The Government is facing the threat of collapse as the Independent Alliance says it is “dismayed” at contradictory versions of events in the Maurice McCabe crisis.
The increased tensions within Government come as a public tribunal of inquiry is to replace the commission of investigation into two protected disclosures which alleged a smear campaign to destroy Sgt McCabe.
The Irish Examiner has learned that Alliance members have demanded a Cabinet meeting today as well as a separate meeting with Taoiseach Enda Kenny to discuss their concerns.
They are furious over Mr Kenny’s misleading of the public over a story about a conversation with Katherine Zappone, the children’s minister.
Mr Kenny is under pressure after admitting he was “guilty” of telling the country about a phone call that never actually happened.
The Irish Examiner has learned that the Alliance has “grave reservations” as to the Taoiseach’s version of events.
Following a meeting with Sgt McCabe, the Alliance is to call for a full independent review of the operations of An Garda Síochána as an immediate priority.
“The Alliance’s continued participation in Government is conditional on a comprehensive resolution [of] extremely worrying allegations of malpractice within the gardaí,” one senior Alliance source told the Irish Examiner. “This clearly cannot be addressed by the gardaí themselves. In the coming days, we will be discussing how this can be achieved. We will be looking for someone from outside.”
Alliance members are also “particularly disturbed by serious allegations relating to the state agency Tusla”.
The Alliance twice delayed a press conference last night before postponing it until today, at which stage it is intending to release a media statement.
A visibly vexed Shane Ross was seen ushering his Alliance colleagues through Leinster House minutes before their press conference was due to take place.
In the Dáil, Mr Kenny admitted that he was “guilty of not giving accurate information” of his meeting with Ms Zappone over Tusla links in the case of Sgt McCabe.
There were pointed exchanges as Mr Kenny, amid loud heckling, answered questions over his inconsistencies surrounding the McCabe scandal.
Mr Kenny said: “I might say mea culpa, because I am guilty here of not giving accurate information.
“I understood from thinking myself that [Ms Zappone] had asked me about meeting Sgt McCabe in the first place.
“It actually was her office that consulted with my officials, who told me.
“She is very clear that she did not tell me that she intended to meet Sgt McCabe, but she did tell her official to tell my office, so I regret that.”
It has also emerged that Mr Kenny was rounded on by his Fine Gael ministers at a pre-Cabinet meeting where they demanded that he and Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald “kill off the controversy today”.
Meanwhile, a second Garda whistleblower, Keith Harrison, released a statement yesterday demanding inclusion in the terms of reference for the tribunal. Garda Harrison was referred to Tusla on foot of an allegation which later turned out to be baseless.
In the Dáil last night, Ms Zappone said she was willing to meet Garda Harrison.
Extra terms for the tribunal, obtained by the Irish Examiner, show that it will examine if senior gardaí also used false claims to discredit Sgt McCabe during the previous O’Higgins investigation.
It will investigate if false allegations of sexual abuse or “any other unjustified grounds” were “inappropriately relied” upon by Garda commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan to “discredit” Sgt McCabe during the previous O’Higgins commission, which examined alleged Garda malpractice in the Cavan/Monaghan area.
Government sources confirmed this draft was being worked on last night, but that additions were likely to be discussed today.
The Garda commissioner has strenuously denied any involvement in any alleged campaign.
The new terms will specifically examine contact between the gardaí, the media, members of the Government, Tusla, and the HSE, said sources.
These extra terms are in addition to already-agreed areas to be investigated which include claims by Supt Dave Taylor, formerly of the Garda Press Office, that he was instructed by Ms O’Sullivan and her predecessor Martin Callinan to negatively brief the media about Sgt McCabe.
Doubts have emerged over whether Supreme Court judge Peter Charleton will lead the tribunal, while its timeline has yet to be agreed.
READ MORE: Q&A: Commission of inquiry or tribunal
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