Varadkar says FG's role as party of law and order is 'shaken'
Minister Leo Varadkar has admitted belief in Fine Gael as "the party of law and order" has been "shaken" by the garda whistleblower scandal. "But we can and will put things right," he vowed.
His remarks came during a stormy Dáil debate on a motion of no confidence in the Government tabled by Sinn Féin over the handling of the controversy over the alleged smear campaign against Sergeant Maurice McCabe.
Earlier Taoiseach Enda Kenny offered a "full apology" to the whistleblower and his family. Mr Kenny said the false sex abuse allegations that had been made against Sgt McCabe were "simply appalling".
Mr Varadkar said: "I have absolutely no doubt in my own mind, from what I know and have heard, that Sgt McCabe was subjected to a scurrilous whispering campaign designed to discredit him.
"What I do not know, is exactly who was involved and the extent to which it was organised."
He argued that the public inquiry must get to the truth but that for that to happen others must come forward. "We now need to know whether similar campaigns were organised against other gardaí, against public figures and private citizens. Tonight, I call on all those with information to come forward."
Mr Kenny said a full tribunal of inquiry was the only way that the truth of the alleged smear campaign could be found "in a way that's transparent to the public but also fair to all concerned". He said Sinn Féin had a "brass neck" to table its motion, and, encouraging TDs to support a government counter-motion of confidence, said the country needed stability to face challenges such as Brexit and "not political stunts by Sinn Féin".
Calling for fresh elections, Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams accused the minority government of being "devoid of direction, stumbling from one crisis to the next".
"The latest scandal to engulf Fine Gael and the so-called independents is caused by Fine Gael's perpetual and disgraceful handling of the campaign of vilification against Maurice McCabe and other Garda whistleblowers," he said.
Fine Gael Minister Paschal Donohoe launched a blistering attack on Sinn Féin, branding the party's motion of no confidence as "malicious" and "nakedly political". He argued they had a "new-found interest in whistleblowers" and criticised how Sinn Féin treated sex abuse victim Máiría Cahill. He said there was "ongoing denial of the truth regarding the handling of cases of sexual abuse amongst the ranks of the IRA".
Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin argued that the Government handled the whistleblower issue "in a casual and incompetent manner". He said his party wants a change of government - but that Fianna Fáil's priority at this time is to address the current scandal and "help our country overcome the many challenges it faces".
He said there is no evidence an election would do this, and said that for that reason Fianna Fáil would abide by its agreement with Fine Gael.
The Government won its motion of confidence by 57 votes to 52, with 44 abstentions.