Still no clarity on very murky events

Enda Kenny listed the key findings of the Fennelly Report in the Dáil yesterday but questions remain about the whole affair, writes Cormac O’Keeffe

THOSE hoping for clarity from the Dáil yesterday on the murky events leading to the removal of Garda commissioner Martin Callinan were sorely disappointed.

There was no debate, as such, on the Fennelly Report and there was no question-and-answer session with the Taoiseach.

What we got was a motion of confidence in the Taoiseach — pushed through by the Government to thwart Fianna Fail’s motion of no confidence arising from Fennelly.

The three-hour session, comprising a dizzying succession of statements, intermixed a range of issues — economic, social, and political — with Fennelly.

The Taoiseach again listed the findings in Fennelly which, he said, backed his vindication.

He said there was a “clear” finding that the removal of the former commissioner was never discussed at the two cloak-and-dagger meetings on Sunday, March 23, and Monday, March 24, 2014.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny
Taoiseach Enda Kenny

Fennelly did say that. But he added, tantalisingly, that, had such a discussion taken place, it would have had “direct and serious legal implications” and that the procedures set out under the Garda Siochana Act 2005 would have had to be complied with.

That would have necessitated a decision of the Cabinet, which was due to meet on March 25.

Why the Taoiseach did not bring the matter to the Cabinet is still not clear.

The report did point out that up to three other people at Monday’s meeting — justice minister Alan Shatter, Department of Justice secretary general Brian Purcell, and even Martin Fraser of the Department of the Taoiseach — believed the commissioner’s position was “in peril”.

Mr Kenny said Fennelly had concluded it was Mr Callinan’s own decision to retire.

Fennelly did say that, but qualified it by saying that Mr Callinan did not wish to become “embroiled in legal or other conflict with the Government”.

Mr Kenny said Fennelly had found he had no intention of putting pressure on the commissioner.

Again, Fennelly did say that. But he said it was the “obvious implication” of Mr Kenny’s action.

It was the effect of dispatching Mr Purcell to the commissioner’s home late at night to express the grave concerns of the Taoiseach about the emerging taping scandal and the Taoiseach’s fear that he may not be able to express confidence in him if asked.

Former Garda Commisioner Martin Callinan
Former Garda Commisioner Martin Callinan

Fennelly said it was “a reasonable conclusion” for the commissioner to reach that he was being asked to consider his position.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheal Martin said intent was “very hard to prove” legally without recorded evidence. He pointed out — as did Fennelly — that there were absolutely no notes or records from either meetings.

Mr Kenny said it was “only right and fair” the commissioner was informed of his concerns that Monday night.

Fennelly said he could not get a satisfactory explanation as to why this necessitated a late night visit to the commissioner’s home — an event “without precedent” — as opposed to an arranged meeting or by telephone.

The Taoiseach did not explain yesterday why no contact was made — by either him or the Attorney General Maire Whelan — with Mr Callinan before the visit. Nor did Mr Kenny ask Mr Shatter or Mr Purcell to do so.

Attorney General Maire Whelan
Attorney General Maire Whelan

The Taoiseach did not elaborate on why he was “surprised” at Mr Callinan’s decision to retire — but then insisted he go “immediately”.

Sinn Féin and Independent TD Mick Wallace said they thought the commissioner should have been removed, although in relation to previous scandals.

But they said the decision should have been a Government one.

As Mr Wallace put it, it should have been done “within the rules of the game”.


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