Despite the multiple cover-ups between the Garda Commissioner and the Justice Minister there still lingers an undercurrent of malpractice and deceit, which could only be resolved with an independent investigation. Lurking beneath the surface there appears to be dishonesty and cover-up and some within the Garda organisation are of the view that the Garda Commissioner should stand aside rather than be pushed later.
One of the most disturbing aspects of the allegations is that information and personal details on the lives and activities of opposition politicians have been exchanged between the Garda Commissioner’s office and the Justice Minister, which, in itself would be a major cause for concern in any ‘normal’ democracy. Indeed many opposition politicians have voiced concern on the abnormal activity, which they say, is akin to a Stalinist type regime.
Recently an interesting article appeared in the Sunday Independent (2nd June 2003)and it goes on to describe both men (Callinan and Shatter) as something like ‘a gossiping pair of old wives from ‘Last of the Summer Wine’. Such is the extent of the public perception of the conduct between Commissioner Callinan and Minister Shatter that it was an unusual outburst from the regularly pro FG newspaper.
Mr Martin Callinan in particular is seriously damaged within his own organisation being a key player in some deadly spats involving grossly improper interference with the penalty points system alone. Mr Callinan has also been involved in heated exchanges with the Garda Ombudsman’s Commission whereby they have accused him of impeding with some of their enquiries into Garda mishandling of criminal investigations. The Ombudsman’s office made it known that they are concerned with the murky Garda handling surrounding the use of informants, they are also concerned that the rules governing the use of informants is being ignored. However, the latest on-going spats could be viewed as almost trivial when one considers Martin Callinan’s history within the force and as a result his influence within the Garda organisation has hit an all-time low. Throughout his career Callinan was able to avoid the limelight even though he participated in many high profile investigations. His inconspicuous activity allowed him a large degree of anonymity to act in a very discreet manner; it also allowed him to discreetly move up the ranks. However, his elevation to Commissioner came at a price, as it propelled him into the limelight, where his dubious activity became open to public scrutiny. This in turn created a negative reaction and it has exposed much of his handling of present day affairs and extending to past activity throughout his career, which is not to his liking.
Martin Callinan’s questionable practice over the years includes dubious evidence in court, the handling of informants, deliberately targeting individuals for prosecution with feigned evidence, exchanging intelligence with foreign agencies without proper authorisation, and (unlawfully) briefing journalists with personal details on individuals extracted from Garda files. It could also be said that on numerous occasions Mr Callinan interfered with the administration of justice during his tenure in the office of Garda Commissioner and extending throughout his career. Callinan’s fingerprints are all over some of the most high profile controversial cases in recent times. They include the case of Kieran Boylan a drugs importer and protected informant, Ian Bailey accused of the murder of French actress Sophie Toscan Du Plantier and the case of veteran IRA figure Michael McKevitt.
The case of Kieran Boylan, a notorious drug trafficker from Co Louth is still under investigation by the Garda Ombudsman’s office and recently it has led to major problems between the Ombudsman’s office and the Garda Commissioner. Mr Callinan was the officer in charge of the Garda section responsible for Boylan’s activities, who has numerous convictions and was given Garda clearance to import and distribute vast amounts of drugs over many years in Ireland. It is very clear that the Ombudsman’s office is of the view that Commissioner Callinan is responsible for this unlawful activity and that there are questions to be answered.
In October 2005, Boylan was arrested in possession of €1.8m worth of cocaine and heroin at a transport yard in Co Louth. Initially he was detained by members of the Garda drug unit who were unaware that he was also a high-level informant working with a different section within the Gardai with the knowledge and authorisation of Martin Callinan. Callinan gave clearance for Boylan to import the drugs, which travelled through a number of different countries on route to Ireland. On arrival in Ireland Boylan distributed the drugs to individuals whose identities were subsequently passed on to his Garda handlers (a classic case of entrapment). To avoid suspicion falling on Boylan, some distributors were allowed to continue selling the imported drugs while others were arrested miles away from the pickup point. As a result of the Boylan/Garda operation, heroin was distributed onto the streets with dire consequences. This activity cannot be ignored or condoned regardless and all the perpetrators should face prosecution. Throughout the Ombudsman’s investigation into the Boylan affair they were continually hampered and obstructed at every juncture and on closer examination it is not difficult to ascertain why? The Ombudsman’s office chiefly accuses the Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan of meddling and hampering their investigations. Unfortunately, the Garda Ombudsman does not have authority to investigate the Garda Commissioner, as it is not within their remit.
