Taoiseach to press ministers for Maurice McCabe answers

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar will today seek answers from Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan and Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald as to what his department knew about an attempt to undermine Garda whistleblower Maurice McCabe in 2015.

Speaking to the Irish Examiner, Mr Varadkar said he “wants to speaks to them first” before he reaches a view on it amid calls from Labour’s Alan Kelly for him to give “career-defining” answers on the controversy.

Mr Kelly tabled another series of questions to Mr Flanagan and Ms Fitzgerald seeking to find out whether they have supplied any information to the O’Neill and Charleton inquiries about the McCabe issue.

Mr Varadkar is to speak to Mr Flanagan today,while Ms Fitzgerald is in Dubai, though the Taoiseach said he also wants to talk to her.

Mr Flanagan has refused to deny his department or Ms Fitzgerald when in office was aware of the legal strategy of then Garda commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan to attack Sgt McCabe’s character. Ex-taoiseach Enda Kenny last night refused to answer the Irish Examiner as to his knowledge of the controversy.

The Irish Examiner has confirmed that Mr Varadkar did not speak to the two ministers about the matter at their party national conference at the weekend because time did not allow.

The news comes as Ceann Comhairle Sean Ó Fearghail is to escalate his investigation into replies by Mr Flanagan to Mr Kelly on this matter. 

A war of words erupted between the two yesterday with Mr Flanagan disputing Mr Kelly’s view that the Department of Justice was deliberately omitted from the terms of reference of the Disclosures Tribunal, which is examining allegations of a smear campaign against Sgt McCabe.

Mr Flanagan said: “The tribunal’s terms of reference refer to contacts between members of An Garda Síochána and ‘any other State entities’. This clearly includes the Department of Justice and Equality. I am unclear as to why some members of the Oireachtas are claiming that this is not the case. I believe that members of the Oireachtas should be responsible in their public statements and I believe that as parliamentarians we should respect the operation of tribunals of inquiry.”

Mr Kelly rejected his comments, calling on the Taoiseach to deliver answers: “Minister Flanagan has once again failed to answer the series of questions that I have put to him. Yet again he has refused to give a straight answer to my question?

“Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has a career defining decision to make now.”

Fianna Fáil’s justice spokesman Jim O’Callaghan is to raise the issue today and urged Mr Flanagan to give clear answers as to what his department knew.

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