Martin Callinan may not be only casualty of Irish police controversy

Martin Callinan Image copyright PA
Image caption Martin Callinan may not be the last victim of the controversy engulfing the Irish police

From the moment the head of police in the Republic of Ireland, Martin Callinan, stood down, it seemed there was more to his resignation.

After all, his offending comment, branding the actions of two whistleblowers within his force "disgusting", was made three months ago.

It had created tension with the ruling Fine Gael party, putting the Irish justice and transport ministers at loggerheads. But the fact that Mr Callinan had stubbornly refused to retract the comments suggested that he was going nowhere.

What could not be ignored was the fact that as commissioner, if he did not know about the secret recording of phone calls into and out of police stations, he should have known.

The practice stopped last year, which suggests that some senior people knew about it and brought it to a halt.

The potential repercussions are huge. Calls from prisoners to solicitors may have been monitored, and it is conceivable that the courts may view that as an abuse of process in cases where subsequent convictions resulted from recorded information.

Surveillance operation

There have been countless commissions and tribunals looking at alleged corruption or malpractice in public life. Some have focused on the Garda Síochána (the police service in the Republic of Ireland).

The words "bugging" and Garda have been mentioned together in recent months.

The body set up to scrutinise the police force recently found some evidence that its offices had been monitored by a sophisticated surveillance operation.

It is widely accepted that there needs to be reform both within the Irish police force, and in how it is held accountable.

The penalty points saga is just one example of that.

The whistleblowers who exposed the fact that some officers were wiping driving offences from the records of some apparently well-connected public figures were disciplined.

An investigation was then launched into abuse of the internal police database. It found that officers were using it almost as a window on the lives of famous people.

Martin Callinan is the first casualty of the Garda Síochána mess. There may yet be more to come.

Already calls have been made for the country's justice minister to follow suit.

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