Monday 26 August 2019

'I reacted badly' - Justice Minister apologises to Alan Kelly for alleging he engaged in smear campaign against him

Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan.
Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan.
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

JUSTICE Minister Charlie Flanagan has issued an apology to Labour TD Alan Kelly who he alleged was engaged in a smear campaign against him.

The under-fire minister has also told the Dáil he was “shocked and, frankly horrified” that documents in the possession of the Department of Justice had not been handed over to Charleton Tribunal.

In the Dáil tonight Mr Flanagan set out his role in the controversy which has cost Frances Fitzgerald her job as Tánaiste.

At the outside he apologised to Deputy Kelly on two counts.

“First, my intemperate comments in the House on November 15t when I stated that Deputy Kelly was engaged in a smear campaign against me.

“I had been told by some people in my constituency that Deputy Kelly had made very negative comments about me in their presence,” he said.

“I always considered Deputy Kelly a good colleague both in parliament and in government and I confess that I was taken aback and offended when these allegations were made to me.

“I fully accept that I reacted badly and I apologise to Deputy Kelly and to the House and withdraw my remarks.”

Approach: Tipperary Labour TD Alan Kelly. Photo: INM
Approach: Tipperary Labour TD Alan Kelly. Photo: INM

Read More: Justice in crisis: Secretary General announces immediate retirement as Minister Charlie Flanagan prepares to apologise to Dail

Mr Flanagan also said it wasn’t good enough that questions tabled by the Tipperary TD relating to the treatment of garda whistleblower Maurice McCabe had not been answered.

“I want to record my thanks to Deputy Kelly for his PQs which led to the unearthing of an email that had not been sent to the Tribunal.”

The minister poured blame on officials at the Department of Justice, saying it has been “a major challenge at every step to obtain complete information in a timely manner, indeed, on a few occasions recently, information has been provided to me, to the Taoiseach, and then to this House, which has proven subsequently to be inaccurate”.

“This is completely unacceptable and I wish to formally apologise to the Taoiseach, to you Ceann Comhairle and to the House.”

Mr Flanagan also sought to counter allegations that he sat beside the Taoiseach and allowed him to misinform the Dáil last year.

The minister was present when the Taoiseach said there was no evidence that Ms Fitzgerald was alerted to the legal strategy being adopted by the Garda legal team at the O’Higgins Commission.

However, Mr Flanagan said he was in his constituency last Monday when he received a phone call from the Secretary General of his department Noel Waters.

“He informed me that having reached 40 years’ service, he now intended to retire and he asked me to inform Cabinet the following morning,” Mr Flanagan explained.

“For me, this was unexpected and I was taken aback and began to worry.  I was still digesting the news when reference was made to an email pertaining to the O’Higgins Commission and Sgt. McCabe that had been discovered in the Department.

“ I responded automatically that anything potentially relevant to the Tribunal should be immediately conveyed to Judge Charleton.

“I simply missed the significance of the email, which I viewed as just another addition to the 230-plus documents already discovered to the Tribunal from the Department.

“ I did not see the actual email until a week later, on the night of Monday, November 20; that is why I did not raise it with the Taoiseach,” he said.

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