Email over McCabe controversy ‘wiped from history’, tribunal hears
An email informing then Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald of an issue with the Garda Commissioner’s legal strategy at the O’Higgins Commission appeared to have been “wiped from history”, a lawyer for the Disclosures Tribunal has said.
The email, written by Department of Justice assistant secretary Michael Flahive in May 2015, was not included in a comprehensive briefing pack for the minister the following year after the publication of the commission’s report.
During questioning of the minister’s private secretary Christopher Quattrociocchi, tribunal counsel Kathleen Leader said it appeared email had been “wiped from history”.
Mr Quattrociocchi said he could not say why the email hadn’t been included and that the question would have to be directed to the relevant section of the department.
The emergence of the email last November, following a series of parliamentary questions by Labour TD Alan Kelly, led to the controversy which almost brought down the Government and resulted in Ms Fitzgerald’s resignation from the Cabinet.
It was not initially disclosed to the tribunal by the department when it called for all relevant documentation to be supplied.
At the tribunal today, Mr Quattrociocchi confirmed he had forwarded the email to Ms Fitzgerald at the time and she had read it.
In the email, Mr Flahive informed Ms Fitzgerald that counsel for the commissioner had raised an issue in the hearings about a serious criminal allegation made against Sgt McCabe.
Mr Flahive has given evidence the email was for information purposes only, and the minister was not required to take any action on foot of it.
Today, Mr Quattrociocchi told Ms Leader he received the email on May 15, 2015.
This was the same day a row broke out at the tribunal over the commissioner’s legal strategy to challenge Sgt McCabe’s credibility and motivation for making complaints against colleagues.
Mr Quattrociocchi said that once he noticed Sgt McCabe's name in an email, he would have forwarded it to the minister as soon as possible.
He said he would also have printed off the email for the minister on May 18 and that he received it back from her with her initials on it on May 25.
This indicated she had read it and noted its contents.
The email was also copied to two of Ms Fitzgerald’s advisors, which was standard procedure.
Mr Quattrociocchi said he had no recollection of speaking to the minister about the email.
The tribunal was shown a list of briefing material given to Ms Fitzgerald ahead of a meeting between her and Ms O’Sullivan on May 16, 2016.
This was at a time when Ms O’Sullivan’s position was considered to be in danger after leaks from the commission gave rise to media articles which said the commissioner had instructed her lawyers to accuse Sgt McCabe of malice.
Ms O’Sullivan denies giving an such instruction.
Ms Fitzgerald was given several documents and press cuttings, but not a copy of the Flahive email.
Ms Leader said the information given to the minister the previous year had not been included.
The tribunal also heard that no minutes were made of the May 16 meeting.
Minutes were taken of a second meeting between Ms Fitzgerald and Ms O'Sullivan later that month.