herald

Monday 20 August 2018

'I was right not to intervene in McCabe clash', says Fitzgerald

Tanaiste Frances Fitzgerald
Tanaiste Frances Fitzgerald

Under-fire Tanaiste Frances Fitzgerald has launched a stern defence of her record as Justice Minister, saying she "utterly rejects" suggestions that she acted improperly.

Speaking in the Seanad, Ms Fitzgerald said she had received fresh legal advice about the contents of an email she received in 2015 alerting her to clashes between garda lawyers and those for whistleblower Maurice McCabe at the O'Higgins Commission.

According to the advice, she was correct not to intervene in the disputes, she said.

Ms Fitzgerald argued that the political charges made against her in recent days were unfair.

"The suggestion is I didn't act to improve how An Garda Siochana dealt with the issue of whistleblowing," she said. "The suggestion is that I didn't want the truth to be found. I utterly reject those suggestions."

Her appearance in the Seanad came shortly after Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin asked for time to decide his party's approach to the controversy.

Election

If it declares no confidence in the Tanaiste, it could spark a general election in the run-up to Christmas.

Ms Fitzgerald told the Seanad that "actions speak louder than words" before outlining how she "pursued a programme of fundamental reform of An Garda Siochana and the Department of Justice and Equality".

"For decades, successive governments failed to deal with the issue of whistleblowers," she said.

Ms Fitzgerald said she had been "a hard-working, proactive minister, never afraid to tackle the issues in the three departments in which I have served".

She was questioned by a string of senators, but Michael McDowell, who is part of Mr McCabe's legal team, did not quiz her.

Fianna Fail senator Lorraine Clifford-Lee said the answers were "far from satisfactory".

"The way things stand at present, there are more questions than answers," she said.

Ms Fitzgerald received backing from Independent senator Victor Boylan, who hit out at the sense "of people vying for blood and a head on a plate".

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