Chaos as FF and Fitzgerald at odds on Tusla McCabe link
Disputed 'meeting' took place in the Dáil bar
The chaotic handling of the Garda whistleblower scandal is threatening political stability as Fianna Fáil claims it warned the Tánaiste of a Tusla link last Wednesday.
As the crisis deepened further yesterday, Frances Fitzgerald vehemently denied that Fianna Fáil's justice spokesman Jim O'Callaghan told her she needed to talk to the Children's Minister before details of a bogus Tusla file became public knowledge.
The Irish Independent has learned the disputed meeting was informal and actually took place in the Dáil bar at 5.30pm on Wednesday after Mr O'Callaghan contacted the Justice Minister by phone.
Ms Fitzgerald said yesterday the first she knew about the Tusla file, which wrongly alleged Sergeant Maurice McCabe had molested a child, was when it was reported in the media on Thursday night.
"Deputy O'Callaghan said to me that 'Prime Time' would have a programme the following evening related the establishment of the Commission [into the alleged smear campaign against Sgt McCabe].
"At no point did he mention Tusla or any of the details that emerged in the programme," Ms Fitzgerald said.
However, Fianna Fáil was adamant he did mention Tusla and suggested that Children's Minister Katherine Zappone might have further information.
Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said Mr O'Callaghan spoke with Ms Fitzgerald 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".
Ms Zappone is due to arrive home from the United States today amid much speculation about her position at Cabinet.
A number of Fine Gael ministers told the Irish Independent last night that they remain furious with Ms Zappone for "creating this storm".
The Independent Alliance is to demand that she provide a detailed report at tomorrow's Cabinet meeting on the sequences of events that have led to the current controversy.
Minister John Halligan said he and his colleagues will meet after Cabinet to decide if Ms Zappone's explanation is adequate.
"We're being reasonable in this. We're going to see what happens at Cabinet and look for a report from Minister Zappone, the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste," he said.
Garda Commissioner Nóirín O'Sullivan's position is also expected to come back under the spotlight in the coming days.
Despite the ongoing row, Fianna Fáil plans to abstain on a motion of no confidence in the Government on Thursday because it sees it as a "political stunt" by Sinn Féin.
However, it is understood its confidence in Ms O'Sullivan is weakening and while it will not seek her resignation, it may yet call for her to consider her position. To date, the party has steadfastly insisted that she should not be asked to step aside while the Commission of Investigation takes place.
Meanwhile, on RTÉ's 'This Week' programme, Taoiseach Enda Kenny said he would be open to the idea of a criminal investigation into the smear campaign.
"In order to have a criminal investigation, you have to evidence of criminality," said Mr Kenny.
"As the Charleton Inquiry gets under way, who knows what may arise here.
"So, I don't rule that out."