The crisis facing the Government over its handling of false allegations of child sex abuse against Sgt Maurice McCabe is set to deepen as Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin meets the whistleblower today.
The meeting, following a request from Mr Martin to see a copy of the Tusla file on the false allegations, could put more pressure on Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan to step aside.
Widely differing accounts between Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael on including the child and family agency file details in an inquiry are also threatening, for the first time, to break up the government support deal.
And as the blame game escalates among ministers over a failure to highlight the Tusla file, Sinn Féin will this week also try and force a snap election with a motion of no confidence in the Government. Its success though would require Fianna Fáil to tear up its support deal with Fine Gael.
Mr Martin is set to meet Sgt McCabe at a location outside Dublin today in order to see the Tusla file. The Fianna Fáil leader’s direct intervention previously saw him meet the sergeant in 2014, following Mr Martin’s request to then view a dossier on serious claims of malpractice in the force.
That meeting led to the setting up of the Guerin inquiry, which led to the O’Higgins commission, which vindicated Sgt McCabe’s claims of malpractice.
Today’s meeting comes amid growing calls for Commissioner O’Sullivan to step aside for the duration of the Charleton Commission which will inquire into whether there was a smear campaign against Sgt McCabe at the highest level within the force.
It follows another dramatic day of developments yesterday and problems for the Government, which now threaten to bring down Taoiseach Enda Kenny’s administration.
Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael were in bitter exchanges last night over whether Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald was warned by her counterpart last Wednesday over the Tusla file fallout ahead.
Ms Fitzgerald insists the first she heard about the Tusla file was upon watching an RTÉ report on the scandal last Thursday, after it was also earlier published in the Irish Examiner.
In a shock development though, Fianna Fáil said its justice spokesman Jim O’Callaghan flagged the issue of the Tusla file with the minister on Wednesday night.
Furthermore, Fianna Fáil maintains the minister was advised to speak with Minister for Children Katherine Zappone on the issue as she oversees Tusla.
Opposition TDs are now questioning if there has been a cover-up and are asking why Ms Fitzgerald did not mention Tusla in the Dáil on Thursday in a debate on the inquiry or at a Cabinet meeting last week.
Furthermore, Ms Zappone is under huge pressure to explain why she never spoke up at the Cabinet meeting and alerted colleagues to the Tusla case, especially with an apology pending for Sgt McCabe and an inquiry being set up.
Ms Fitzgerald says that Ms Zappone told her by phone on January 25 that she was meeting Sgt McCabe.
But the two apparently never discussed any more.
“I said thanks for calling me Katherine, and that was it,” the Tánaiste told RTÉ yesterday.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny was equally vague about what he or ministers had known about the Tusla case, which will now specifically form part of the Charleton Commission.
Asked three times by RTÉ’s The Week in Politics yesterday about if or when he had heard of the rumours in Leinster House about the Tusla allegations against Sgt McCabe, he responded:
“You work in Leinster House for many years, it is a place of inexhaustible rumours, hearsay, and allegations.”
He did not ask Ms Zappone about meeting Sgt McCabe, as it was in a “private capacity”.
It is also unclear where government partners the Independent Alliance stand on the crisis.
In a further development last night, Sgt McCabe and his family rejected a HSE apology over its role in the Tusla file blunder and said they would have no further contact with the service or Tusla.
Meanwhile, Mr Kenny says he is open to the idea of a criminal investigation into the whistleblower smear campaign, a move which could involve an outside police force.
Sgt McCabe says he would prefer an external criminal probe, a position backed by the Labour party.
The use of external law enforcement officers would require legislation to grant them investigative powers.
The FBI was called in in 2000 to examine Garda actions during the Abbeylara siege.
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