Let Me Tell You: Episode 5 — 'Politically imperative' for Fianna Fáil to force Fitzgerald departure

Jim O'Callaghan is this week's guest on the Irish Examiner's Let Met Tell You podcast
Let Me Tell You: Episode 5 — 'Politically imperative' for Fianna Fáil to force Fitzgerald departure

Frances Fitzgerald left her post as Justice Minister in November 2017

It was "politically imperative" for Fianna Fáil to force the resignation of former Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald, the party's former justice spokesperson has said.

Jim O'Callaghan told the final episode of the first season of the Irish Examiner's bespoke Let Me Tell You podcast that his decision to tell RTÉ News that he and his party would not support Ms Fitzgerald in a confidence vote was needed to avoid a general election in the days before Christmas.

Ms Fitzgerald left her post as Justice Minister in November 2017 after a protracted saga regarding her emails and what and when she had or had not known regarding an alleged smear campaign against Garda whistleblower Maurice McCabe

The Disclosures Tribunal under Justice Peter Charleton subsequently found in late 2018 that the now MEP had behaved properly and that she had “selflessly decided to resign in the national interest”.

Speaking to the Irish Examiner politics podcast, Mr O'Callaghan said that he and his party "got no pleasure" out of Ms Fitzgerald's resignation, saying that she is a "decent woman" who resigned in the national interest. 

However, the Dublin Bay South TD said: "If you're asking me in light of the Tribunal Report do I regret the policy adopted by Fianna Fáil — I don't — it was a political imperative at the time and politics is a tough, hard business.

"There are times that you're forced to make a decision, regardless of the consequences.

"There's a difference between the political and legal. [Ms Fitzgerald's resignation was necessary], that's the reality of it."

Fianna Fáil's Jim O'Callaghan. Picture: Gareth Chaney/ Collins Photos
Fianna Fáil's Jim O'Callaghan. Picture: Gareth Chaney/ Collins Photos

Mr O'Callaghan said that he believes that had the country gone to the polls in 2017, his party would likely have won more seats than it did in 2020's election. He said that the incident did not affect his relationship with party leader Micheál Martin.

He confirmed that he was pressed to sign a motion of no confidence in Mr Martin in 2021 but he "wasn't going to sign it" at the time. He said that Fianna Fáil's issues "go beyond one person" and said that the party had to work out why it is not getting support from people who identify with its politics.

He added that he would, "like any member of the party", be "honoured" to be the leader of Fianna Fáil.

Mr O'Callaghan did not say whether he would take up an offer of a Cabinet seat should one be offered in December's expected reshuffle.

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Let Me Tell You

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Hosts Daniel McConnell and Paul Hosford take a look back at some of the most dramatic moments in recent Irish political history from the unique perspective of one of the key players involved.

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