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Leaders' Questions (Continued)

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 835 No. 1

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(Speaker Continuing)

[An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett] Thank you, Deputy.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin -----he compounded the hurt inflicted on these men when he said it was a very serious issue when a member - implying Mr. McCabe - was "liberally accessing confidential information on the PULSE system and distributing it to the general public". Mr. McCabe never did that, yet he stands accused by the Minister, Deputy Shatter, on "Six One", of having done it. He stands accused of non-co-operation on the record of this House. I put it to the Taoiseach that this is wrong. Has he spoken to the Minister, Deputy Shatter, about this? Has he asked him to unequivocally correct the record of the House and to apologise to the whistleblowers concerned for his remarks both on the record of the House and outside of the House, the import of which was to undermine them, their credibility and their character? He should withdraw his comments, and the Taoiseach, as Leader, should follow the example of the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Varadkar, and seek a withdrawal of those remarks and an apology from the Minister.

Deputy Michael Healy-Rae: Information on Michael Healy-Rae Zoom on Michael Healy-Rae Where is he now?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett Would the Deputy mind? He is not on Leaders' Questions yet-----

Deputy Michael Healy-Rae: Information on Michael Healy-Rae Zoom on Michael Healy-Rae He was here a while ago. He disappeared.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett -----but he might be there some day if he takes his time.

A Deputy: God forbid.

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny First of all, I would like to put on the record my appreciation of the 41 years of service given by the Commissioner, Martin Callinan, to the service of the community and the public as a member of An Garda Síochána. It must have been a very difficult decision for the Commissioner to announce his retirement. During those 41 years Commissioner Callinan dealt with very serious issues to do with the safety of this State and the safety of citizens in dealing with members of subversive organisations and serious criminals. I thank him for his service to the Irish State.

With regard to the matter I brought to the Deputy's attention and that of Deputy Adams, the Government made a number of decisions arising from that - in accepting the retirement of the Commissioner; in the appointment of the assistant commissioner as an interim Commissioner; in making arrangements for filling the post as a permanent position through an open competition; in the establishment, with terms of reference to follow, of a commission of investigation into the issue of tape recordings in many Garda stations since the 1980s and the potential impact of the contents of some of those tapes in respect of cases being heard, cases going through the courts, cases to be followed or maybe cases that were already dealt with; and in committing the Government to establishing an independent authority for the Garda Síochána that is appropriate for the needs of this country while maintaining political accountability to the Oireachtas. These are decisions that were made this morning by the Government.

We have already decided in regard to the report of the inspectorate into penalty points. There will be statements and questions and answers this Thursday for all Members, led and finished by the Minister for Justice and Equality. The Minister has recognised the value of the information provided by the whistleblowers in bringing this to public attention. He has also said that many of the other allegations that were made have not yet been corroborated. I have dealt with that myself on a number of occasions.

The answer to Deputy Martin's question is that the Minister for Justice and Equality will deal with this matter on Thursday when he addresses the response to the penalty points issue in the report provided by the Garda inspectorate.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin That is not an adequate response. I asked what the Taoiseach is going to do about it. Has he spoken to the Minister for Justice and Equality and has he asked him to correct the record? Last week the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Varadkar, was very forthright and frank in his assessment of the situation. First of all he said that the whistleblowers' contribution to this was "distinguished", which was in sharp contrast to the position of the Minister, Deputy Shatter. The Tánaiste said he should withdraw his remarks yesterday. Other Ministers - Deputies Quinn, Rabbitte, Burton and Coveney - are all in the same vein in terms of what should happen here. What has the Taoiseach done? The only two Ministers who have stood with him in trying to protect the Minister, Deputy Shatter and uphold the status quo have been Deputies Hogan and Reilly, trusted lieutenants that they are. What the Minister, Deputy Shatter, has done is unacceptable. His position is untenable. One cannot do as he did, coming into this House to undermine the character and reputation of individuals whom other Ministers see as having made a distinguished contribution. There is no getting out this without some straight talking and some straight answers. Did the Taoiseach talk to the Minister, Deputy Shatter? Did he tell him he should correct the record of the House and particularly the record outside the House as well? What he said on "Six One" was wrong. It was factually incorrect and further compounded what he said in this House. Is the Taoiseach of the view that his position is still tenable? Is he of the view that he does not have to apologise for what he said and that he should not withdraw his remarks made in the House about the whistleblowers?

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny The Minister, Deputy Shatter, has proven to be probably the most reforming Minister for Justice in the past 15 years-----

Deputy Finian McGrath: Information on Finian McGrath Zoom on Finian McGrath There is no confidence in him.

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny -----and so many issues of societal consequence that have been left lying around have been, are and will be dealt with by him as Minister for Justice and Equality.

A Deputy: Hear, hear.

Deputy Joe Higgins: Information on Joe Higgins Zoom on Joe Higgins He would want to reform himself for a start.

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny Have I spoken to the Minister for Justice and Equality? The answer to Deputy Martin's question is "Yes," and the Minister will deal with this on Thursday.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett Before I call Deputy Adams, I want to put on the record that the Chair has ruled on many occasions that allegations of a serious nature against an office holder can be made only by substantive motion in the House and not by innuendo or otherwise across the floor of the House. I want that to be clearly understood. People have their rights here. A substantive motion can be tabled and debate can take place. Would the Members please respect the ongoing rulings of the Chair?

Deputy Gerry Adams: Information on Gerry Adams Zoom on Gerry Adams While Commissioner Callinan has undoubtedly done the State some service, his decision to resign was the right one because his position had become untenable. I had prepared a series of Leaders' Questions for the Taoiseach which included a call for him to set up a Garda authority, similar to that in the North, a position which Sinn Féin has long advocated. I had argued, as we have done consistently, that the appointment of a new Garda Commissioner would be a good place to start, with a new dispensation in policing similar to the one in the North, and I was going to ask the Taoiseach to commit today to the establishment of the type of policing dispensation which would suit this century and suit this State. I was also going to ask the Taoiseach to seek the resignation of the Minister for Justice and Equality, but before I could do so, the Taoiseach sent for me and an Teachta Martin and told us of another developing scandal. I reflected between then and now that I needed to change my questions. We will wait and see what the Taoiseach makes of a new policing dispensation and we certainly try to keep him accountable on that, but really the Minister should go. At every turn he protected the Commissioner, he undermined GSOC and he discredited the Garda whistleblowers. Arguably, none of this would have come to light of those two brave officers had not highlighted what they saw as law breaking. Fine Gael generally and the Labour Party supported the Minister, but it was only when the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Varadkar, spoke out that the Labour Ministers came out. It was almost a classic case of trying to find out where public opinion was. Will the Taoiseach ask the Minister, Deputy Shatter, to go?

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny "No" is the answer to the Deputy's question. The issue of an independent authority for the Garda Síochána is a matter on which both Fine Gael and the Labour Party jointly agreed as far back as 2006. I believe there is an opportunity here to deal with this for once and for all, and provide a professional, competent, efficient, modern, transparent and accountable police force, by having an independent authority. The two parties, as a Government, decided and committed to doing that. This will not be an authority in the same way as the Northern Ireland authority because, as Deputy Adams knows only too well, the issues of security and policing are separate in Northern Ireland.


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