Wednesday 21 August 2019

'No explosive revelation' looming in row, insists Varadkar

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. Photo: Gerry Mooney
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. Photo: Gerry Mooney
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

The possibility that somebody in the Department of Justice knew about a Garda strategy to discredit whistleblower Maurice McCabe cannot be ruled out, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said.

However, he refused to believe there is "some explosive" revelation looming, on the back of a series of questions raised by Labour TD Alan Kelly.

The former minister has suggested officials in the department were aware then-Garda commissioner Nóirín O'Sullivan planned to challenge Sergeant McCabe's "credibility and motivation" at the O'Higgins Commission.

He submitted a string of questions to Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan, who yesterday interrupted Dáil proceedings to claim he was being subjected to a "smear campaign".

During an extraordinary exchange, Mr Flanagan said he had answered the questions, but this "didn't suit Deputy Kelly's agenda".

Similarly Mr Varadkar went on the offensive, saying: "I heard one briefing suggesting an allegation so explosive that it might bring down the Government.

Former Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan. Photo: PA
Former Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan. Photo: PA

"At this stage, if the Labour Party has an allegation to make, it should make it clearly here so we can respond to it."

The Taoiseach said ex-justice minister Frances Fitzgerald had "no hand, act or part" in the former commissioner's strategy and only learned of it around the time it came into the public domain a year after the tribunal.

But he added: "The Department of Justice and Equality has told me that it was not made aware of it until after the fact, but the department is a big space. It is not a person.

"It is a body with hundreds of staff. Can I put my hand on my heart here and say that there is not one person somewhere who might have been told something by someone, I cannot give the House that answer."

Asked afterwards whether he was now satisfied that there is no smoking gun, Labour leader Brendan Howlin said it was "an unusual set of circumstances" that officials may not have told the Tánaiste for up to a year after they learned of the strategy.

He said it was a "very simple matter of political accountability".

Irish Independent

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