Saturday 24 August 2019

Revealed: Noirín O'Sullivan told Department of Justice about Maurice McCabe legal dispute

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

Mary McDonnell

Former Garda Commissioner Noirín O'Sullivan personally told a senior official at the Department of Justice that, during the O’Higgins Commission, her legal team challenged the motivation of Garda whistle-blower Sergeant Maurice McCabe, it’s been revealed.

The Commission was established in 2015 to investigate allegations made by Sgt McCabe relating to the Cavan/Monaghan Division of the force.

RTÉ’s 'This Week' programme has learned of the personal contact between the then Commissioner and the Department which is the first indication to emerge that she discussed aspects of a controversial legal campaign against Sgt McCabe.

RTÉ has reported that the conversation occurred “at the time” of the legal dispute at the Tribunal but the Department said they had no written record of the exchange and added no further comment due to the upcoming Disclosures Tribunal.

This is the second confirmation that the Department knew of the legal strategy adopted against McCabe before it became public in 2016.

Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald, who presided over the Department in 2015, is under fire after it was claimed she received an email about the legal strategy when she was Justice Minister.

She previously told the Dail that she was not aware of the scheme until it was public.

Sinn Fein and Fianna Fail have tabled motions of no confidence in Ms Fitzgerald and are calling for her ouster. An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar is standing by her.

If Fine Gael lose the support of Fianna Fail, the government will collapse, prompting a snap election before Christmas.

Mr Varadkar’s spokesman said an Taoiseach “is doing everything he can" to avoid this but the crisis that has brought his minority government to the brink showed no obvious sign of resolution on Sunday.

He has two days to end the standoff with the party propping up his government before it submits a motion of no confidence in Ms Fitzgerald, a move that Mr Varadkar says will force him to call a snap election before Christmas.

The crisis has erupted less than three weeks before a summit on Britain's plans to leave the European Union, where Ireland will play a major role in deciding whether the negotiations can move onto the next phase.

Talks between Mr Varadkar and Fianna Fail leader, Micheal Martin are continuing ahead of Mr Martin bringing the motion of no confidence before parliament on Tuesday.

"The Taoiseach is doing everything he can to avoid an election, and hopes it will be possible to reach agreement with Micheal Martin," Mr Varadkar's spokesman said in a statement on Sunday.

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