Taoiseach: I was wrong to say Katherine Zappone told me she was meeting Sgt McCabe
- Heated debate in heated Dáil this afternoon
- Taoiseach admits he 'did not give accurate information' about Zappone conversation
- AAA TD slams Taoiseach for 'misleading public'
Taoiseach Enda Kenny has admitted that he was wrong to say Children's Minister Katherine Zappone told him she was meeting Sgt McCabe last week.
Speaking in a heated Dáil this afternoon, the Taoiseach said he was "guilty of not giving accurate information" in relation to who told him about Zappone's meeting with McCabe.
“I might say mea culpa- I am guilty here of not giving accurate information,” he said.
On radio, Mr Kenny had said: “Minister Zappone is doing a very good job, did tell me that she intended to meet with Sergeant McCabe in a private capacity and that's all I knew.
“I said to her well if you do have a meeting make sure that you have a thorough account of it and so when we had our meeting on Tuesday I wouldn't have been aware of any of the details of her discussions with..."
However, Mr Kenny now says that conversation never happened and he “regrets” saying it. He added that conversations did take place between his officials and Ms Zappone’s office.
He further said Ms Zappone did not “indicate details” of it with him.
Anti-Austerity Alliance TD Paul Murphy took to the floor and said the Taoiseach gave a "completely inaccurate statement" and "misled the public" during his appearance on RTE Radio One on Sunday afternoon.
"Let's quote the Taoiseach," TD Murphy said.
"On 'This Week' programme, [he said]; 'Ms Zappone, who is doing a good job, did tell me she intended to meet McCabe in a private capacity. I said to her, if you do have a meeting make sure you take notes'.
"This is a completely inaccurate statement.
"If you had said that conversation did not take place, then how could you remember it in such detail if it didn't take place?
"It means on Tuesday... you knew about Tusla and you consciously didn't include it in the terms of reference, and it means you misled the public on RTE," he added.
Paul Murphy of the AAA-PBP further told the Dáil that the Garda Commissioner should step aside while the tribunal takes place.
He said there was evidence of a “chilling criminal conspiracy” by senior gardaí to vilify Sgt McCabe and others.
“If they felt able to do that to gardaí – what else would they do?” he asked.
Mr Kenny told Mr Murphy that Mr Justice Peter Charleton of the Supreme Court, who was to head the original private inquiry, found that the revelations contained in last Thursday’s Prime Time programme on RTÉ, were already covered by the original inquiry terms of reference.
Mr Kenny said that Judge Iarfhlaith O’Neill, who did an earlier inquiry, could not decide between two sets of allegations which directly contradicted each other.
The Taoiseach accused Mr Murphy of “prejudging” the outcome of a public inquiry which he had already said he supported being established.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny opened the Dáil today by announcing that the Government has agreed to set up a Tribunal of Inquiry into the alleged smear campaign against Garda whistleblower Maurice McCabe.
He said the “entire country has sympathy” with Sgt McCabe because “there is nothing worse in this country than being called a child abuser”.
It came during a fraught series of exchanges in the Dáil that saw Mr Kenny accuse Sinn Féin leader of being “an absolute hypocrite”, while raising Gerry Adams’s treatment of sex abuse victim Mairia Cahill.
The Taoiseach said the inquiry agreed by ministers today will be based on 1921 legislation and must be “right down the middle in respect of everybody”.
“The presumption of innocence stands for every citizen,” Mr Kenny said, in what was a direct response to claims from Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin that senior counsel for Garda Commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan had thrown the kitchen sink at Sgt MCabe.
Mr Martin alleged that a five page document was prepared by the Chief State Solicitors office on behalf of the Garda Commissioner with the aim of undermining the whistleblower’s credibility.
“There’s no doubt in my mind there was an attempt or a campaign to undermine the integrity of Maurice McCabe because he was a major thorn in the side of some in An Garda Siochana,” Mr Martin said, adding: “Any inquiry cannot be secret.”
Gerry Adams and the Taoiseach then clashed bitterly as the Sinn Féin leader said the Government had failed miserably to handle the latest element of a lengthy crisis in An Garda Síochána.
He added that the only reason there would be a public commission of inquiry was because Sgt McCabe and his wife had insisted upon it – but Sinn Féin urged a full criminal inquiry.
The Taoiseach responded angrily by recalling the Sinn Féin handling the allegations of sexual abuse by Republicans.
Mr Kenny said the Government was dealing with the current difficult situation and he again expressed his sympathy for Sgt McCabe and his family.
The Sinn Féin leader hit back saying he would not “rise to your bluster.” He accused Fianna Fáil of propping up a crisis-stricken government and he called upon the Taoiseach to call a general election now.
Mr Kenny said Sinn Féin had already caused chaos in Northern Ireland by forcing an unnecessary general election.
“You want to call an election simply because you want to cause chaos down here as well,” the Taoiseach said.
Independents4Change TD Mick Wallace said the Government had failed in its responsibility and need to “make a fresh start” on garda reform.
“Get rid of the Commissioner. Ger rid of all that hierarchy. Let’s start afresh. Let’s find some of them outside the country or a civilian,” he said.
“There was a time when FG were seen as the party of law and order. Well do you know what, you’ve rubbished that.”
Mr Kenny replied that he wasn’t in a position to “just fire everybody” but the Government had established an independent Policing Authority for making garda appointments.