Frances Fitzgerald concerned issues were not being resolved

Former tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald directly contacted the Garda commissioner in 2015 to raise concerns that issues relating to whistleblower Maurice McCabe were not being resolved.

Frances Fitzgerald concerned issues were not being resolved

Appearing before the Disclosures Tribunal, Ms Fitzgerald detailed how she had first met Sgt McCabe in October 2014 in her office.

Ms Fitzgerald will continue to give evidence today at the tribunal, which is examining whether unjustified grounds were inappropriately relied upon by the former garda commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan to discredit whistleblower Sgt McCabe at the O’Higgins commission of investigation.

Then-justice minister Ms Fitzgerald yesterday told the tribunal she had been contacted by Sgt McCabe in October 2014, and responded to him within a couple of days.

“I decided I should meet Sgt McCabe to hear first-hand what his experience had been,” she said.

Ms Fitzgerald said Sgt McCabe was accompanied by his wife Lorraine to the department and that the meeting had lasted around an hour and a half, during which the penalty points scandal as well as his own workplace situation were discussed.

However, in February 2015 she was prompted to contact then Garda commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan after Sgt McCabe emailed her a to state that “work was pretty much impossible”.

She said she was “quite concerned” after receiving the emails as she had been “hopeful that the issues would be dealt with” but this appeared not to be the case.

Ms Fitzgerald said she had been forced to write to the commissioner as she wanted to know what was being done and what engagement there had been with Sgt McCabe.

Ms Fitzgerald said she had received assurances from the commissioner that the gardaí were working with Sgt McCabe on workplace issues, and the commissioner was aware of her duties under Protected Disclosures Act.

Responding to the minister, Ms O’Sullivan said: “Sergeant McCabe has been assured that his welfare and well-being are paramount in all actions that I have, and continue to take regarding his position.”

When the minister was asked whether she felt that the commissioner was dealing with the issue differently in public than in private, she answered: “No I didn’t”.

In March 2015, Sgt McCabe again wrote to the minister, but this time to thank her for assisting him with the issues in his workplace. “It’s great to be able to say for the first time in years that I am happy going to work.”

Sgt McCabe said this was due to “the positive leadership by the new management in Mullingar” and he thanked Ms Fitzgerald for her “personal input” in sorting out his work environment.

Ms Fitzgerald also told the tribunal that measures were being taken to address the penalty points issue, with a centralised system being established in Athlone and the appointment of a judge.

Earlier in questioning, Ms Fitzgerald said she had first become aware of the Miss D allegation of sexual assault against Maurice McCabe in April 2014 when Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin handed the Taoiseach a dossier on the case.

She was then asked when she was made aware of articles by journalist Paul Williams which referred to the Miss D case without naming those involved.

Ms Fitzgerald said she only became aware of these when her predecessor in the Department of Justice Alan Shatter raised them in the Dáil in June 2014.

Ms Fitzgerald will continue giving evidence at the tribunal today.

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