Opposition calls that forced the resignations of former Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald and ex-Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan were “bang out of order,” says Taoiseach Leo Varadkar.
Speaking to the Irish Examiner, Mr Varadkar has weighed in behind Health Minister Simon Harris’ calls for apologies from the leaders of Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin to Ms Fitzgerald, after her partial vindication in the third interim report of the Disclosures Tribunal.
“Some of the stuff was bang out of order and should be withdrawn,” he said. “Those who forced the resignation of Frances Fitzgerald and precipitated the early retirement of Nóirín O’Sullivan should reflect on their judgement,” he added.
He was speaking as it emerged that Superintendent David Taylor, the former Garda press officer heavily criticised in Judge Peter Charleton’s report, retired last night after being suspended from duties on Saturday. Supt Taylor has submitted his retirement papers having accrued the necessary 30 years’ service.
A Garda spokesman confirmed to this newspaper that “a Garda officer has been suspended from duty”, without naming Supt Taylor.
“As this is an employment matter we will not be commenting further,” the spokesman said.
Confirmation of the suspension was not surprising following the publication of the tribunal report which found Supt Taylor worked “cheek by jowl” with ex-Garda commissioner Martin Callinan in a “campaign of calumny” against Sgt Maurice McCabe.
Despite Mr Varadkar’s calls, both Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin and Sinn Féin president Mary Lou McDonald refused to apologise to Ms Fitzgerald.
“We didn’t hound anybody out of office,” said Mr Martin. “It’s very regrettable on a personal level what happened to Frances Fitzgerald, of course. And I never wanted to be in that position last November.”
He said, however, it was clear a majority of the Dáil had lost confidence in Ms Fitzgerald due to withheld information, as well as the record of the house having to be corrected several times.
Ms McDonald said “it was not a personal attack” on Ms Fitzgerald. She said the Government is and must be held to account.
“The political system has to be answerable.”
She said last year the record of the Dáil had to be corrected on five separate occasions because of partial, incorrect, or incomplete information emanating from the Department of Justice.
“Charleton wasn’t asked to make political assessments. And the political assessment was that Frances Fitzgerald had lost the confidence of the Dáil,” said Ms McDonald.
In the context of confidence and supply, Mr Martin criticised Mr Varadkar for single-handedly creating an “aura of instability in recent months”. He said: “It is not coming from me.
“Given what happened last Thursday, the clear aura of instability around Leinster House, there was a need to stabilise things and calm things down, that both parties would agree not to collapse while Brexit talks are going on. I am proposing an orderly, sensible approach,” he said.
Mr Martin also said the National Broadband Plan had been “hopelessly compromised”.
On RTÉ radio, Mr Martin said the plan was compromised because the minister who is the ultimate decision-maker met the businessman leading the bid, David McCourt, at a number of private meetings.
Meanwhile, Mr Varadkar moved to shore up support for the Government by confirming the backing of independent TDs Noel Grealish and Michael Lowry.
“After a meeting with An Tánaiste, Simon Coveney, and a lengthy conversation with An Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar regarding Brexit, I have decided to give the necessary support to the Government during this crucial stage of Brexit negotiations,” said Mr Grealish.