Enda Kenny says Martin Callinan 'made his own decision' to retire as garda commissioner

Friday 28 March 2014 21.36
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Taoiseach Enda Kenny said it was Martin Callinan's decision to retire
Taoiseach Enda Kenny said it was Martin Callinan's decision to retire
AGSI General Secretary John Redmond has raised concerns about the recording of calls
AGSI General Secretary John Redmond has raised concerns about the recording of calls

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has said he felt it was "very important" that his anxiety and concern about the implications of phone conversations at garda stations being recorded were conveyed to former garda commissioner Martin Callinan.

Mr Kenny sent the Secretary General of the Department of Justice Brian Purcell to see Mr Callinan at his home on Monday evening.

The Opposition claimed this week that this amounted to Mr Kenny sacking the former commissioner.

Mr Callinan announced his resignation on Tuesday morning.

Speaking in Castlebar this morning, Mr Kenny said the only people he could dismiss from office were ministers or ministers of state.

He said his views had been conveyed to Mr Callinan by a senior civil servant and "the commissioner made his own decision" to resign.

Mr Kenny said once he had knowledge of the serious implications the recording of calls had for some cases, it was important and proper to convey this to Mr Callinan.

He said the issue about recordings in garda stations was brought to his attention when he spoke to the Attorney General about a number of other matters on Sunday night.

He said on foot of that he wanted to inform the Government about what could lie ahead and make arrangements for any issues that may arise.

Mr Kenny said he first raised the matter with Minister for Justice Alan Shatter on Monday evening.

The Taoiseach said that while there were over 2,400 tape recordings, the extent of digital recordings from 2008 had yet to be established.

He said he agreed that it would be unthinkable that the jails of Ireland would have to open their doors as a result.

But Mr Kenny said it was important that arrangements were made to deal with potential problems that may arise as a result of the recording of phone calls.

GRA calls for independent police authority

The Garda Representative Association has said its members are concerned about the recordings and will raise the issue with garda management.

GRA President John Parker said the continued controversy is undermining morale in the force.

He said: "The Garda Representative Association ... wishes to place on record the recent controversies have further undermined the morale of those gardaí working at the frontline of policing.

"The Garda Representative Association wishes to reassure the public that no member of the garda rank was involved in any decision to record telephone conversations in garda stations.

"The continued speculation in the media is impacting on the policing function and until we have clarification and concrete facts the continued speculation undermines our members' day-to-day work."

Mr Parker repeated his association's calls for the creation of an independent police authority.

He said: "An independent police authority remains the modern practical solution to separate political power from the power to arrest and detain."

Speaking later on RTÉ’s News at One, Mr Parker said gardaí serving in control rooms would have been aware that calls were recorded on designated extensions in garda stations. 

Mr Parker said the system would have been an automatic one and mainly used for emergency calls.

He said the GRA has sought clarification from garda management about how the recordings were made and whether they were made in a professional manner.

AGSI seeks answers about recordings

Elsewhere, the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors has said it wants to know if telephone calls involving its members were recorded or monitored at garda stations.

AGSI said no clear policy was in place to inform its members that their calls may have been recorded.

The association wants to know the circumstances under which recorded calls might have been listened to.

At the Special Criminal Court yesterday, a superintendent from the garda telecommunications section, said a recording system was in place in 23 divisional headquarters outside of Dublin, and at Harcourt Square and Garda Headquarters.

He said the system was centrally controlled at Garda Headquarters and was switched off last November.

The contents of calls were stored centrally, but could be accessed locally on the direction of a chief superintendent.

AGSI said its members are ordinary workers at garda stations and should have been informed if there was a policy in place to record phone calls other than 999 calls.

It has questions about the conditions under which a chief superintendent would authorise the examination of recorded calls involving its members.

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, AGSI General Secretary John Redmond said answers in relation to the recording of phone calls at garda stations will have to come from senior management.

Concerns about the impact of phone recordings 

Fianna Fáil TD Willie O'Dea said it would be "unthinkable" if the gates of Ireland's jails opened because prisoner's conversations were recorded while they were in custody.

Speaking on the same programme, Mr O'Dea said he was not aware that the system was in place and speculated that gardaí below superintendent level were not aware of the practice either.

He said the revelations of telephone calls being taped at garda stations is a serious development and surprising.

Mr O'Dea said: "According to the Minister for Justice in the Dáil the other day, in this city [Limerick] alone, there are 20 gangland leaders currently serving long prison sentences.

"There are 100 other people serving sentences from Limerick for gangland crime.

"Now it would be unthinkable if the gates of the prisons of Ireland were suddenly to open and all those people to be released back on the streets because their conversations happened to be recorded while they were in custody."

Minister of State Brian Hayes this afternoon said any legislation that needs to be put through to ensure that criminal convictions are not overturned in light of the recording revelations will be considered by the Government.

He said the Government was looking at the issue very carefully.

However, he said time is needed to assess the implications of the controversy.

Mr Hayes also rejected suggestions that Mr Callinan had been forced to stand down from his position as garda commissioner.