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

Leo Varadkar has said that Martin Callinan should withdraw remarks that the actions of two garda whistleblowers were “disgusting”.

Leo Varadkar (File photo)
Leo Varadkar (File photo)
Image: Mark Stedman/Photocall Ireland

Updated 3pm

TRANSPORT MINISTER LEO Varadkar has said that the Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan should withdraw comments made in January that the actions of two garda whisteblowers were “disgusting”.

However, a garda spokesperson has confirmed this afternoon that 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.

Speaking at a Road Safety Authority conference in Dublin today, Varadkar said that ex-garda John Wilson and serving sergeant Maurice McCabe had used the correct procedures in attempting to highlight malpractice in the penalty points system, but said those procedures “failed them”.

He said that when information about penalty points being inappropriately and incorrectly cancelled was released it was done through members of the Oireachtas which gardaí are entitled to do. He described the two whistleblowers’ actions as “distinguished”.

Pointing out that he was speaking on “my own behalf”, he added: “I want to thank Sergeant McCabe and Mr Wilson for their service.

“They may not have got everything right, but they did shine a light into a dark place and force those who’d rather turn a blind eye to face up to the truth.”

He told reporters that Callinan’s remark about the actions of McCabe and Wilson being “disgusting” should be withdrawn and added that the commissioner should “make any other corrections he needs to make to the testimony he made to the Public Accounts Committee”.

In January, Callinan told the Public Accounts Committee that it was “quite disgusting” that two people out of a force of 13,000 are making “extraordinary serious allegations” and there is not “a whisper” from elsewhere in the force of “corruption or malpractice”.

“On a personal level, I think it’s quite disgusting,” he said.

Callinan response

Last week, Callinan attempted to clarify those remarks following the publication of a Garda Inspectorate report which found “inconsistent and widespread” breaches of the policy on penalty points.

He said last week: “I want to clarify that my use of that term was not in reference to the character of either Sgt McCabe or former Garda Wilson, but the manner in which personal and sensitive data was inappropriately appearing in the public domain without regard to due process and fair procedures.”

Contacted this afternoon, a garda spokesperson said that Callinan reiterates what he said in the statement last week which “clarified the context in which the words were said”.

When asked if that meant the “disgusting” remark would not be withdrawn, the spokesperson confirmed this was the case.

In a follow-up statement from the garda press office this afternoon, a spokesperson said: “The Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan clarified his use of the word “disgusting” last week.

“In that statement, he said that his use of the term at the Public Accounts Committee was not in reference to the character of either Sgt McCabe or former Garda Wilson, but the manner in which personal and sensitive data was inappropriately appearing in the public domain without regard to due process and fair procedures.

“The Commissioner used the term at the PAC in the context of outlining how he would support any member of An Garda Siochana who reports wrongdoing of any kind, but it should be done through the mechanisms and procedures for doing so.”

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PAC comments

The spokesperson also cited remarks at the PAC meeting in January, quoting Callinan as saying: “Anyone who makes any report of wrongdoing to me, I will deal with it very seriously…I will not allow anyone reporting wrongdoing to be bullied, harassed, intimidated…that will not happen on my watch.

“There is a mechanism and procedure for reporting wrongdoing which should not be going off to a third party with a whole raft of serious allegations, criminal and otherwise, and producing them elsewhere.”

The spokesperson added that several recommendations contained in the Garda Inspectorate’s report on the system are already being implemented.

Varadkar was also asked today whether the whistleblowers were owed an apology, but he said that was not a matter for him, but those who may or may not have something to apologise about.

Justice Minister Alan Shatter has faced repeated calls to apologise to the whistleblowers for claiming on the Dáil record that they did not cooperate with an internal garda inquiry into the penalty points controversy.

First published 12.43pm

Read: Garda whistleblower says Shatter lives in ‘an imaginary world’

Read: Callinan says he didn’t call whistleblowers “disgusting”

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Hugh O'Connell

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