Monday 19 February 2018

Martin tells TDs to hold back on the Tánaiste or face election

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin Picture: Arthur Carron
Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin Picture: Arthur Carron

Niall O'Connor and John Downing

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin shot down a proposal to table a no-confidence motion in Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald, telling his TDs and senators it would spark a general election.

During a debate on the ongoing Garda crisis at last night's meeting of the parliamentary party, Fianna Fáil TD John McGuinness challenged Mr Martin to consider a no-confidence motion in the Justice Minister.

Mr McGuinness said that the party must "do everything it can" to ensure the removal of under-fire Garda Commissioner Nóirín O'Sullivan.

After asking what "avenue" Fianna Fáil should take to bring this about, the party's justice spokesperson Jim O'Callaghan said the only feasible option would be a no-confidence motion in Ms Fitzgerald.

Mr O'Callaghan told the private meeting that his own confidence in Ms Fitzgerald has diminished since her handling of the controversy surrounding Garda Sergeant Maurice McCabe in February.

Just hours before the Tusla element of the controversy broke, Mr O'Callaghan held a meeting with Ms Fitzgerald in the Dáil members' bar to discuss the matter. However, two very conflicting accounts emerged from the meeting with both politicians contradicting each other over what was said.

As Ms Fitzgerald's own role was discussed at last night's parliamentary party meeting, Mr Martin intervened.

He strongly criticised the Fine Gael politician, saying that she has "gone to ground" in recent weeks.

The Opposition leader also criticised the length of time it has taken Ms Fitzgerald to appoint Kathleen O'Toole as chairperson of the new commission tasked with conducting a 'root-and-branch' review of the force.

But significantly, Mr Martin shot down the proposal to table a motion of no confidence, telling his TDs and senators: "This would cause a general election."

Mr McGuinness said in response to Mr Martin that the party should cause an election, adding: "Our job is to defend gardaí on the ground."

A recent motion of no confidence in the Garda Commissioner failed because Fianna Fáil publicly said it was not for the Oireachtas to decide the fate of a Garda chief. This is despite the party saying it has no confidence in Ms O'Sullivan.

The events at the Fianna Fáil parliamentary party meeting unfolded just hours after Ms Fitzgerald defended a decision by Ms O'Sullivan not to accept legal advice and tell the minister about financial problems at the Garda Training College.

Ms Fitzgerald said revelations about financial abuses at the college in Templemore were "very serious and completely unacceptable".

But she said everybody must wait until the issues are examined by the PAC and the Policing Authority. The PAC will meet again today to discuss the controversy surrounding Templemore, which focusses on a dossier submitted by the force's HR chief John Barrett.

Irish Independent

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