Frances Fitzgerald ‘sent McCabe emails to the wrong address’

Charleton tribunal told of previously unknown contact between former tánaiste and Garda chief

Former tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald. File photograph: Eric Luke

Former tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald. File photograph: Eric Luke

 

The Charleton tribunal has heard evidence of previously unknown contacts between former Garda commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan and then minister for justice Frances Fitzgerald about whistleblower Maurice McCabe.

The tribunal heard yesterday of emails that were sent from the Gmail account of Ms O’Sullivan to Ms Fitzgerald’s Oireachtas email account.

These emails were not previously discovered during a trawl by the Department of Justice for material relevant to the tribunal because they were sent to Ms Fitzgerald’s Oireachtas account.

When Ms Fitzgerald forwarded the emails to the then acting secretary general of the department, Noel Waters, at his Department of Justice account, she made a mistake with the address. It appears they never arrived, the tribunal heard.

The emails included a draft of speech Ms O’Sullivan suggested Ms Fitzgerald might make in the Dáil, including a suggestion that the then tánaiste would say: “I wish to state, here and now, that I have full confidence in the Commissioner.”

Could not recall

Mr Waters, who resigned from the position of secretary general late last year, gave evidence that he could not recall a 14-minute phone call from Ms O’Sullivan on May 15th, 2015.

The call was made at a time when the O’Higgins commission, which was examining matters linked to complaints made by Sgt McCabe, rose so that Ms O’Sullivan’s legal team could confirm its instructions were to challenge his motivation.

Mr Waters told the tribunal it would have been improper for the department to have interfered in the legal strategy adopted by the commissioner at the hearings, which were held in private.

When Sgt McCabe’s counsel, Michael McDowell SC, drew his attention to telephone logs showing the call to his mobile phone on the afternoon in question, Mr Waters accepted he must have had a conversation with the commissioner.

“I have to say in response that I have no recollection of that at all,” he said.

In a statement to the tribunal, Ms O’Sullivan has said she understood records showed she contacted Mr Waters, but she had no recollection of the conversation. The tribunal is investigating whether she gave inappropriate instructions to her legal team in an effort to discredit Sgt McCabe.