Saturday 17 August 2019

Frances Fitzgerald should have been 'astonished' by aggressive approach of lawyers for the Garda Commissioner, Dail told

Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald. Photo: Tom Burke
Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald. Photo: Tom Burke

Niall O’Connor and Kevin Doyle

TÁNAISTE Frances Fitzgerald should have been “astonished” by the aggressive approach being taken by lawyers for the Garda Commissioner at O’Higgins’ Commission, Opposition TDs have said.

As Ms Fitzgerald battled for her political career last night, Fianna Fáil and the Labour Party questioned her management of the controversies surrounding Garda whistleblower Maurice McCabe.

Fianna Fáil’s Justice spokesperson Jim O’Callaghan said Ms Fitzgerald’s credibility had taken a hit as a result of her response to the critical email sent to her in 2015.

It’s emerged that Ms Fitzgerald was informed in the email of the then Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan’s intention to level a complaint of a “serious criminal” nature against Sgt McCabe during the O’Higgin’s Commission.

During the debate last night, Mr O’Callaghan posed the question: “Do you agree that  a conscientious and competent Minister for Justice would have read the email and been aware from reading it that a confrontational approach would have been adopted towards Sgt McCabe?”

Senior Fianna Fáil figures last night said they were not satisfied with the Tánaiste’s performance and that the issue will be pursued again today.

The approach taken by the leader Opposition party - which is propping up the Fine Gael government - will be discussed at a meeting of the parliamentary party this evening.

In the Dáil last night, Sinn Féin’s justice spokesperson Donnacha Ó Laoghaire claimed that the information at the centre of the controversy would not have surfaced if it were not for the work of members of the media.

Labour leader Brendan Howlin also piled the pressure on the Tánaiste, asking whether there has been a “deep trawl” to ensure that there are no emails of significance.

“Are you satisfied now that all documentation has been located,” Mr Howlin asked Ms Fitzgerald.

“Tánaiste, when you receive an email of this nature, you should have acted. Do you accept the email you receive should have been a red flag?

Ms Fitzgerald, the Jobs Minister said her understanding is that there has been a deep trawl carried out.

Later during the debate, Solidarity TD Paul Murphy attacked the Tánaiste over her account of reading the email.

He described the strategy adopted as a “disgusting attempt to blacken the name of Maurice McCabe”.

The Dublin South West TD added:

How could the minister possible get such an email and read it and then forget? That’s simply not credible.”

Ms Fitzgerald insisted she did not remember the email and reiterated that it stated she did not need to take action.

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