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'Thanks for calling Katherine' - Frances Fitzgerald has torrid time of it explaining her role in Tusla saga

The Minister insists she had no knowledge of Tusla’s involvement in the Maurice McCabe saga before last Thursday’s Prime Time broadcast.

ff Frances Fitzgerald Source: RTÉ

FRANCES FITZGERALD INSISTS that the first she knew of the ongoing Tusla scandal regarding Sergeant Maurice McCabe was when the story was broadcast on RTÉ’s Prime Time last Thursday.

A clearly flustered Fitzgerald has undergone a torrid interrogation session on RTÉ’s The Week in Politics, but has stuck to her guns and insisted that her story “is the truth”.

“Katherine Zappone telephoned me on the day she was meeting Maurice McCabe, 25 January, I remember distinctly taking the call,” she said.

I said ‘thanks for calling Katherine’, and that was it. Obviously I wasn’t going to say yes or no, it wasn’t my business, that was the conversation I had with her.

Asked directly was she aware that Tusla had kept a false allegation of sexual impropriety against McCabe on file for nearly two years after it had been debunked, she replied “no I wasn’t aware of that”.

“As Minister Zappone has clarified, she would have said something (at cabinet) if she felt it needed to be said,” she said.

Asked why, as Minister for Justice, she had not followed up on Zappone’s meeting with McCabe, who has been at the centre of the whistleblower scandal for over three years, Fitzgerald said:

“I was respecting the integrity of her meeting with him (McCabe). Maurice McCabe has been subject to an awful lot of hassle. I did not know the facts as they emerged.”

Independent TD Clare Daly replied that she was “struck dumb” by Fitzgerald’s assertions.

CD Clare Daly Source: RTÉ

“The protected disclosure of Dave Taylor (former head of the Garda Press Office) contained this information regarding the child sex allegation. The idea you hadn’t heard of it prior to Prime Time is laughable,” she said.

“It was a protected disclosure, you don’t discuss such disclosures in detail,” Fitzgerald replied.

Incompetence

Fianna Fáil’s Justice Spokesman Dara Calleary said: “You honestly expect us to believe that you didn’t even say to Minister Zappone ‘how did that meeting go?’”

“Yes, because it’s the truth,” Fitzgerald replied.

“That’s incompetence,” said Calleary.

Labour TD Alan Kelly then said that he finds the story “incredible in terms of someone who has sat at cabinet and knows how it works”.

I’ll tell you why. I have been contacted by another whistleblower who sent 13 letters to the Minister for Justice and in October last year he outlined how he had serious concerns with Tusla.
If Minister Zappone contacted Minister Fitzgerald in terms of Maurice McCabe, did alarm bells not go off in terms of another whistleblower making contact regarding Tusla? Did you not join up the dots?

ak Alan Kelly Source: RTÉ

“I cannot investigate protected disclosures as Deputy Kelly knows very well,” said the Fitzgerald.

I was respecting the whistleblower and the integrity of the meeting, Katherine Zappone said if it needed to be brought to my attention she would have told me.

“It’s the truth, you can keep saying it’s not credible all you like. I have never put in the public arena any issues that would be damaging to Maurice McCabe. If I had information about Tusla, why would I withhold it? What good would that do me?” she asked.

“It is quite obvious that cabinet has broken down and that Fine Gael are trying to throw Katherine Zappone under a bus,” Kelly replied.

Read: Sinn Féin to table motion of no confidence in the Government

Read: Poll: In the wake of the latest Maurice McCabe revelations, do you have confidence in the gardaí?

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