Taoiseach Enda Kenny faced damning personal accusations over his handling of the Garda commissioner’s resignation with claims he lacks honesty and has twisted the facts.
Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin joined forces yesterday, launching blistering attacks on Mr Kenny’s reputation as the Dáil debated the Fennelly Commission’s interim report.
Despite the Coalition shifting a debate on the report into a vote of confidence in its work, the opposition leaders zoned in on Mr Kenny’s tenure as Taoiseach.
As parties prepare for a general election, TDs returned after their nine-week break and immediately waded into a stormy row over the rescheduling of Dáil business.
Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin raised questions on Mr Kenny’s response to the commission, which examined the resignation of Martin Callinan as Garda boss.
He told reporters it was an “abuse of power” that Mr Kenny sent Department of Justice secretary general Brian Purcell to Mr Callinan’s home to express his unhappiness over the recording of calls in Garda stations, which effectively resulted in him resigning.
The Coalition was trying to “bury” the report, he argued, and there was “chaos” at the heart of Government.
Mr Justice Nial Fennelly did not find that Mr Kenny’s actions intentionally resulted in the Garda commissioner quitting. However, he said Mr Callinan could have rightly concluded that he was “expected” to consider his position.
Mr Martin accused Labour of backing Mr Kenny’s position to protect Attorney General Máire Whelan. The report found that Ms Whelan, appointed by Labour, had known about the Garda tapes scandal for months before the Cabinet and that she eventually raised concerns with Mr Kenny, but not with other Cabinet members.
Sinn Féin was critical of Ms Whelan’s decision not to tell others about the Garda taping.
Mr Martin said the findings of the Fennelly inquiry, allied to the way the Government released the report just minutes before Mr Kenny appeared on RTÉ news to defend himself, showed a “shabby, underhand, shifty” behaviour operating at the heart of Government.
Despite the criticism, minister after minister yesterday defended Mr Kenny’s position: Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney said Fianna Fáil was “playing politics”, that it smacked of desperation when the best argument Mr Martin had was a TV poll saying 88% of people did not believe Mr Kenny’s version of events on Mr Callinan quitting.
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