O’Sullivan sent draft Dáil statement on McCabe issue to Fitzgerald

Charleton hears new emails to Fitzgerald concerned with tribunal’s inquiries have emerged

Former minister for justice Frances Fitzgerald: the  Charleton Tribunal was told on Friday  new emails to Ms Fitzgerald  directly concerned with its  inquiries have emerged. Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill/The Irish Times

Former minister for justice Frances Fitzgerald: the Charleton Tribunal was told on Friday new emails to Ms Fitzgerald directly concerned with its inquiries have emerged. Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill/The Irish Times

 

The then garda commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan sent an email in May 2016 to then minister for justice enclosing a draft statement that Frances Fitzgerald might want to make in the Dáil, the Charleton Tribunal heard on Friday.

The tribunal was also told new emails to Ms Fitzgerald and directly concerned with the Charleton Tribunal’s inquiries, have emerged.

The emails were sent by Ms O’Sullivan - at least one of which was from her gmail account - to an Oireachtas account of Ms Fitzgerald.

Ms Fitzgerald resigned as Tánaiste in November 2017 following a controversy that included a dispute over the extent of material disclosed to the tribunal.

The email with the draft Dáil statement was sent from Ms O’Sullivan’s gmail account to Ms Fitzgerald on May 18th, 2016, in the wake of the publication of the O’Higgins Commission report into policing matters raised by Garda whistleblower Sgt Maurice McCabe.

The email was sent in the context of controversy over the legal strategy adopted by the then commissioner at the private hearings of the O’Higgins Commission and whether she had instructed her legal team to attack the motivation of Sgt McCabe.

A letter written by Ms Fitzgerald’s legal representatives and shown at the tribunal, dated January 3rd, 2018, said three emails were being forwarded to the tribunal following a search carried out of Ms Fitzgerald’s Oireachtas account.

The letter said the emails were sent on by Ms Fitzgerald to then secretary general of the Department of Justice, Noel Waters, at his departmental email address.

Not his email

However, Mr Waters, giving evidence at the tribunal on Friday, told Diarmuid McGuinness SC, for the tribunal, the email address was incorrect and not his.

In the letter sent to the tribunal on January 3rd, it was noted the emails being forwarded were not caught by any existing order of the tribunal.

Ms O’Sullivan, in her email, suggested Ms Fitzgerald might address the O’Higgins Commission controversy in the Dail and say she had “interrogated the matter in detail with the Commissioner of An Garda Síochána and I now present to the House the outcome.”

She suggested the minister say that at no point did she instruct her legal team at the O’Higgins Commission to “accuse Sgt McCabe of malice”.

“This is important because it was asserted in a headline in The Irish Examiner last week and has become a widely accepted truth since. It is NOT the truth and the word malice was not authorised by Nóirín O’Sullivan.”

The email also suggested it be said the Commissioner had an absolute right to vindicate the rights of gardaí accused of corruption by Sgt McCabe.

“As can be seen from the [O’Higgins Report], these allegations were either withdrawn under questioning or adjudged in the final report to be unfounded.”

It was also suggested Ms Fitzgerald state: “I wish to state, here and now, that I have full confidence in the Commissioner.”

The emails from Ms O’Sullivan included the legal advice she had received from her legal team at the confidential O’Higgins Commission hearings.

Mr Waters said he was not sure if he knew this had occurred.

The evidence continues.