Monday 25 June 2018

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar: I still think Frances Fitzgerald did nothing wrong

Former Tanaiste Frances Fitzgerald with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. Photo:Tom Burke
Former Tanaiste Frances Fitzgerald with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. Photo:Tom Burke
Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

TAOISEACH Leo Varadkar has said he deeply regrets Frances Fitzgerald's resignation as Tánaiste and he said he still believes she didn't do anything wrong.

Ms Fitzgerald fell on her sword on Tuesday after opposition calls for her resignation amid questions over her handling of a 2015 email relating to Garda whistleblower Sergeant Maurice McCabe.

The country was brought to the brink of an election after motions of no confidence were tabled in Ms Fitzgerald over claims she should have intervened after she was notified of the legal strategy pursued against Mr McCabe by Garda management at the O'Higgins Commission.

Speaking this morning Mr Varadkar said it has been a "rough week" but he's determined to make the minority government last.

He said the week "started with the resignation of Frances Fitzgerald which I deeply regret".

Speaking to RTÉ Radio's Marian Finucane Mr Varadkar said he still believes the Disclosures Tribunal is the best place to examine Ms Fitzgerald's handling of the matter rather than the "court of the Dáil".

Under pressure: Taoiseach Leo Varadkar with former Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins
Under pressure: Taoiseach Leo Varadkar with former Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins

On his support for Ms Fitzgerald over recent weeks he said: "I wanted to stand by a colleague who I don’t think did anything wrong".

Mr Varadkar said that the government is "more determined than ever" to drive reform in the Department of Justice and the Gardaí.

But Mr Varadkar also praised the Gardaí more generally, particularly frontline officers, crediting them with Ireland being a "relatively low crime country".

The Taoiseach said row of recent weeks was "never about winning or losing some kind of poker game" with Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin.

Mr Varadkar said the events had "focused minds" and he believes it means the government is more likely to continue past next year's Budget which is included in Fine Gael's Confidence and Supply deal with Fianna Fáil.

He was asked about the reported cheering by some Fianna Fáil TDs in the Dáil bar after watching justice spokesman Jim O'Callaghan appeared on TV saying his party didn't have confidence in Ms Fitzgerald.

The accounts of what happened in the bar are disputed by some Fianna Fáil TDs who were present.

Mr Varadkar said he heard about what happened but didn’t witness it himself.

He said: “It highlighted to me a type of politics I just don’t like which is the politics that is about points scoring and getting ahead.”

Mr Varadkar added: “I enjoy the cut and thrust of debate and I don’t like that personalised gotcha kind of politics”.

He also said: “I don’t think we’ll ever get away from that. It’s just human nature that some people are in that space but it’s not the kind of politics I like. It’s certainly not why I got into politics.”

Mr Varadkar continued: “In terms of the relationship with Fianna Fáil I think it’s actually ok.

“The more and more that I deal with Micheál Martin the more and more I understand him and I think we understand each other.”

More to follow

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