The Office of the Attorney General yesterday backed Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald’s decision to take no action when she was told of the Garda legal team’s alleged strategy to discredit Maurice McCabe in May 2015.
Speaking at the start of a special Seanad debate on the issue last night, Ms Fitzgerald, the former justice minister, insisted she has done nothing wrong.
Saying she was right to take no action in response to an email on May 15, 2015, which confirmed the Garda legal strategy to discredit Mr McCabe, Ms Fitzgerald said the Office of the Attorney General backed the decision yesterday.
The Tánaiste said she received fresh legal advice yesterday from the office confirming she “correctly conveyed” the fact she cannot intervene in tribunal matters, and that it would have been “inappropriate” for her to do so.
Referring to the email at the centre of the controversy, Ms Fitzgerald said that “last Thursday the Department of Justice confirmed to me an email had been located” from May 15, 2015 — a view she later altered by saying: “It was last Thursday, the department had not found that email previously.”
Fianna Fáil senator Lorraine Clifford-Lee said she wanted to know why the email was not released until Tuesday night.
She said it was “completely unbelievable” to suggest the correspondence was simply forgotten about.
Sinn Féin senator Niall Ó Donnghaile said the Government must clarify who told her of the email and when the successor as justice minister, Charlie Flanagan, was told.
Labour senator Aodhán Ó Ríordáin said the questions are valid as “we need to know the second most senior Government minister is up to the job”.
He said Ms Fitzgerald’s defence, that “when I got this email they didn’t tell me to do anything”, was not good enough.
Mr Ó Ríordáin said he “feels sorry” for Government members supporting her as “I was that soldier, I had to give confidence speeches in Alan Shatter”.
Fine Gael senators Jerry Buttimer, Martin Conway, and Colm Burke, and the Taoiseach’s Seanad appointment, Victor Boylan, defended Ms Fitzgerald.
Mr Conway said criticism is “skulduggery”, while Mr Boylan said it is wrong to have a “parallel process” to the Charleton tribunal and that questions should stop now.
Saying “we bellyached for a tribunal” and are now ignoring it, Mr Boylan claimed: “People don’t come to this House to mislead.”
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