LATEST: Taoiseach offers full apology to Maurice McCabe

Update 7.40pm: The Taoiseach has offered the garda whistleblower Garda Sergeant Maurice McCabe a full apology for the way he has been treated.

Enda Kenny made the move at the start of a debate on a motion of confidence in the Government tonight.

The Dáil debate came after a Fine Gael Parliamentary party meeting which saw the first shots fired by the two leading contenders to replace Mr Kenny as leader.

Leo Varadkar and Simon Coveney called for the party to begin preparations for an election - seen as code for a change in leader.

The meeting ended early as the Dáil debate needed to get underway.

Enda Kenny says Maurice McCabe has been wronged: "The false allegations from Maurice McCabe are simply appalling.

"Sexual abuse is the worst crime that a person can be abused of,

"He and his family deserve the truth, as do all against whom allegations have been made.

"And I therefore offer a full apology to Maurice McCabe and his family for the treatment handed out to them as exposed in recent programmes."

Update 5.45pm: It is understood the Independent Alliance wants an external audit of the Gardaí in the wake of the whistleblower controversy.

The Taoiseach Enda Kenny is meeting with the Alliance this afternoon to discuss their confidence in the Government, over the handling of the Maurice McCabe affair.

It comes ahead of a crucial Dáil vote tonight in a motion of confidence, tabled by the Taoiseach himself.

It comes as it was revealed that Independent Communications Minister Denis Naughten and Independent Deputy Michael Harty met directly with Mr Kenny on Wednesday morning.

A statement from the two men says: "The purpose of the meeting was to hear personally from the Taoiseach about the events that have unfolded since late last week and to bring clarity to their understanding of the sequence.

"Minister Naughten expressed his request to see better handling of sensitive Government memos...that come before the Cabinet in order to allow him and Independent Minister Zappone the opportunity to study the information contained in a timely manner prior to Cabinet."

Update 1.16pm: The Tánaiste is currently examining whether more whistleblowers will be included in a Tribunal being set up to examine an alleged smear campaign against Sergeant Maurice McCabe, writes Elaine Loughlin, Political Reporter.

Speaking in the Dáil, Enda Kenny said Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald was not in the chamber as she was looking at the terms of reference of the Tribunal and whether it should be extended to cover the treatment other garda whistle-blowers.

Further pressed, the Taoiseach said that extending the scope of the Tribunal would be a "matter for the judge".

But he added that there should be a facility so that "if the judge thought fit that it might be extended to other whistle-blowers" he would be allowed to do so.

Garda whistleblower Keith Harrison

Mr Kenny has come under intense questioning in Dáil for a second day over his knowledge of the Tusla file which contained false allegations of child sex abuse against Sgt McCabe.

He maintained that Children's Minister Katherine Zappone told him of the false allegations before entering Cabinet last week, but he was not aware of the exact details of the file.

But Mr Kenny added that he was "clear in his mind" that the allegations fell under the terms of reference of the initial inquiry into alleged smearing of the garda whistle-blower.

A full public tribunal has now been agreed upon instead of the initial commission of investigation, which would have been held in private.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin asked how the Taoiseach would know that the false allegations would be included in the terms of reference of an investigation if he had not been told the details in the Tusla file.

"It begs the question how did anybody know in the Cabinet that it would cover the Tusla file and what was contained in it?"

Mr Martin added that "it seems an extraordinary display of Cabinet telepathy at work" that ministers were confident that the original commission of investigation "was going to cover something that nobody knew anything about".

Green Party leader Eamon Ryan said the issue "goes to the heart of whether the government can function" and asked whether a Tribunal would be broadcast online or on TV.

Mr Kenny said that the hoped the party justice spokespeople could agree on the Tribunal terms of reference today and it could go to Cabinet and the Dáil tomorrow.

"Every day that passes, denies the opportunity to have the central question answered, was there or was there not an orchestrated campaign against Sgt McCabe?" he told the Dáil.

Update 12.39am: The Tánaiste has been accused of not understanding how Garda whistleblowers are treated by the force.

Sergeant Maurice McCabe's colleague in Athlone, Garda Keith Harrison, claims he was also unfairly targeted after reporting wrongdoing.

He now wants to be included in any State investigation into the scandal.

Mr Harrison's solicitor, Trevor Collins, says Tánaiste and Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald has failed to protect him.

“The Minister was reminding us in correspondence: ‘Everything’s fine here, I’m told the Commissioner’s dealing with whistleblowers appropriately’, and we’re pointing out to her – this is a misrepresentation of the truth,” he said.

“It is in stark contrast to what the reality is for these people.”

Frances Fitzgerald and Garda Commissioner Noirin O'Sullivan

Earlier:

The solicitor representing a second Garda whistleblower says his client was "treated as a pariah" after complaining about the force.

Garda Keith Harrison claims a Tusla file was also compiled on him and wants it to be included in State investigations.

His solicitor Trevor Collins says the trouble started after he arrested an officer in Athlone for drink driving.

“And after that he was, in effect, treated as a pariah,” he said.

“Because he was told that evening after the arrest that he was not to do what he was doing, he was told to really think about what he was doing.

“He ignored that, which came from superior officers, and he pursued the prosecution.

“He was, in effect, identified as someone who, to all intents and purposes, was a troublemaker.”


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