Tribunal told that email was ‘wiped from history’

Former justice minister Frances Fitzgerald received a hard copy of an email which detailed the legal strategy being taken by An Garda Síochána against whistleblower Sgt Maurice McCabe, the Disclosures Tribunal has heard.

It was suggested at the tribunal yesterday that, just a year later, this email had been “wiped from history”.

Ms Fitzgerald’s former private secretary confirmed a printed copy of the email was handed to the then minister when it was sent in 2015 and she had then returned it.

Giving evidence at the Disclosures Tribunal, Christopher Quattrociocchi said that, “once you saw Sgt McCabe’s name, you would make sure the minister saw the email as soon as possible”, and it was no different for the email received on May 15, 2015.

He said the system in place was that he would forward relevant and important emails to the minister and her advisers and print out a copy of the message. This hard copy was also given to the minister and she generally initialled documents before handing them back.

During questioning, Mr Quattrociocchi said: “The private secretary is a postbox to make sure the minister gets information.”

He said that the email was sent on May 15, 2015, that he replied on May 25 to confirm she had noted it, and that it

was likely the hard copy was given to Ms Fitzgerald on Monday, May 18.

The tribunal heard that a year later — in the aftermath of the O’Higgins commission — Ms Fitzgerald held two meetings with Nóirín O’Sullivan, the then Garda commission.

An email prior to this stated that the O’Higgins commission, gangland issues, and industrial relations were to be discussed — no minutes were taken of the first meeting in May 2016.

Kathleen Leader, for the tribunal, said it appeared the information given to the minister a year earlier in the email from Michael Flahive, an assistant secretary in the Department of Justice, was not set out in the note for the meeting, and had been “wiped from history”.

Mr Quattrociocchi, who did not attend these meetings, acknowledged that he was surprised no minutes were taken.

“Speaking personally I don’t think I would ever attend a meeting with the minister without taking minutes,” he said.

Later in the day, Bernadette Phelan, assistant principal officer in the Department of Justice, said some high-level meetings would be minuted but “not all of them”.

Separately, Mr Quattrociocchi was asked about an email sent by RTÉ’s This Week programme in July 2015 that claimed there had been an “aggressive stance” taken towards Sgt McCabe at the O’Higgins commission.

Mr Quattrociocchi said it would have been a matter for the press office.

Inspector Michael McNamara, who managed the Garda’s disclosure process to the O’Higgins commission, also gave evidence yesterday.

He was questioned about his note of a legal consultation between Ms O’Sullivan and her counsel on November 3, 2014 — the day before she was due before the commission.

Insp McNamara was asked what he meant when he wrote “his evidence in this case is bad faith” in the meeting notes. He suggested the notes related to possible questions the commissioner may be asked the next day.

Michael McDowell, for Sgt McCabe, claimed that did not stack up.

Conor Dignam, on behalf of the Garda commissioner, said her instructions to her legal counsel were to challenge Sgt McCabe’s motivation but not mala fides at the O’Higgins commission.


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