Friday 20 September 2019

Legal advice shows I acted entirely appropriately - Fitzgerald

Did not ask questions: Senator Michael McDowell Photo: Tom Burke
Did not ask questions: Senator Michael McDowell Photo: Tom Burke
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

Fresh legal advice obtained by Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald has said she was correct not to question the legal strategy being adopted by the Garda at the O'Higgins Commission.

The embattled minister sought a review of her actions from the Attorney General's office yesterday and later informed the Seanad that she had acted entirely appropriately.

Ms Fitzgerald told senators that the political charges made against her in recent days were unfair.

"The suggestion is that I didn't act to improve how An Garda Síochána dealt with the issue of whistleblowing.

"The suggestion is that I didn't want the truth to be found. Let me be clear, I utterly reject those suggestions," she said.

The Tánaiste told the Seanad that she was never afraid to tackle the issues in the three departments "in which I have served".

She was questioned by a string of senators - but Michael McDowell, who is part of Garda whistleblower Sergeant Maurice McCabe's legal team, did not quiz Mrs Fitzgerald.

Fianna Fáil senator Lorraine Clifford-Lee said the answers were "far from satisfactory".

"The way things stand at present there are more questions than answers," she said.

Ms Clifford-Lee claimed that by not intervening with the Garda efforts to discredit Sgt McCabe, the Tánaiste "actually agreed with the strategy".

However, Ms Fitzgerald received backing from Independent senator Victor Boylan, who hit out at the sense "of people vying for political blood and a head on a plate".

He said TDs and senators had "belly ached" for a tribunal, which the Tánaiste duly established, adding that it was "fundamentally and grossly unfair and wrong" to now run a parallel investigation in the Oireachtas.

Fine Gael senator Martin Conway described Ms Fitzgerald as a person of "integrity".

"She's somebody who pioneered women's rights in the 1980s and 1990s when it wasn't popular," he added.

Irish Independent

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