to Mr Callinan’s house to voice concerns the Taoiseach had about events involving the force, Mr Kenny will not say if he is one of three people recalled to give evidence to the probe into the departure.
Mr Kenny again insisted he would be breaking the law if he did so, but opposition figures have queried this.
The commission of investigation under judge Nial Fennelly has not been able to cite a law that prevents someone from saying whether they gave evidence to an inquiry as opposed to revealing the nature of that evidence.
Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin accused Mr Kenny of misleading the public over the issue of whether he was one of three witnesses recalled due to contradictory evidence. Mr Martin said Mr Kenny was trying to stall for time and was not constrained by legal issues but “hiding”.
“I’ve read the 2004 Commissions of Investigation Act and at no stage does it say that it is an offence to confirm that you are a witness or were a witness or that you will be a witness,” he said.
“And I would point out that as far back as June of last year, responding to a stinging attack by Minister Alex White at the time — Alex White was extremely critical of the Taoiseach’s role in the handling of the resignation of the former Garda commissioner — the Taoiseach’s response to that was that he had been contacted by the commission of inquiry and that he intended to respond within the next two weeks and give evidence.
“So while it’s now an offence for the Taoiseach, it wasn’t an offence for the Taoiseach in June of last year. It’s extraordinary that 12 months on from a very grave matter — the resignation of the former commissioner in very controversial circumstances — and no one is any the wiser as to what happened. That is not satisfactory,” Mr Martin told RTÉ.
Mr Kenny insisted he would be breaking the law if he clarified his position on whether he had given evidence. “It is an offence for anyone associated with a commission to make a comment on it, and I do not propose to break the law that has been in place for many years,” Mr Kenny said.
Tánaiste Joan Burton said she wants to see the section of the Fennelly report relating to Mr Callinan published “as early as possible”.
However, she accused opposition leaders of trying to “politicise” the inquiry.
“I do hope the judge is able to make his report [available] as early as possible. I think the judge needs to be left to finish his work and report as early as possible. I certainly would like to see the report in relation to the section relating to the Taoiseach published as early as possible,” Ms Burton said.
Judge Fennelly has stated he cannot publish any of his investigation until a High Court case is completed.
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