TÁNAISTE EAMON GILMORE has suggested that Justice Minister Alan Shatter should clear up claims that two garda whistleblowers did not cooperate with the internal inquiry into the penalty points controversy.
Gilmore was speaking amid ongoing controversy surrounding calls for the Garda Commissioner to withdraw remarks that the actions of the whistleblowers were ‘disgusting’.
Speaking at Croke Park today, Gilmore was asked specifically if Shatter should also withdraw remarks made on the Dáil record last year that the whistleblowers did not cooperate with the O’Mahoney inquiry.
He said: “As I’ve said, there are always phrases that are used and comments that are made and I think it’s always best that they’re cleared up as quickly as possible. But I think that’s a matter for the Minister for Justice.”
Asked if it is it incumbent on the minister to withdraw the claims, as is being asked of Martin Callinan, Gilmore responded: “I’ve said that I think it would be helpful if the remarks were withdrawn. I stand by that.”
He added that it was a matter for both Callinan and Shatter and also defended the decision to speak out publicly on the matter last week, saying: “When matters are in the public domain and questions are being asked about it, I think answers have to be given.”
He suggested that there is now a need for an independent policing authority along the lines of the arrangements in Northern Ireland.
Meanwhile, Transport Minister Leo Varadkar had said that he doesn’t want to say any more than he has already said about the controversy, saying at a tourism event this afternoon: “I said what I said at the Road Safety Conference on Thursday. I am not resiling from my position.”
Reilly declines to comment
Earlier, Health Minister James Reilly declined to say whether or not Callinan should withdraw his remark about the actions of two whistleblowers being ‘disgusting’.
Speaking to RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, Reilly said that while it was his own personal view that the whistleblowers “are very important” and need to be encouraged to come forward he had heard the Taoiseach “loud and clear”.
Enda Kenny asked that ministers not air their views on the controversy in public after his party colleague Leo Varadkar said that Callinan should withdraw the remark.
Varadkar’s call was later supported by his five Labour Cabinet colleagues with one minister, Ruairí Quinn, issuing a statement in support of the remark’s withdrawal after Kenny’s request was made.
“We should sort it out in private and allow people air their views there, and I will certainly be airing my views at the Cabinet,” Reilly said this morning.
He said that Varadkar had made his comments prior to the Tsaoiseach’s request and said that ministers are more effective in running the country when they are in a position to discuss matters at Cabinet.
“I will give my Cabinet colleagues the respect that the Taoiseach has asked me to give and I will await making any further comment on this until after the Cabinet meets tomorrow,” he added.
Meanwhile, a garda spokesperson has confirmed this morning that there are “no plans” for Callinan to issue a statement today despite indications in a number of newspaper reports that this will happen.
However, a source has said the current position may change as the situation is “fluid”.
The controversy is likely to dominate the political agenda this week.
The Dáil is due to debate the report of the Garda Inspectorate, which harshly criticised the penalty points system, for some five hours on Thursday.
First published 8.52am