charleton tribunal

Mick Wallace: Is it appropriate that Martin Callinan was in Garda HQ 'several days last week'?

Callinan is one of the central characters in the new tribunal into the Maurice McCabe scandal. / YouTube

INDEPENDENT TD MICK Wallace has questioned whether it was appropriate for the former Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan to have spent time at Garda Headquarters in Dublin recently.

Wallace was speaking under privilege in the Dáil today, as calls continue for current Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan to step down over the breath test scandal.

“Does the Minister think it is appropriate for former Commissioner Callinan to have been in Phoenix Park headquarters on several days last week?” he asked Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Paschal Donohoe, who was taking questions in the chamber this afternoon.

“Does he think it is appropriate that the former Commissioner and the present Commissioner would have access to the whole apparatus of An Garda Síochána, a pleasure that will not be afforded to [whistleblowers] Sergeant Maurice McCabe and Superintendent David Taylor?” Wallace continued.

Included in the terms of reference of the Charleton Tribunal into the Maurice McCabe scandal is an examination of telephone and text message contact between former press office head Superintendent David Taylor, Callinan and O’Sullivan.

It will also investigate whether a meeting took place between Callinan and then TD John McGuinness in a hotel car park in January 2014. McGuinness claims this happened ahead of a mooted appearance by McCabe at the Public Accounts Committee of which he was chair.

It has previously been reported that former Commissioner Callinan had met with O’Sullivan as he considered whether to request legal representation from An Garda Síochána.

O’Sullivan has put together a team at Garda Headquarters to co-ordinate the garda response to the tribunal and Wallace was today critical of her approach:

“The Minister should ask the Commissioner did she consult with John Barrett at human resources before she made appointments to her special unit to deal with the Charleton inquiry,” the Wexford TD said.

John Barrett wrote a letter to the head of legal affairs, Ken Ruane, pointing out the corporate risk to An Garda Síochána in setting up this unit, staffed with personal friends and associates. He suggested a firm of outside solicitors should be brought in to act as a conduit between An Garda Síochána and the Charleton inquiry but he was ignored.
She is a law unto herself. Does the Minister know why? It is because the government let her be so. She will remain a law unto herself and the Garda Síochána force is secondary to her interests and concerns. The government is allowing it to happen. The government will eventually get rid of her, but it will be too late and too much damage will be done.

Donohoe responded that the “overwhelming prerogative” of this government is the integrity and reputation of An Garda Síochána.

“It is part of the glue that holds any society together – the respect for and independence of a police force. That is the very reason that, over the last number of years, in response to many difficulties that have emerged, we have put in place bodies like the Policing Authority,” he told Wallace in the Dáil.

It is the very reason we are now in a situation where the Policing Authority itself is the body that makes appointments at senior level. It is the very reason we have GSOC, and the government is now engaged in consultation with GSOC regarding whether further powers are merited for that organisation to respond to the cultural change that we know is needed.

“All of this is driven by our acknowledgement of the need for a strong, respected An Garda Síochána that has no shadows or clouds over it.”

In response to a query from about Wallace’s comments in the Dáil, the Department of Justice said:

“As the Tribunal of Inquiry has now been established it would not be appropriate to comment on any matters relating to it. In particular, the Department has no role in relation to who or who may not be in Garda Headquarters.”

The Garda Press Office said it is “not the policy of An Garda Síochána to comment on named individuals”.

The Disclosures Tribunal sits tomorrow morning at Dublin Castle.

Read: Mícheál Martin withdraws party support for Nóirín O’Sullivan>

Read: Whistleblower David Taylor receives letter reminding him he may still face discipline >

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