Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 21 October 2014

Kenny call to 'hang heads in shame'

Taoiseach Enda Kenny attends the Fine Gael ard fheis.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has said anyone who plays politics with a series of controversies involving the Garda should hang their heads in shame.

With the Government forced to launch inquiries into suspicions of a spy ring at the Garda Ombudsman and allegations of corruption and malpractice by a whistleblower, Mr Kenny told his party faithful that Fine Gael's only concern is the public interest and the truth.

The Taoiseach told the ard fheis in Dublin's RDS that public confidence in the Garda and its watchdog has been weakened in recent weeks.

Relations between Justice Minister Alan Shatter, Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan and the ombudsman's office have been dogged by a series of controversies.

Allegations of abuse of the penalty points system were followed by suspicions that the ombudsman's HQ had been bugged and all the while whistleblower Sergeant Maurice McCabe's 12 allegations of bad policing and how they have been handled by the force and government were privately circulating.

The Taoiseach said Fine Gael in Government will not allow the Garda and the ombudsman to be undermined in the eyes of the Irish people.

"The safety and security of our people are paramount," he said.

"Anyone who has tried to play politics with these issues should hang their heads in shame."

Mr Kenny said the country must have a Garda force that commands the respect of the public and a police watchdog with the right structures to provide effective and independent oversight.

He said the Government has taken appropriate and responsible actions to ensure that.

As the controversies developed the Garda Confidential Recipient Oliver Connolly was sacked after it emerged he warned Sgt McCabe that he would be finished if the Justice Minister thought he was being "screwed".

The office is being abolished and revised whistleblower legislation being finalised.

Mr Shatter himself was accused of misleading the Dail when he claimed that Sgt McCabe had refused to co-operate with a Garda internal inquiry into the allegations he made about abuse of the penalty points system.

Mr McCabe insists he was never contacted and asked for his input.

The Taoiseach personally reviewed some of Sgt McCabe's allegations of Garda malpractice after Fianna Fail leader Michael Martin handed over a dossier of sample cases including murder and assault cases.

Mr Shatter has insisted the complaints have been "dealt with".

Elsewhere, retired judge John Cooke was brought in to examine the ombudsman bugging scandal and senior counsel Sean Guerin was tasked with looking into the handling of Sgt McCabe's complaints.

The Taoiseach's address brought the Fine Gael ard fheis to a close where the party gave its clearest indication yet that it was examining tax reform.

"That's why we will continue to deliver on our promise not to increase income tax, and, when the public finances allow, our priority will be to reduce the tax burden on families with average incomes, too many of whom are paying the high rate of tax," he said.

Mr Kenny added: "A s more jobs are being created, we must ensure that these jobs can be taken up by unemployed people.

"We have to make sure that a man or woman without a job knows that they'll be better off financially in work."

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