Saturday 24 February 2018

Fitzgerald ducks and weaves in the face of big questions

Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald (Photo: Tom Burke)
Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald (Photo: Tom Burke)
Philip Ryan

Philip Ryan

At this stage the facts are clear. Garda Commissioner Nóirín O'Sullivan asked her legal team to target the credibility and motivation behind Sergeant Maurice McCabe's allegations of malpractice and corruption in the force during the O'Higgins Commission's hearings.

There are some discrepancies over when the words malice, mala fides and/or integrity were said and who said them.

There is also talk of Sgt McCabe having recordings which proved he was not motivated by malice. Ms O'Sullivan also put out a statement saying she never believed the garda sergeant was driven by malice.

Fair enough, but there is no argument, it would seem, over the fact Ms O'Sullivan's legal team was tasked with discrediting Sgt McCabe's allegations by raising questions over his motivations.

That was what her barristers were paid, by way of the taxpayer, to do and it was raised on a couple of occasions by Mr Justice Kevin O'Higgins during his hearings.

This has been openly discussed in the media since last Friday. It has featured on the front pages of most newspapers and discussed on radio shows and television programmes.

Yesterday, the allegations made may their way inside the gates of Leinster House where they were discussed by the newly-elected TDs of the 32nd Dáil.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin and Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams pressed Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald for more details during Leader's Questions.

Ms Fitzgerald was not for budging and gave little away. She refused to discuss any aspect of the public allegations surrounding the approach Ms O'Sullivan and her legal team took during the O'Higgins Commission.

She insisted she is bound by legislation and restricted from saying anything about the hearings which was not published in the inquiry's final report.

Later, the new Tánaiste looked taken aback when Independent TDs Mick Wallace and Clare Daly called for the Commissioner to resign and warned Ms Fitzgerald she could be taken down by the controversy.

Clearly a glutton for punishment, the minister went on RTÉ's 'Prime Time' to face a further grilling from Miriam O'Callaghan.

She again ducked and weaved questions on Ms O'Sullivan. She was noticeably uncomfortable when asked if she had confidence in the Commissioner in light of the allegations. She was asked clearly three times if she had confidence. "That's a yes or no, minister," Ms O'Callaghan said.

The minister said it would be "completely wrong" for her to speak on "selective evidence" in the media.

Ms Fitzgerald may have got through yesterday slightly bruised, but it is likely she will face more questions in the coming days.

Irish Independent

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