Tuesday 20 August 2019

Minister accuses Alan Kelly of 'smear campaign' in extraordinary Dáil exchanges

Labour TD Alan Kelly Photo: Steve Humphreys
Labour TD Alan Kelly Photo: Steve Humphreys
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan asked for Dáil protection during an extraordinary exchange that saw him accuse Labour’s Alan Kelly of launching a “smear campaign”.

The minister interrupted normal proceedings to urge the Ceann Comhairle to reign in his former Cabinet colleague who up until that point hadn’t actually spoken in the chamber.

Labour Party leader Brendan Howlin was in the process of questioning Taoiseach Leo Varadkar about suggestions that the Department of Justice was aware ex-Garda Commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan planned to challenge whistleblower Maurice  McCable’s “credibility and motivation” at the O’Higgins Commission.

Mr Howlin demanded to know where officials knew of the strategy “to go after” the whistleblower.

In response Mr Varadkar said Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald, who was justice minister at the time, “had no prior knowledge of the legal strategy”.

And he said the Department of Justice only became aware of the strategy “after cross examination had taken place”.

The Taoiseach then went on the offensive saying that Labour have been briefing journalists that there is “some allegation here that is explosive”.

“If the Labour Party has an allegation, make it here,” Mr Varadkar said.

At this point Mr Flanagan asked to make a point of order, saying: “I will not have my good name questioned by Alan Kelly either inside this House or outside.”

He claimed there was a “smear campaign against me personally”.

As the Ceann Comhairle attempted to calm proceedings Mr Flanagan said he had answered the questions put forward by the Labour Party but it “didn’t suit Deputy Kelly’s agenda”.

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