Fitzgerald had no role in strategy against McCabe, Taoiseach says

No record exists of telephone call to Department of Justice secretary general

Leo Varadkar said Frances Fitzgerald had no prior knowledge of the approach former commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan’s legal team pursued.

Leo Varadkar said Frances Fitzgerald had no prior knowledge of the approach former commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan’s legal team pursued.

 

Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald as minister for justice had “no hand, act or part’’ in the Garda legal strategy in dealing with whistleblower Sgt Maurice McCabe, the Taoiseach has said.

Leo Varadkar said Ms Fitzgerald, to whom he had spoken, had no prior knowledge of the approach former commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan’s legal team pursued.

“She found out about it after the fact, but around the time it was in the public domain when everyone else knew about it as well,’’ he added.

Ms Fitzgerald is currently Minister for Enterprise and Innovation.

The Taoiseach was replying in the Dáil to Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin who recalled a commission of investigation, led by Mr Justice O’Higgins, had been established to determine the veracity of very serious allegations of Garda malpractice made by Sgt McCabe.

When it emerged that the legal representative of the former commissioner was instructed to attack the motivation and integrity of Sgt McCabe, people felt genuine shock and anger, said Mr Martin.

He said Labour TD Alan Kelly had tabled a number of questions on the issue of the extent of consultation between the Department and former commissioner.

He said the Tánaiste at the weekend had refused to confirm or deny whether she was aware of the adversarial approach taken at the O’Higgins commission.

Mr Varadkar said the Department of Justice was a big place with many different people working there.

As things stood, he added, the Department had not been able to find any record of being informed before the fact of the legal strategy the former commissioner was going to pursue.

“It was told about the approach taken by the commissioner’s senior counsel but that was after the cross-examination had taken place,’’ he added.

“The Department was not in a position, after the fact, to express concerns about it or counsel against it.’’

Mr Varadkar said it had been claimed there was a call to the secretary general of the department on the day of the cross-examination, but it could not be confirmed if that was the case.

“I think that perhaps it is not, and that the assertion may be false, but I do not want to swear to it today or until I can find out for certain,’’ he added.

Mr Varadkar said there may well have been a telephone call from the commissioner’s office to the department on the day but this would not be unusual.

The Charleton tribunal is currently investigating allegations of a smear campaign against Sgt McCabe.