Tuesday 24 April 2018

Barrister to probe failure to disclose Fitzgerald emails

Stock photo
Stock photo
Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

A senior barrister is to conduct the investigation into why important emails were not disclosed by the Department of Justice to the Disclosures Tribunal.

Initially it had been thought the external inquiry would be handled by Martin Fraser, the secretary general at the Department of the Taoiseach.

However, following suggestions from Opposition TDs that the inquiry be conducted by somebody independent of Government, an approach was made to a senior counsel, whose appointment is expected to be announced shortly.

The barrister will be asked to report by Christmas.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar ordered the inquiry on Tuesday following the resignation of ex-tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald over the emails controversy.

Department of Justice secretary general Noel Waters retired with immediate effect within hours of Mr Varadkar announcing the inquiry.

The emails revealed Ms Fitzgerald had been told of the "aggressive stance" then-Garda Commissioner Nóirín O'Sullivan was taking against whistleblower Sgt Maurice McCabe at the O'Higgins Commission.

Smear

Despite the fact the Disclosures Tribunal called for evidence of contacts between gardaí and members of the Government in relation to O'Higgins, a number of emails were not disclosed to it until recent days. The tribunal is investigating if there was a smear campaign against Sgt McCabe.

Meanwhile, concerns over the operation of a special unit set up in An Garda Síochána to liaise with, and provide information to, the tribunal have been notified to Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan.

It is understood the concerns were raised by the Garda's head of human resources, John Barrett.

The Department of Justice declined to discuss the nature of the concerns last night.

However, it confirmed the minister received a notification under Section 41 of the Garda Act from Acting Garda Commissioner Dónall Ó Cualáin.

The letter was referred to the tribunal and is also receiving "careful consideration" in the department. Section 41 requires the commissioner to notify the minister of significant developments that might reasonably be expected to adversely affect public confidence in the force.

Irish Independent

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News