Monday 22 January 2018

Taoiseach and Tánaiste now have a 'big credibility problem' - Independent TD

Taoiseach Enda Kenny. Photo: Damien Eagers
Taoiseach Enda Kenny. Photo: Damien Eagers
Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald and Taoiseach Enda Kenny at the Kildare think-in. Photo: Damien Eagers

Denise Calnan and Kevin Doyle

Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald now have a "big credibility problem", according to TD Clare Daly.

The Independents 4 Change politician said it is "utterly ludicrous" that Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald "didn't understand what they were being told" about the Children's Minister Katherine Zappone's meeting with the garda whistleblower.

She also said she believes a public inquiry is due into the alleged treatment of garda whistleblower Sgt Maurice McCabe.

She described Maurice McCabe's statement yesterday afternoon as "incredibly powerful" and added that the "deliberations need to happen in public."

Clare Daly at Leinster House. Photo: Tom Burke
Clare Daly at Leinster House. Photo: Tom Burke

Speaking to RTE Radio One's Morning Ireland, the Dublin North TD's comments come as Mr Kenny is set to meet with Micheál Martin today amid growing fear within Fianna Fáil that a general election cannot be avoided for much longer.

"I think it matters who knew what, no doubt it was a bit of a side show," Ms Daly told the programme.

"Everyone knew about the allegations behind this.

"What we saw played out in games was about the level of knowledge.

TD's at the Fine Gael think in at the Keadeen Hotel. Picture credit; Damien Eagers
TD's at the Fine Gael think in at the Keadeen Hotel. Picture credit; Damien Eagers

"The fact that we have now, the interpretation is, even though everyone is saying opposite things, they're actually all telling the truth.

"So, the official version is the Taoiseach and Tánaiste have either developed a massive amnesia problem or else an inability to understand what is being said to them, which is pretty scary when you think it's the head of State and his deputy.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny Picture: Clodagh Kilcoyne
Taoiseach Enda Kenny Picture: Clodagh Kilcoyne

"That's actually the official version, they didn't really understand what they were being told.

"That's utterly ludicrous," she added.

Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald (left) and Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan at the launch of the Policing Authority Code of Ethics for An Garda Síochána in January. Photo: Colin O’Riordan
Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald (left) and Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan at the launch of the Policing Authority Code of Ethics for An Garda Síochána in January. Photo: Colin O’Riordan

"I think the Tánaiste, but also the Taoiseach, have a big credibility problem.

"Their version of events is not credible at all.

Leo Varadkar (right) with Frances Fitzgerald. Photo: Tom Burke
Leo Varadkar (right) with Frances Fitzgerald. Photo: Tom Burke

"I think they have been significantly damaged and rescued really by Fianna Fáil."

The TD also said a public hearing is now not enough, and called for a criminal investigation into the controversy.

"There is clear criminal conduct alleged now in what happened around the Tusla allegation," she said.

"The idea that this would just be left to a public inquiry... at the end of the day somebody has to beheld to account for this.

She continued; "If Noirín O'Sullivan is involved in the inquiry it is a mockery. There has been very clear evidence, not just allegations, but evidence of Noirín O'Sullivan undermining Maurice McCabe."

Clare Daly continued to say she believed the Commissioner's position is now "untenable".

"I've never breached protocol [in anything I've said]," she said.

"I can say with certainty that I've seen 14 letters from another whistleblower to the Garda Commissioner alleging very serious bullying and harrassment, something along the lines of what McCabe experienced.

"Now if the Commissioner is saying she didn't see those letters, well then she clearly has a massive crisis of authority.

"The idea, as you correctly say, the Commissioner has denied all the allegations, yet the government has a public inquiry into them, isn't that saying the Government doesn't really believe her?

"Now that's an untenable position for the Garda Commissioner should be in."

Meeting

The meeting between party leaders Enda Kenny and Micheál Martin comes today after Children's Minister Katherine Zappone revealed she told the Taoiseach about the bogus Tusla file on Sgt Maurice McCabe before last week's Cabinet meeting.

Ms Zappone has been in the firing line since Friday when it emerged she failed to brief her Cabinet colleagues on the dossier which contained a false allegation that Mr McCabe had molested a child.

However, after flying back from the United States yesterday she firmly dragged the Taoiseach into the frame by revealing she alerted him that she met Mr McCabe to discuss Tusla.

"I did not go into detail of any of the allegations that I was aware of but I did indicate to him that that was the nature of the conversation," she said.

Responding to Ms Zappone's statement, a spokesman for Mr Kenny said the minister was correct not to divulge details of the Tusla report - but failed to address the fact the Taoiseach did not reveal his knowledge of the Tusla link before now.

Ms Zappone also contradicted an assertion made by the Taoiseach during a radio interview on Sunday when Mr Kenny said he told his minister to "make sure that you have a thorough account" of the meeting with Mr McCabe.

She stated that while there was contacts between her officials and Government Buildings prior to her January 25 meeting with Sgt McCabe, she did not speak to the Taoiseach directly.

Government sources last night told the Irish Independent they want to move away from a narrative focused on "who said what when" because "in the greater scheme of things the timing isn't critical".

They argued the best way of determining the truth should be the only issue under debate and the idea of either the Taoiseach or Ms Zappone raising the Tusla issue at Cabinet was "not tenable as Cabinet is a leaky bucket".

After a day of drama, Fianna Fáil TDs are considering whether it is tenable to allow the Government continue in office.

Initially, party bosses said they would abstain on a motion of no confidence because if the Government collapses it would delay the establishment of a commission of investigation into the alleged smear campaign against Sgt McCabe.

Online Editors

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