Too ‘busy’ with trip abroad to speak with Taoiseach

It took the Department of Justice and the Tánaiste four days to tell the Taoiseach about an email which revealed efforts by gardaí to discredit Sergeant Maurice McCabe at an inquiry.

The Government says Frances Fitzgerald was “busy” travelling in recent days, including in Dubai and Boston, and therefore only spoke with the Taoiseach about the email on Monday night.

The spokesman has also said it is “impossible to say” if this Department of Justice email would have been raised in the Dáil yesterday-if it had not been revealed by RTÉ late on the Monday night.

The Government is facing a series of questions about what the department and Tánaiste both knew about Garda efforts to undermine Sgt McCabe in mid 2015 during the O’Higgins Commission.

RTÉ revealed on Monday night that the justice department and Ms Fitzgerald had in fact been aware of disagreement at the O’Higgins Commission in May 2015 and the legal strategy of gardaí. She had originally said last week she had not been aware of any Garda strategy until May 2016. However, she has since changed her position.

Many questions are only now emerging as to why the Tánaiste did not tell Mr Varadkar about this crucial email last week, on the Thursday when the original email information was sent to her.

A government spokesman confirmed that Mr Varadkar was not made aware of this email until Monday night. Furthermore, it was made clear that the Taoiseach in fact sought out this email and this was four days after the Department of Justice had passed it onto the Tánaiste, on the Thursday.

The spokesman confirmed there were “incidents” when the Department of Justice gave “incorrect” information to the Taoiseach. This was “always regrettable”, he said.

However, the spokesman also said Mr Varadkar had “heard” about this email on Monday night and that was why he went looking for it.

It was “impossible to say” if the Taoiseach would have addressed the issue of the email when he spoke in the Dáil yesterday if it had not been revealed late on the Monday night by RTÉ, the spokesman added.

The spokesman reiterated that Mr Varadkar had done his best to get clarity around matters concerning Sgt McCabe and also considered him a “brave” man.

It was also confirmed that this Justice Department email, which outlined a disagreement between lawyers for gardaí and Sgt McCabe, was only sent yesterday to the Charleton Tribunal, the inquiry looking into an alleged smear campaign against the whistleblower.

A government spokesman last night said the Taoiseach had learned of the email while talking to Cabinet colleagues on the Monday night, but did not specify when.

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