Friday 20 September 2019

Fianna Fáil examine Department of Justice documents in fresh attempt to avoid election

Philip Ryan

Philip Ryan

FIANNA Fáil is tonight examining Department of Justice correspondence as part of an attempt to establish the extent of Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald’s knowledge of a Garda legal strategy against Sgt Maurice McCabe.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar handed over a series of documents to Fianna Fail leader Micheál Martin when they met to discuss the latest Garda whistleblower scandal which is threatening to collapse the Government.

Mr Varadkar also pledged to order a fresh trawl of Department of Justice documents which would also be given to the Fianna Fáil leader.

However, it remained unclear if Fianna Fáil would be willing to call off their motion of no confidence if the Department of Justice documents show Fitzgerald acted appropriately.

The documents were exchanged when the two party leaders met this afternoon to discuss the escalating political standoff which could result in an election before Christmas.

Neither side have moved on their positions. Mr Martin is still insisting the Tánaiste should resign over claims she failed to act when she became aware of the legal strategy that was to be pursued against Sgt McCabe.

However, the Taoiseach is sticking by Ms Fitzgerald and is understood to have called after his meeting with the Fianna Fáil leader to reassure her that she still has confidence and support.

At the meeting, the two party leaders also discussed what role the Charleton Tribunal would have in establishing the extent of the Tánaiste’s knowledge of the Garda legal strategy and whether she acted appropriately or not.

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Mr Varadkar and Mr Martin also discussed a major overhaul of the Department of Justice in the wake of a continuing stream of controversies.

Sources said both sides are genuinely trying to avoid an election.

The Taoiseach’s spokesperson said: "There was a good exchange of views at the meeting and contact continues this weekend."

A Fianna Fáil spokesperson said there would be more engagement tomorrow.

Meanwhile, Labour Party Leader Brendan Howlin called for the documents provided to Fianna Fáil from the Department of Justice to be provided to all opposition parties.

"In an attempt to salvage the confidence and supply agreement it has been reported that the Taoiseach has now furnished to Fianna Fáil a new trove of documents from the Department of Justice," Mr Howlin said.

"This correspondence has obviously been provided because Fine Gael believe it is relevant to recent events.

"If that is the case then this new evidence should also be provided to other opposition parties and groupings.

"If these new documents form part of the evidence trail surrounding the email released this week then we also need clarity on whether this new material has been furnished to the Disclosures Tribunal.

"At the heart of this controversy is the failure to answer questions in an honest, straight-forward manner. This correspondence should now be released to avoid further controversy."

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