Fennelly Report findings: The main conclusions

Brian Purcell: Conveyed concerns to Martin Callinan on behalf of Taoiseach Enda Kenny in a late-night visit to the then garda commissioner's house.

The Fennelly Commission made a number of conclusions which are summarised below:

  • Department of Justice Secretary General Brian Purcell visit to Garda Commissioner’s home on March 25, 2014 to tell him Taoiseach regarded garda telephone recording matter as very grave “precipitated” Martin Callinan’s decision to retire.

Fennelly Report findings: The main conclusions

Martin Callinan


  • Events leading up to retirement were “beset by serious information deficits and multiple failures of communication”.


  • Justice Minister was not informed Commissioner had written to Secretary General two weeks previously asking him to tell Minister about recordings.


  • Justice Minister had “no effective knowledge” of issues around recordings until March 24. Likely if he had been briefed earlier he would have talked to Commissioner and events of that night would not have unfolded the way they did.


  • Taoiseach’s concerns which he asked Mr Purcell to convey to Commissioner arose from briefings by Attorney General (AG) to Taoiseach on March 23 and March 24 that gardaí had been engaged in “apparent widespread violation of the law” for decades.

    Fennelly Report findings: The main conclusions

    Former Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan, with the former secretary general of the Department of Justice Brian Purcell and former Fine Gael Minister for Justice and Defence Alan Shatter at an event in 2012

  • AG believed she had “insufficient information” to offer definitive advice on the real legal questions at issue. Commission felt there were “significant gaps” in the information AG’s office had on matters pertaining to the recordings. Any such available information was “likely in the possession of gardaí.


  • Justice Minister is “primary conduit” between Government and gardaí. AG, based on assurances from Justice Dept, believed Minister was fully informed about the garda recording systems and specifically recordings in Bailey case.


  • But AG did not contact Minister to either get his assistance in getting further information from gardaí or to discuss the “serious view” she had taken of the matter and the fact it was to be discussed at Cabinet. It would have been “reasonable and prudent” for her to have done so.


  • Taoiseach first briefed on recordings by AG on evening of March 23. Convened another meeting for March 24. Justice Minister not invited to attend until after its beginning or contacted by Taoiseach to discuss matters ahead of it.


  • Taoiseach and AG believed it inappropriate to contact Commissioner directly. Under Garda Síochána Act, Justice Minister “uniquely placed” to offer obtained explanations and clarifications from Commissioner. Not asked to do so, so no one made contact with him.


  • Likely, if contacted, “the first piece of information” he would have been given would have been that he informed the Justice Dept on March 10 which would have made “significant difference to events as they unfolded”.


  • Prior to meeting of March 24, AG obtained updated advice on Bailey case. On taping, consulted a Senior Council on afternoon of March 24 as to areas of law to be considered and appropriate form of future inquiry but not advice on legality of recording systems.


  • Therefore meeting of March 24 did not have any more information about the facts of law on recording issue than had been provided by AG on Sunday evening.


  • No question at March 24 meeting of proposal that Government should consider removing Commissioner from office.


  • Commission accepts Taoiseach did not intend to pressure Commissioner to retire But Taoiseach did make decision to instruct Mr Purcell to visit Commissioner at home and tell him he considered recording matter to be of “utmost gravity”.


  • Commission finds Mr Purcell received “no clear instructions” on detail of message to be conveyed to Commissioner.


  • Commission finds Taoiseach did not instruct Mr Purcell to get Commissioner’s views on any particular questions or inviting Commissioner to contact him Commission does not believe a request from Mr Purcell that Commissioner express his views on recordings would have added “anything material” to the tenor of the message that Taoiseach regarded matter as one of great gravity.


  • Mr Purcell was told, at least implicitly, to tell Commissioner recordings matter would be discussed at Cabinet on following day, that Taoiseach would be proposing the appointment of a Commission of Investigation and there was a possibility that the Taoiseach “would be in a position where he might not be able to express continued confidence in the Commissioner”.


  • Commissioner interpreted the message given to him by Mr Purcell as an indication he should consider his position. Commission says this was a “reasonable conclusion” for Commissioner to reach.


  • Commissioner decided to retire — he could have decided otherwise but did not wish to become embroiled in legal or other conflict with Government.


  • Although conscious of other events which had resulted in controversy for himself and gardaí, the catalyst for the Commissioner’s retirement was Mr Purcell’s visit and the message conveyed from the Taoiseach.


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