Former Tánaiste threatened to collapse government in police row

Former Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore threatened to collapse the government after claiming he was not being kept informed about Garda controversies
John Monaghan

THE Republic's former Tánaiste, Eamon Gilmore, threatened to collapse the government in the wake of controversy surrounding the resignation of former Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan, it has emerged.

In memoirs of his time at the heart of government, Mr Gilmore described writing his own draft statement of resignation at his kitchen table, fearing he had been kept in the dark on the matter by Taoiseach Enda Kenny.

Mr Gilmore wrote: "If it turned out that I and the Labour party had been blindsided by Fine Gael on all of this it would certainly mean the end of the government."

Mr Callinan had been under pressure after labelling the actions of two whistleblowers as "disgusting", amidst revelations that some public figures had had penalty points wiped from driving records.

The former Tánaiste began to consider his position when he was called to an urgent meeting with the Fine Gael leader in March 2014, to be told that a court case was set to expose the fact that Garda had recorded phone calls to and between stations, and that the Commissioner was to resign.

The former Labour leader wrote: "I was shocked."

"I was deeply concerned that the Taoiseach had been aware of the problem since Sunday evening but was only telling me about it two days later - and that, in the meantime, the Commissioner had decided to retire."

During a fractious cabinet meeting a few hours later to discuss the issue, "ministers put their mobile phones on the table", such was the mistrust about potential leaks to the media.

Mr Gilmore's mood worsened when news broke that Commissioner Callinan had, a fortnight previously, written a letter to then Fine Gael Justice Minister Alan Shatter about the phone recordings, correspondence which had not been brought to the attention of the cabinet.

Mr Gilmore fumed: "Did the Taoiseach know anything about this letter? These questions had added to my anger with the Taoiseach for failing to keep me informed."

After reassurances from Mr Shatter - who also later resigned over his handling of controversies involving the Garda - and Mr Kenny, the former Tánaiste decided to stay in the coalition.

"He (Mr Kenny) told me that he had not seen the letter either and concurred that it was strange and uncceptable that a letter of such importance had not been passed on to the Minister."

Mr Gilmore added: "He assured me that he was fully aware of the seriousness of the situation for the coalition. In all my dealings with him, he had never been untruthful with me, so I accepted at face value what he was saying."

In a separate section covering the economic crisis, Mr Gilmore said that in March 2011 he calculated the Republic's government had "enough money to last five months."

He wrote: "The state was now spending €10 for every €7 it was collecting in taxes. We would be able to pay teachers until the summer, but would there be enough money to reopen the schools?"


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