Analysis: Taoiseach fails to bridge credibility gap over Callinan letter

By Mary Regan, Political Editor

So what exactly was Martin Callinan told by Government that lead to his resignation as Garda Commissioner last week?

The Taoiseach made an extraordinary revelation in the Dáil this morning that he did not know what was said at the home of Martin Callinan on that Monday night when he himself sent out the Secretary General of the Department of Justice, Brian Purcell, to deliver a message which ultimately lead to the Commissioner's resignation.

At Leaders' Questions, the Fianna Fáil leader, Micheál Martin, said it is "just not credible" that the Taoiseach, nor the Justice Minister, were informed by Mr Purcell of a letter (at bottom of article) he had received two weeks earlier from Mr Callinan.

In the letter dated March 10th, Mr Callinan outlined concerns about the phone bugging issue. But the Taoiseach did not know about this letter two weeks later when on March 24th - he sent Mr Purcell to inform Mr Callinan about the Cabinet's concern about the phone recordings. .

The handling of that letter and when it was passed from the Secretary General to his political bosses was the centre of Dáil debate this morning.

Yet the Taoiseach has still failed to address the credibility gaps in his version of events: that neither he nor the Minister were informed about it.

The relevance of the letter now surrounds whether the Taoiseach knew the full picture of Mr Callinan’s handing of the phone bugging issue, when he sent Mr Purcell out to his home.

"I'd love to have been a fly on the wall, I'd love to have seen the Commissioner's reaction to the Secretary General, saying 'did I not send you a letter two weeks ago telling you what I was doing and voicing my concern'," Mr Martin told the Dáil.

"For the first time in 30 years, we had a forced resignation of a garda commissioner. It's on that particular issue of phone recordings.

"He was clearly forced out of the position and that it is why it is important as an issue of substance, that we get clarity on this."

The sequenced of events resulted in the commissioner being got rid of, he told the Dáil.

He said: "There is an inescapable conclusion that the Commissioner was the scapegoat to protect the Minister. And unless we can get clear answers I can come to no other conclusion taoiseach, i regret to have to say that.”

Clear answers on the issue were, for another day, not forthcoming.

Mr Kenny said he was briefed by the Attorney General about the phone bugging issue on Sunday night "and if you think I should sit up in the office of the Taoiseach and not do something about it, then you are very badly mistaken,” he told Mr Martin.

He said his concerns were "grave indeed" about the transcription of tapes. "When I spoke on the Monday evening, both he Minister and the Secretary General, I made it perfectly clear that I wanted my concerns communicated to the former commissioner of the gardaí,” he said.

"The Secretary General did that and obviously I am not privy to the content of the discussions that they had and I don't want to assume anything there.

"I wanted my concerns about this communicated to the former commissioner of the gardai and obviously the Commissioner made his decision and I noted his press release the following morning of his retirement in the interest of his family and in the interest of the gardaí."

His response entirely missed the point.

The contention was never that he should have done nothing. Instead, the concern surrounds whether he had the full picture available to him when he sent out a warning that resulted in Mr Callinan’s resignation the following morning.

Or whether - in the words of sources close to the former Commissioner - he was simply shafted to save the Justice Minister.

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