The case of lan Bailey is the one that may eventually lead to Callinan’s downfall as the pending civil case before the High Court is expected to cause major unrest and it may also lead to a number of high profile resignations within the force. During the murder investigation of the French actress, the state prosecutor expressed his concern that senior Gardai were engaged in a relentless and improper attempt to achieve a prosecution of Ian Bailey for the 1996 murder despite the full knowledge that there wasn’t sufficient evidence against him. Throughout the investigation, attempts were made by sections within the Gardai to construct evidence and introduce witnesses to build a case against Mr Bailey, which could have seen him convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment for a murder, which he didn’t commit. The Former State solicitor for west Cork Mr Boohig told the DPP Mr Barnes (now retired) in 1998 that a senior Garda asked him to ask the then minister for Justice John O’Donoghue to approach the DPP with a view to securing a prosecution of Mr Bailey. Mr Boohig also pointed out that senior Gardai from Dublin made it very clear to him that there was more than sufficient evidence to enable the DPP issue a direction to prosecute Mr Bailey. Subsequently, the DPP informed Mr Boohig that there was not sufficient evidence to take a prosecution against Bailey. After some of the meetings attended by Mr Boohig he confided that senior members of the Gardai attempted to cajole him that he would have to persuade the DPP to direct a prosecution against Bailey. In conjunction with the attempts to persuade Mr Boohig the media were also consistently fed inaccurate stories by the Gardai accusing Mr Bailey of involvement in the murder. Mr Bailey successfully sued many of the newspapers involved and he is in the process of taking an action against the State over the affair. In May 2013 the High Court granted orders requiring the State to discover a wide range of documents to Mr Bailey for his pending civil action over the investigation into the murder. Significantly, during the hearing, the Judge said that there are some very disturbing and unusual matters relating to the Garda investigation into the murder. When the civil case concludes Garda Commissioner Callinan may suddenly take early retirement when in fact he should face prosecution along with some of his sidekicks.
Martin Callinan’s CV also includes involvement in irregularities in the conviction of IRA man Michael McKevitt and his involvement in that case was controversial and highly questionable from the outset. Although his public profile wasn’t so prominent during that period his influence within the higher echelons of the Gardai was well documented. Callinan’s sworn evidence in McKevitt’s trial was threaded with perjury, misinformation, and he was responsible for withholding relevant documentation which would have assisted McKevitt’s defence.
In 2002 during a disclosure hearing in the Special Criminal Court, Callinan told the court that the main prosecution witness Mr Rupert was in the employment of the FBI and MI5 and was working within the state without proper authorisation from the Irish authorities which was not true. He also told the court that the Gardai retained no files or records on Rupert. However, in 2008 during a hearing of the Omagh civil case Assistant Garda Commissioner Dermot Jennings was asked by defence lawyers ‘did the Gardai retain a file or record on Mr Rupert’ to which Mr Jennings replied “yes” he also said that he had viewed the file earlier that day and on the previous day. Jennings also told the court that the file was opened on Mr Rupert from 1995. The evidence given by Jennings clearly contradicted Callinan’s evidence, which would clearly suggest that he had perjured himself on more than one occasion during McKevitt’s trial.
In 2012 it was discovered that the section 29 search warrant used on the morning of Mr McKevitt’s arrest in 2001 was unconstitutional which meant that his arrest may have been unlawful. After making this discovery, McKevitt attempted to have his conviction overturned in 2013 because of the unconstitutionality of the s29 warrant. The High Court refused to grant him a hearing due to length of time since the 2003 trial, which in itself may be unconstitutional. To allow such a hearing, which more than likely would have resulted in McKevitt’s conviction being overturned it could have opened the door to some very unpalatable issues against many individuals and particularly against the Commissioner Callinan. The magnitude of such a scenario would be devastating to many of the players involved in the McKevitt trial and that could not be allowed to happen. Although technically, Mr McKevitt’s is now detained unlawfully, to even allow him a hearing could result in a major embarrassment to many within the state apparatus and even internationally. Under such circumstances better for the state to refuse Mr McKevitt his constitutional rights and ensure that, he remains in prison.
Future prospects for Mr Callinan and Mr Shatter remaining in their present positions looks bleak and it will be interesting to watch which one will fall first. As both men covertly struggle for survival, one may save his own career by pushing the other into a position where the only outcome could be retirement. Through all the inappropriate behaviour that appears to have followed the careers of the two men, one common thread is evident; it is the deceitful behaviour that appears to be ingrained in both of them. It should also be taken into account that all their distasteful activity continues as the country struggles from the financial mess also created by lies, misdemeanours and corruption but no one has been held accountable to date. The corrupt system will continue to flourish and the perpetrators will be protected where each one will shield the other regardless of the public perception. As long as the public is prepared to allow such activity to continue, it will prosper and such people will never be held to account, most will eventually drift into retirement with a hefty pension. We can write about public office corruption and deceit forever and it will go unheeded unless and until the Irish people stand up and say we have had enough, it is time to act!