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Quinn backs Labour on whistleblowers… after Kenny tells ministers to air concerns privately

Ruairí Quinn has backed Labour colleagues calling for the Garda Commissioner to withdraw remarks that two whistleblowers’ actions were “disgusting” just hours after the Taoiseach told ministers not to air their concerns in public.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny speaks to reports in Brussels today
Taoiseach Enda Kenny speaks to reports in Brussels today
Image: Screengrab/European Commission

Updated 10.58pm

RUAIRÍ QUINN HAS backed his Labour colleagues in calling for the Garda Commissioner to withdraw remarks about two whistleblowers just hours after the Taoiseach said that any minister who wants to discuss issues should raise them at Cabinet “rather than have them aired in public”.

Enda Kenny’s comments came after Transport Minister Leo Varadkar yesterday called for Martin Callinan to withdraw comments he made in January that the actions of John Wilson and Maurice McCabe, in highlighting problems with the penalty points system, were “disgusting”.

Varadkar’s comments have been publicly supported by four of the five Labour Cabinet ministers including the Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore, ministers Joan Burton, Pat Rabbitte and, this evening, Quinn.

In a statement issued tonight, after Kenny’s comments, the Education Minister urged the Garda Commissioner to “bring an end to the controversy”.

Earlier, Kenny told reporters in Brussels: “I’d certainly have a preference that if any minister who has an issue to raise that they raise it at the Cabinet or raise it where we could have discussions and deal with them, rather than have them aired in public.”

“I’m not saying that people have to be restricted in their views on anything but there is a process by which these things should be dealt with,” Kenny said.

‘Clarified’

It’s the second time in less than 24 hours the Taoiseach has had to face media questions on the issue. Speaking yesterday, he declined to say whether Martin Callinan should apologise to two garda whistleblowers.

Speaking today, he reiterated:

The Garda commissioner has clarified his comments and the context in which he made those.

I acknowledge that he’s cooperating with Government in implementing the changes that are there.

I acknowledge that these issues came to light through the work of whistleblowers — and because of that, there are now serious and fundamental changes now being made which will bring about a fair, transparent accountable and effective system.

A garda spokesperson has already said Callinan will not be withdrawing the remarks and has drawn attention to a statement issued last week in which the commissioner clarified what he meant and said the “disgusting” comment was “not in reference to the character” of Wilson or McCabe.

Quinn statement

Gilmore, Burton and Rabbitte have publicly backed Varadkar’s stance on the issue, since the Fine Gael Minister’s comments yesterday refocused attention the Commissioner’s remark last January.

Burton told The Irish Times that Callinan should withdraw the “disgusting” remark . A Labour spokesperson said that the position of the party had been articulated by Burton, and this view was shared by the party leader. On RTÉ, Rabbitte echoed this view.

In a statement issued just hours after Kenny told ministers not to air their concerns in public, Quinn said: “I wish to join with my colleagues in encouraging the Garda Commissioner to bring an end to the controversy surrounding the Garda whistleblowers following the report of the Garda Inspectorate.

“Anyone in public office can, on occasion, find themselves in a position where their choice of words has been unfortunate. In light of subsequent developments, I believe it would be helpful if the commissioner could move to end the controversy.

“It is important that the debate now move on to the substantive issues of how to ensure that there are adequate processes in place to deal with allegations of wrong-doing within the Garda. I have long supported the concept of a Garda Authority to enhance accountability and civilian oversight of An Garda Siochana. This is in the best interests of the Irish people, and the thousands of members of the Garda Siochana, who provide outstanding service to the Irish people.”

Additional reporting by Órla Ryan & Daragh Brophy.

First published 22.10pm

Earlier: Varadkar says Callinan should withdraw ‘disgusting’ remarks – but gardaí say he won’t

Also: Garda whistleblowers’ use of PULSE system criticised by Data Commissioner

Related: The Tánaiste thinks the Garda Commissioner should withdraw ‘disgusting’ remark

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