The 26 County Taoiseach Enda Kenny is facing calls for his resignation after an inquiry found today that the former Garda police chief commissioner Martin Callinan felt obliged to retire as a result of a message conveyed from the Taoiseach.
Although interpretations vary sharply, the report by the Fennelly Inquiry appears to confirm that the state’s top police officer (pictured, right) was subjected to constructive dismissal.
Callinan’s retirement in March 2014 came as a scandal erupted over the secret taping by the authorities of phone calls to and from police stations around the state, and a subsequent cover-up. The controversy also centres around the undue influence used by the Taoiseach to bring about Callinan’s sudden retirement, ensuring that the former Commissioner took much of the blame for successive failures in the 26 County justice system.
The Fennelly report, which was published this evening, said the immediate and direct cause of Mr Callinan’s decision to quit in March 2014 was a visit from the then secretary general at the Department of Justice, Brian Purcell, and the message he conveyed from Kenny.
The Taoiseach said he accepted his decision to send Mr Purcell to the Commissioner’s house on a Monday evening to discuss his handling of Garda phone recordings controversy was the “immediate catalyst” in Callinan’s decision to retire the following day.
The visit to Callinan’s house prompted allegations from the Opposition parties that Mr Kenny had sent Mr Purcell to effectively sack him.
According to the report, Mr Callinan said after the visit he knew he was expected to retire. “There was absolutely no options put on the table to me,” he said, adding: “I was left in no doubt what I had to do then that evening. I was left in absolutely no doubt”.
Speaking on state-run television immediately after the publication of the report, Mr Kenny said the charge against him that he had sacked the Garda chief had been “clearly and unambiguously” rejected by the inquiry report.
Sinn Fein deputy Aengus O Snodaigh said Kenny’s position on the findings was not credible, and that the Taoiseach should consider his position. He said that the orders given by Kenny to send Purcell to Callinan’s home had the ‘obvious effect of conveying to Commissioner Callinan that he should resign’.
He called for the Dail to be reconvened to discuss the report next week.
“It was inevitable that Commissioner Callinan would see no other option but to resign following a visit by the Secretary General of the Department to his home on the orders of the Taoiseach,” he said.
“The conflicting evidence contained in the Fennelly report is extraordinary and raises questions as to why the Taoiseach felt the need to send Mr Purcell on the government’s behalf in the manner in which he did, rather than waiting until the following morning’s cabinet meeting to discuss Commissioner Callinan’s position?
“Furthermore, this report calls into serious doubt the position of the Attorney General who was aware of important information for months and decided not to communicate this information with Cabinet members and other relevant parties.
“The events that led to the Commission of Investigation shook public confidence in the administration of the Gardai. The delay in the publication of this report, coupled with the confusion caused by the Taoiseach in his failure to answer questions regarding his own contribution to the Fennelly investigation and now his less-than-convincing spin that he is in the clear following the publication of this report, has only served to make matters worse.
“The response from Fine Gael and the Labour Party to this entire crisis has at all times been reactionary and has focused solely on political damage control rather than on addressing the root causes of the problem.”