McCabe row: FF concerns on what Tánaiste knew of Tusla role

Fianna Fáil will not back Sinn Féin no-confidence vote over Garda whistleblower row

Fianna Fáil has raised fresh concern over Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald's knowledge of child protection agency Tusla's role in the controversy surrounding Garda whistleblower Sgt Maurice McCabe.

Ms Fitzgerald has maintained she did not know about the Child and Family Agency having wrongly sent false allegations about Mr McCabe to gardaí until Thursday evening.

However, the party’s justice spokesman Jim O’Callaghan told The Irish Times he asked the Tánaiste to include Tusla in the commission of investigation’s terms of reference on Wednesday.

Mr O'Callaghan said he was unaware of the specific detail, but urged Ms Fitzgerald to contact her colleague, Minister for Children Katherine Zappone, on the matter.

In a statement the Tánaiste denied this, claiming Mr O’Callaghan never mentioned Tusla or any of the details that have since emerged.

She added: “If Deputy O’Callaghan had information concerning the Tusla file, why did he not raise those issues during his statement on the commission’s terms of reference which took place the following day?

"What is now important is that we move ahead to establish the commission under Supreme Court Judge Peter Charlton to find ascertain the truth of what happened."

No confidence

It emerged earlier that Fianna Fáil will not support Sinn Féin’s motion of no confidence in the Government over the Garda whistleblower row.

The Dáil will this week debate the motion, which follows revelations over Tusla wrongly sending false allegations about Sgt McCabe to gardaí.

The party has not ruled out amending the motion tabled by Sinn Féin.

However, as per the arrangements of the confidence and supply agreement between Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, it will abstain.

Sinn Féin said on Saturday it would table the motion of no confidence.

The Taoiseach and Tánaiste had distanced themselves from Ms Zappone after it emerged she was aware that Tusla had wrongly sent gardaí the file containing the false allegations against Sgt McCabe.

Sinn Féin will aim to use its time in the Dáil next week to try to force a general election over the issue.

Fianna Fáil has been critical of the Government over the controversy.

Sharp differences

Sharp differences emerged in Cabinet over the last week over Ms Zappone’s account of her meetings with Sgt McCabe.

On Friday night, Ms Zappone withdrew her earlier statement suggesting she had informed "relevant Government colleagues" about false allegations of child sexual assault made against Sgt McCabe, which had been disputed by Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald.

The details of the false claims against Sgt McCabe, which were contained in Tusla files, were given to Ms Zappone at a meeting. She has had regular contacts with Sgt McCabe and his wife in recent weeks.

The false allegations of sexual assault of a child were as a result of a “clerical error”, Tusla has said.

Claims that Sgt McCabe was the subject of a smear campaign by Garda management because he revealed serious wrongdoing by a number of gardaí are to be investigated by a formal commission of investigation led by Supreme Court judge Mr Justice Peter Charleton.

In a statement issued on Friday, Ms Zappone confirmed she knew allegations had been made against Sgt McCabe.

Ms Zappone, who is out of the country, said she "informed relevant Government colleagues" in recent weeks.Her spokesman refused to elaborate on her comments despite repeated requests from The Irish Times.

Senior denials

Both the Taoiseach and Tánaiste quickly rejected suggestions by Ms Zappone she had informed them of the Tusla controversy.

Spokespersons for both Mr Kenny and Ms Fitzgerald said they did not know about the Tusla files and the errors that led to allegations against Sgt McCabe until Thursday evening, when details were reported on RTÉ.

A spokesman for the Tánaiste said Ms Zappone had informed her she intended to meet Sgt McCabe but they did not discuss any details relating to Tusla or the allegations against him.