Legal view: ‘Kenny’s actions suggest commissioner was pushed’

The manner in which Taoiseach Enda Kenny confronted Martin Callinan on Monday suggests the Garda commissioner was “pushed” into resigning, according to a top legal expert.

Legal view: ‘Kenny’s actions  suggest commissioner was pushed’

Professor Dermot Walsh said this was “subversive” of the legislation governing the dismissal of senior police officers. He said there was a “crucial, legal difference” between Mr Callinan being told by the secretary general of the Department of Justice Brian Purcell that the Cabinet — rather than just the Taoiseach — had concerns over the tapes and possible difficulties for him.

The professor of law at Kent University said only the Cabinet can dismiss a commissioner. It emerged yesterday that the Cabinet didn’t even know of the recordings until Tuesday.

Prof Walsh asked that if Mr Kenny’s actions did not constitute a sacking — as the Taoiseach insisted — then why was he involved at all, rather than Justice Minister Alan Shatter, Mr Purcell’s political boss.

His comments come as senior garda sources criticised Mr Kenny and the Government for how Mr Callinan was treated.

“He was sacrificed on the altar of political expediency to save other people,” said a source close to the former commissioner.

“Democracy and democratic accountability has died in this country.”

A second senior garda said Mr Callinan had been made a “scapegoat for other people”. “For the Garda Síochána it is not so much we need to have trust in the Government, it’s more about being treated with respect, and what happened to Martin Callinan showed no respect.”

He said the relationship between the force and government had now “changed forever”.

Prof Walsh, who has authored books on policing and government in Ireland, said that under the Garda Síochána Act 2005, the commissioner is politically accountable to the Government through the secretary general of the Department of Justice.

He said the dispatch of Mr Purcell to Mr Callinan’s home on the Taoiseach’s behalf, expressing concerns over the tapes and possible implications for his leadership, had a singular effect.

Prof Walsh said: “The action was very swift. The Taoiseach sent the secretary general of the Department of Justice as emissary. It all conveys the impression that he [Mr Callinan] was pushed. That it itself is subversive of the legislation.”

He said the act outlines “fair procedures” that must be complied with in a dismissal or consideration of it.

Prof Walsh added that it was “unbelievable and bizarre” that Mr Shatter was not informed by his officials about the taping controversy.

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