Sunday 22 September 2019

Varadkar holds emergency meeting with Frances Fitzgerald and Charlie Flanagan over McCabe timeline

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

Kevin Doyle

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has held an emergency meeting with Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald and Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan, Independent.ie has learned.

The Government is trying to put together a definitive timeline as to when Ms Fitzgerald knew about a Garda plan to discredit whistleblower Maurice McCabe.

Fianna Fáil and the Labour Party will raise questions in the Dáil this afternoon about the Tánaiste’s knowledge of the legal strategy being adopted by ex-Garda Commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan at the O’Higgins Commission.

Sources told Independent.ie there is “considerable confusion” in government after the Department of Justice appeared to contradict statements made by Mr Varadkar last week.

The Taoiseach told the Dáil the Tánaiste only learned about the strategy around the time it came into the public domain.

However, the Department of Justice now says she was aware of “a clash” between the legal teams for the gardaí and Mr McCabe in May 2015.

The development causes a major headache for the Government as it had repeatedly attempted to distance itself from Ms O’Sullivan on the issue.

Labour Party TD Alan Kelly had submitted a series of questions to the Department of Justice suggesting that the then Garda Commissioner’s strategy was known to officials.

In response to Mr Kelly, the Taoiseach said the department only became aware of the strategy “after cross-examination had taken place”.

There is concern in Government that the controversy is growing legs but sources insist Ms Fitzgerald has done nothing wrong.

Asked whether the Tánaiste’s position is under threat, Fianna Fáil’s justice spokesman Jim O’Callaghan said: “We’re not going to jump on a bandwagon but we want answers in respect of this matter.”

A Department of Justice source attempted to play down the controversy, telling the Irish Independent: “The department and Frances only knew there had been some clash between gardaí and the McCabe legal team in 2015. She didn’t know about the allegations levelled against Mr McCabe until May 2016.”

The O’Higgins inquiry was set up to investigate allegations of garda misconduct in the Cavan/Monaghan region.

It was told that two senior gardaí would supply evidence that Mr McCabe had only made the allegations because of a grievance he had with a senior officer. However, this was disproven.

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