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Wednesday 13 December 2017

Fianna Fáil claim they alerted Frances Fitzgerald to Tusla involvement in Maurice McCabe case before Prime Time show

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin Photo: Arthur Carron
Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin Photo: Arthur Carron

Kevin Doyle Group Political Editor and Catherine Devine

A fresh row over the Garda whistleblower scandal has erupted with Fianna Fáil claiming they alerted Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald to the Tusla involvement in the Maurice McCabe case last Wednesday.

But as the crisis at the heart of government continues to grow, Ms Fitzgerald has vehemently stuck to her statement that she knew nothing about the link until Thursday night.

Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald Picture: Colin O'Riordan
Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald Picture: Colin O'Riordan

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said on Sunday evening that his justice spokesman Jim O’Callaghan spoke with the minister on Wednesday “specifically to broaden the terms of reference of the Charleton inquiry to take on board the Tusla file because we had been alerted to it and I had spoken to Maurice McCabe on the Wednesday”.

However, in a statement Ms Fitzgerald has insisted that while Mr O’Callaghan asked for the terms of reference to be broadened “to bring absolute clarity that the allegation of criminal misconduct against Sgt McCabe and the alleged smear campaign would be investigated”, he did not "mention Tusla or any of the details that emerged in the programme".

The Tánaiste said that during the conversation Mr O’Callaghan said limiting the inquiry to the protected disclosures made by Sgt McCabe and Superintendent Dave Taylor “could be too narrow and could limit the investigation”.

“Deputy O'Callaghan said to me that Prime Time would have a programme the following evening related the establishment of the Commission.

Some of the players in the controversy include, from left, Garda Commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan, her predecessor Martin Callinan, Superintendent David Taylor, Sergeant Maurice McCabe, Tanaiste and Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald, former justice minister Alan Shatter, Children and Youth Affairs Minister Katherine Zappone
Some of the players in the controversy include, from left, Garda Commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan, her predecessor Martin Callinan, Superintendent David Taylor, Sergeant Maurice McCabe, Tanaiste and Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald, former justice minister Alan Shatter, Children and Youth Affairs Minister Katherine Zappone

“At no point did he mention Tusla or any of the details that emerged in the programme,” she said.

“If Deputy O'Callaghan had information concerning the Tusla file, why did he not raise those issues during his statement on the Commission's Terms of Reference which took place the following day?”

Meanwhile, independent.ie have revealed Fianna Fáil will abstain on a motion of no confidence in the Government

Micheál Martin’s party has decided not to spark a General Election – but will be seeking further clarification from the Taoiseach on the sequence of events leading up to the current controversy surrounding Garda whistleblower Maurice McCabe.

Party sources argue that collapsing the Government would only serve to delay a Commission of Investigation into the alleged smear campaign against Sgt McCabe.

A motion of no confidence in the Government has been placed before the Dáil for debate on Wednesday evening.

However, Fianna Fáil will stick to their ‘confidence and supply’ agreement with Fine Gael and abstain during the vote.

Sources said they will use the opportunity to air concerns about the Government’s  handling of the crisis and will want assurances that the terms of reference for the inquiry will be extended to cover Tusla.

“They need to pull it together and give a proper explanation,” a Fianna Fáil source said.

The decision by Fianna Fáil will give the Government a little breathing space ahead of what is expected to be a robust Cabinet meeting on Tuesday.

Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone is likely to come under intense pressure to explain to her colleagues why she didn’t alert the Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald to fact that Tusla held inaccurate files on Sgt McCabe which alleged he had molested a child.

Earlier, Frances Fitzgerald said she had no knowledge of the false allegations of sexual abuse against the garda whistleblower Sgt Maurice McCabe until details were revealed on RTÉ's Prime Time programme.

Speaking on RTÉ's The Week in Politics, Ms Fitzgerald said she wasn't aware of the Tusla error until watching Prime Time with the rest of the country.

She said she had a conversation with Katherine Zappone on the morning of 25 January before her meeting with the McCabes.

"That was the only conversation I had with her," she said.

Minister Fitzgerald said that "truth will prevail" in the inquiry over the next nine months.

"You can talk about rumour, you can talk about allegations but as Minister for Justice I have to make sure they are dealt with. Allegations are not convictions.

"At the end of the process if it is found that people are not telling the truth that will have the most serious implications."

On the show, presenter Áine Lawlor read a statement from Maurice McCabe rejecting the statement of apology released by the HSE yesterday.

It is understood the McCabes contacted one of Minister for Health Simon Harris's officials after watching a news items setting out the details of the apology on the RTÉ News last night.

The McCabes sent a text to the official stating: "We reject both the statement and apology. The HSE statement is wrong and this is not good enough.

"The file we have contradicts the statement and it is shocking that we have to again listen and deal with false information."

Separately, Taoiseach Enda Kenny has said he is not ruling out the possibility of a criminal investigation into the alleged claims against gardai whistleblower Maurice McCabe.

Speaking on RTÉ's This Week programme, Mr Kenny said the main issue for the Charleton Commission of Investigation is to find out the truth.

"In order to have a criminal investigation you have to evidence of criminality. As the Charleton inquiry gets underway, who knows what may arise here.

"So, I don’t rule that out.

"The central issue here is, was there a programme of systemic doing-down of Sgt McCabe based on erroneous sexual allegations and rumours by senior police?

"It is about the truth and I hope that we can find that in the shortest time and provide justice and understanding so the people of the country that they can trust the system."

The Taoiseach said he doesn't "deal in rumours or allegations" when asked when he first heard about the McCabe controversy.

He told RTÉ that he apologises to McCabe on behalf of the State agencies.

Mr Kenny said the Minister for Children Katherine Zappone told him that she was going to meet with McCabe but that he was not aware of any details of the meeting.

He also said he wouldn't rule out an analysis of how Tusla do their work.

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