Monday 16 July 2018

Noirin O'Sullivan sent Frances Fitzgerald statement to read in the Dail about legal strategy against Maurice McCabe

Frances Fitzgerald did not read the suggested statement and sought a meeting with O'Sullivan the following day

Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald (left) and Garda Commissioner Nóirín O'Sullivan Photo: Steve Humphreys
Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald (left) and Garda Commissioner Nóirín O'Sullivan Photo: Steve Humphreys
Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

New emails have emerged which reveal former Garda Commissioner Nóirín O'Sullivan drafted a statement she wanted Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald to make in the Dáil about the controversial legal strategy adopted against Sgt Maurice McCabe at the O'Higgins Commission.

But Ms Fitzgerald did not read the suggested statement and sought a meeting with the commissioner the following day.

The emails, from May 18, 2016, were recovered from Ms O’Sullivan’s iPad and were not discovered on the Department of Justice’s email system as they were sent to Ms Fitzgerald’s Oireachtas email account.

At least one of them was sent from Ms O’Sullivan’s Gmail account.

Although Ms Fitzgerald sought to forward them to the then secretary general of the Department of Justice, Noel Waters, she sent them to an incorrect address and Mr Waters did not receive them.

In the emails Ms O'Sullivan pressed Ms Fitzgerald to divulge information about the legal strategy on the floor of the Dáil later that day.

The O'Higgins report had been published the previous week and there had been damaging leaks in the media revealing there had been a legal strategy to attack Sgt McCabe.

She suggested that Ms Fitzgerald say that at no point did the commissioner instruct her legal team at the commission to “accuse Sgt McCabe of malice”.

This has been asserted in a newspaper headline the week before and had become widely accepted, Ms O’Sullivan wrote.

“It is not the truth and the word malice was not authorised by Nóirín O’Sullivan,” the suggested statement said.

Ms O'Sullivan also wanted Ms Fitzgerald to state that at no stage did the commissioner instruct her legal team to suggest there was any question of “bad faith” by Sgt McCabe.

She also wanted the then Tánaiste to say the commissioner had no control over the conduct of legal argument within the commission.

The draft statement concluded: “I wish to state, here and now, that I have full confidence in the Commissioner.”

But Ms Fitzgerald did not make the statement in the Dáil and railed against questions seeking details of the legal strategy.

The tribunal has previously heard audio from the O’Higgins Commission in which a barrister for Ms O’Sullivan stated in May 2015 he had instructions from the commissioner to challenge the credibility, motivation and integrity of the Sgt McCabe.

Months later the barrister said it was an error to say he was instructed to challenge Sgt McCabe's integrity.

The tribunal is investigating whether false allegations of sexual abuse or any other unjustified grounds were inappropriately relied upon by Ms O’Sullivan to discredit Sgt McCabe at the O’Higgins Commission.

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