Tuesday 25 June 2019

Jim O'Callaghan '100pc' told Tanaiste about Tusla file before RTE show

Micheal Martin says Commissioner Noirín O'Sullivan should 'assess' her position

Jim O'Callaghan says he met with Frances Fitzgerald on Wednesday
Jim O'Callaghan says he met with Frances Fitzgerald on Wednesday

Niall O'Connor and Ralph Riegel

Fianna Fáil justice spokesperson Jim O'Callaghan has claimed he is certain he mentioned the Tusla file on garda whistelblower Maurice McCabe to Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald last Wednesday.

On Sunday Ms Fitzgerald said the first time she learned of the allegations was when she watched RTE's Prime Time on Thursday night.

This latest revelation is further evidence of the huge gulf that is growing between the government and main opposition party Fianna Fáil, which facilitates the minority governement.

Appearing on Newstalk Breakfast this morning Mr O'Callaghan said he was instructed to go to the Tanaiste by his party leader Micheal Martin last Wednesday, a full 24 hours before the show was broadcast.

Fianna Fail TD and barrister Jim O'Callaghan Photo: Tom Burke
Fianna Fail TD and barrister Jim O'Callaghan Photo: Tom Burke

Mr O'Callaghan said he contacted Ms Fitzgerald on the phone.

They arranged to meet face-to-face in the members' section Leinster House.

"I told her there was an issue around a Tusla file that was going to be broadcast on RTE's Primetime on the Thursday.

"I told her that in my opinion the terms of reference were not sufficiently broad.

"We then had a discussion for about seven or eight minutes about paragraph B of the terms of reference. And the point I was making to her was that the terms of reference in paragraph B was limited to communications between Supt [Dave] Taylor and the broadcasting media.

"I said it needed to be broader than that. My thinking was that it would cover Tusla and other things we do not know."

"I spoke to the Tanaiste. I felt we were doing the government and the Tanaiste a favour."

He said she was skeptical about this initially.

When asked by host Shane Coleman if he said this to Ms Fitzgerald, Mr O'Callaghan said: "There is obviously conflict here. I'm 100pc certain I did."

He added: "I remember saying to her 'Frances you need to speak to Katherine Zappone as she met Sgt McCabe, she has this information about the Tusla file."

"The important thing to say is that I mentioned it to her."

Later on RTE Radio One Mr O'Callaghan said he mentioned Tusla "three or four times" to Ms Fitzgerald.

He repeated his claims that he told her about the report.

"I'm a hundred per cent that I did mention Tusla and I'm also a hundred percent certain that I said to the Tanaiste, and the words I used were - 'Frances, you need to speak to Katherine Zappone because she has met Sgt McCabe and she has full knowledge about this issue'."

When asked by host Sean O'Rourke about how many times he believes he mentioned Tusla, he stated: "I said it 3 or 4 times, when we sat down I said there's an issue here, Primetime are doing a programme tomorrow night about a Tusla file, Micheál Martin has just mentioned it to me and he has just spoken to Maurice McCabe."

Micheal Martin has said Garda Commissioner Noirin O'Sullivan should "assess" her own position in light of the controversy.

But Mr Martin has ruled out collapsing the Government over the Tusla and whistleblower controversies, saying doing could jeopardise the prospect of securing "answers."

Speaking on the Opinion Line on Cork's 96fm, the TD hit out at Sinn Fein over what he described as an "opportunistic" motion of confidence in the government.

But Mr Martin appeared to shift his position in relation to the Commissioner's future.

Pressed by Presenter PJ Coogan over the matter, Mr Martin said Commissioner O'Sullivan should "assess" this matter herself.

"The Commissioner herself should assess where she stands."

Mr Martin said he would be putting it to the Dáil that Ministers Fitzgerald and Zappone should come before the house and answer questions in relation to this,

Mr Martin plans to meet with Sergeant McCabe later today for an update on the controversy and the treatment of garda ‘whistleblowers’ that has now rocked the Government.

“I found it incredible that the Cabinet itself took a decision on the establishment of the (Judge) Charlton inquiry given that this very pertinent issue of the Tusla file was known to Minister Zappone,” he said.

“By this stage, the Tusla file had been discredited. Tusla themselves had put their hands up, the HSE had put their hands up – Katherine Zappone had met Maurice McCabe two weeks ago,” he told the radio show.

“There was no reason why Katherine Zappone could not have briefed the Cabinet. I am simply saying that a false file or a file that had no bearing (was known about) - there is no reason why that shouldn’t have been said to Cabinet.”

Mr Martin said, in his opinion, the core issue was which Government ministers were informed of specific details of the Tusla file and the McCabe meeting.

“I would refer people back to Katherine Zappone's first statement on Friday which I think has been lost sight of,” he said.

“We need a far more concrete explanation as to the difference between her first statement and her second statement on Friday.”

“Her first statement said she briefed relevant Cabinet colleagues – I think we need to find out what does that mean? I don’t buy the argument that it means, as the subsequent statement tries to portray, that it simply meant that I met Maurice McCabe.”

“I have some difficulties with that. Katherine Zappone was not available for personal reasons all weekend to explain this. It is an opportunity today for Katherine Zappone to fully explain this.”

The Fianna Fáil leader was also scathing of the Sinn Féin intervention to table a confidence motion.

“(Pursuing ministers) to answer in the Dáil, to be accountable to Dáil members - that would have been the more intelligent and sincere thing to do in my view rather than just slap down a motion of confidence which means the entire week will just be on the confidence motion.”

“Ministers can be protected now from coming in (to be questioned) and I hope that is not the case.”

Fianna Fáil will abstain on the Sinn Féin motion, warning that there is no desire for an election.

“I don’t think the Irish people want a general election every few months. But people are very, very angry about the way in which a good and decent person (Maurice McCabe) was treated.”

Online Editors

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Also in this section