Sunday 21 October 2018

Vindicated Fitzgerald gave an 'honest appraisal of situation'

Testified: Former PAC chairman John McGuinness. Picture: Collins
Testified: Former PAC chairman John McGuinness. Picture: Collins
John Downing

John Downing

Former Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald - who was forced to quit the Government amid allegations of failing in her duty as justice minister - has welcomed the news that she was completely vindicated by Mr Justice Charleton.

The Supreme Court judge found that she had given an honest appraisal of the situation in which she had found herself back in May 2015.

He concluded that she was right not to have intervened in another inquiry into Garda controversies and he fully accepted her overall account of events.

Ms Fitzgerald welcomed the outcome but declined to revisit the political controversy which forced her to quit the Cabinet on November 28, 2017.

Mr Justice Charleton noted that in November 2017, controversy surrounding Ms Fitzgerald had threatened to bring down the minority Coalition amid a crisis over Brexit talks.

It was based on snippets of leaked transcripts from the earlier inquiry into Garda affairs and a related email to Ms Fitzgerald.

It was claimed Ms Fitzgerald knew about an alleged strategy by lawyers for An Garda Síochána to aggressively pursue false allegations of sex abuse against Sergeant Maurice McCabe.

The so-called strategy was purportedly based on efforts to undermine Sgt McCabe's credibility and Ms Fitzgerald was accused of failing to act.

"It was not a lazy dodging of the issues but rather a considered response to the information. The tribunal is satisfied that the minister and the Garda commissioner did not speak about the matter," Mr Justice Charleton concluded.

The judge also totally accepted the controversial evidence of former Public Accounts Committee chairman John McGuinness, committee member John Deasy, and that of the Comptroller and Auditor General Séamus McCarthy.

Mr Justice Charleton found that conversations between former Garda commissioner Martin Callinan and Mr McGuinness were as described by the Fianna Fáil TD.

Mr McGuinness testified that Mr Callinan told him following a PAC meeting in 2014 that Sgt McCabe "fiddles with kids".

Later, in conversation at a hotel car park, the TD said that Mr Callinan said Sgt McCabe had sexually abused his family and another person, and was not to be trusted.

The judge also found that a conversation Mr Callinan had with Mr McCarthy was as described by Mr McCarthy.

He had said Mr Callinan said Sgt McCabe was not to be trusted and there were sexual offence allegations against him.

He accepted Mr Deasy's evidence that Mr Callinan told him Sgt McCabe was "not to be believed or trusted with anything".

The judge also found RTÉ journalist Philip Boucher-Hayes was telling the truth about an encounter with the former commissioner in December 2013.

Irish Independent

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