‘Serious questions to answer’ for justice minister

The justice minister is now facing serious questions as it emerged he was told of an the email at the centre of the latest Maurice McCabe scandal a full week before the Taoiseach was informed.

It has now been revealed that Charlie Flanagan was alerted to the existence of the 2015 email detailing a strategy to discredit Sgt McCabe at the O’Higgins Tribunal on November 13.

A day later he sat directly next to the Taoiseach in the Dáil when Leo Varadkar gave incorrect information under questioning claiming the Department of Justice had “not been able to find any record of being informed before the fact of the legal strategy the commissioner was going to pursue”.

It is now known that the department uncovered the email on November 9, the day after a series of questions were submitted to it by Labour TD Alan Kelly.

Mr Varadkar was forced to correct the record of the Dáil, after details of the email were revealed on RTE’s Primetime.

However, Mr Flanagan yesterday admitted that he had been told of the email “in passing” on November 13 during a phone conversation with secretary general of the Department of Justice Noel Waters.

Mr Flanagan said: “I became aware of a document which subsequently transpired to be the email early last week on Monday 13.

“I was speaking with my secretary general, he informed me of his intention to retire early after 40 years, in passing he mentioned that there was a document that had come to hand.

“I immediately said that that document should be furnished to the tribunal of inquiry for dealing with by Judge Charleton.”

Asked why he did not immediately bring the email to the Taoiseach, Mr Flanagan told RTE’s News at One: “I felt that the Tribunal of Inquiry was the best place to send this document, it’s an issue of some concern to the Tribunal and I was very keen that that would be transmitted to the Tribunal at the earliest opportunity.”

However, he was not asked and did not explain why that email was not sent to the Tribunal until Tuesday of this week, more than a week after Mr Flanagan was told of it and almost two weeks after it was unearthed by the Department of Justice.

Labour leader Brendan Howlin said Mr Flanagan now has “serious questions to answer” .

He said: “The current minister for justice and equality was notified of this email on November 13, and has said that he simply instructed that it be passed to the Disclosures Tribunal — an instruction that it appears was not acted on.

“The same minister was in attendance at leaders’ questions on November 14, when the Taoiseach gave his first incorrect statement to the Dáil on this matter.

“He was also in attendance the following day, when the issue was raised again, and the Taoiseach once more gave incorrect information to the Dáil.”

Mr Howlin claimed that “at no time” did Mr Flanagan act to inform the Taoiseach that the information being conveyed to the Dáil was incorrect.

“Indeed, the Taoiseach has stated that he only became aware of this at 11.30pm on November 20 — a full week after the minister for justice and equality was informed of it.”

Social Democrat TD Róisín Shortall said there was “an understandable focus” on the Tánaiste’s role in all this but it was “becoming clearer and clearer that the current minister for justice also has serious questions to answer.”

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