The interim report of the Fennelly Inquiry on policing matters in the 26 Counties has revealed a catalogue of delinquency and deception at the highest levels of the State’s justice system.
The sudden shredding of up to ten bags of personal papers belonging of the former Garda police commissioner Martin Callinan is one of a number of sinister events recorded in the report, which was issued this week.
Sinn Fein and Fianna Fail have both called for a no-confidence vote in the current government and are seeking a recall of the Dublin parliament.
The Fennelly Inquiry was tasked with investigating the background to Callinan’s resignation last year, as well as the secret taping of phone calls at Garda stations around the State. The report published this week presents a string of incompetencies and a picture of chaos at the highest levels of government.
Fennelly revealed that on the day he retired, Martin Callinan filled eight to 10 black bin bags with personal papers. and asked a subordinate to dispose of them.
The papers were later shredded and, according to the report, may have included the commissioner’s diary for 2013. The SIM card of the official mobile phone used by Callinan also disappeared in mysterious circumstances.
In his report, Fennelly said it was “striking” how little documentary evidence is available regarding some of the actions under taken by Callinan.
He said: “Important decisions were not formally recorded and were communicated orally. Such work practices make it very difficult to identify what decisions were made, by whom and for what reasons.”
Other resignations which proceeded from separate scandals in the area of policing and justice last year brought about the resignations of the Minister for Justice, the chairman of the Garda Ombudsman’s office and a top official tasked to liaise with Garda whistleblowers.
Commissioner Callinan, Ireland’s top police officer, was under pressure over his handling of whistleblowers who raised concerns about the termination of motorists’ penalty points for apparently corrupt reasons. One whiste-blower also pointed to a series of murders, abductions and serious assaults which were not properly investigated.
Callinan dismissed the whistleblowers actions as “disgusting” when he appeared before the Public Accounts Committee in January 2014.
Despite ham-fisted attempts to put a pro-government spin on the contradictory conclusions of the report, few doubt that Callinan was removed from office by the direct action of Taoiseach Enda Kenny. The sacking was brought about through a bizarre late-night visit to Callinan’s home by the Secretary General at the Department of Justice, Brian Purcell.
Fennelly explores in depth the background to the grubby, handwringing meeting in which Callinan learned that he was expected to retire. It also emerged in the report that Callinan had offered to serve out a notice period of two or three months, but that Kenny explicitly rejected this, saying he must step down immediately, which he did.
Kenny has always denied “interfering” with police matters and insisted that he never intended to pressure Callinan to quit, despite making it clear he could not express confidence in the Garda chief.
It was during a meeting on the night of March 24 that a decision was taken to dispatch Purcell to Callinan’s family home to extract a resignation. In an extraordinary finding, Justice Fennelly reported that not a single note or record was taken of this unprecedented meeting, which lasted four hours.
Those involved in the meeting sharply contradicted each other on what took place. “No note or record, of any kind, was made of what Mr Purcell was asked to say to the commissioner,” the commission found.
It was a deeply embarrassing finding for Enda Kenny, who has lectured the previous government over their “shredding or disposing of” important records.
Other concerns which have yet to be fully addressed by the commission include the attempted cover-up of revelations that phone calls in and out of garda stations were recorded, which impacted the high-profile Ian Bailey murder trial, among others. The current Attorney General Maire Whelan is implicated in that cover-up, and is also facing calls for her resignation.
Another unresolved controversy includes the blocking of an Ombudsman investigation into the handling of Garda informer and drug dealer Kieran Boylan. It later emerged the Garda Ombudsman’s office had called in British security experts to carry out sweeps of its offices because it suspected it had been bugged.
Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams said the Fennelly Report detailed a catalogue of government failures and that the Taoiseach should immediately call a general election.
“No amount of spin by the government or clever use of words in the Fennelly Report can disguise the fact that the Callinan debacle has revealed how dysfunctional this government is,” he said.
“The shameful defence of Enda Kenny by the Labour Party and by Fine Gael Ministers is evidence of how far the government parties are prepared to go to protect their own narrow party political self-interest.
“The Taoiseach’s position is untenable. He should resign.”