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Charlie Flanagan apologises to Taoiseach and Dáil for giving 'inaccurate' information

He said that he was “shocked” and “bitterly disappointed” by the events of recent weeks.

General Election 2017 aftermath Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan. Source: PA Wire/PA Images

MINISTER FOR JUSTICE Charlie Flanagan has told the Dáil this evening that he’s “bitterly disappointed” about the revelations from his department and has apologised for giving inaccurate information passed onto him, saying that he accepted it “in good faith”.

Earlier today, Flanagan’s predecessor Frances Fitzgerald resigned from her role as Tánaiste and Minister for Business to avoid a snap election that could have been called over her handling of the Garda whistleblower scandal.

In the wake of her resignation, opposition politicians turned their attention to the current Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan to answer questions on his role in the email scandal.

Flanagan Source: Oireachtas.ie

In a lengthy statement this evening, Flanagan told the Dáil that changes were needed at the Department of Justice, and that he and the Taoiseach had been misled by information given through his department.

It has been a major challenge at every step to obtain complete information in a timely manner, indeed, on a few occasions recently, information has been provided to me, to the Taoiseach, and then to this House, which has proven subsequently to be inaccurate.

“This is completely unacceptable and I wish to formally apologise to the Taoiseach, to you Ceann Comhairle and to the House.

The fact is, that in recent days it has been clear that information in the possession of journalists and members of the opposition has not been forthcoming to me as Minister.

He said that criticism of the department is warranted, and that an independent investigation into why the emails weren’t passed on to the Disclosures Tribunal would begin and be completed before Christmas.

The minister added that he was “shocked” by the email revelations last night and said he was “bitterly disappointed” by the events of recent weeks.

Charlie Flanagan Source: Oireachtas.ie

Flanagan also backed his predecessor in his Dáil statement, saying that “Fitzgerald is a fundamentally good woman and a person of integrity and compassion”.

Her own record tells us more about her than any emails and the Taoiseach eloquently outlined some of her achievements earlier.
She may have forgotten emails describing an aggressive line of questioning in 2015 because of the shocking contents of leaked transcripts from the O’Higgins Commission that emerged a year later.

“I believe, without question, that she did her very best as Minister in very difficult circumstances, and her commitment was, at all times, to making a positive difference to the lives of the people of this country.”

The 2015 email

The issue revolves around an email which sought to inform the Justice Minister in May 2015 about the legal strategy used against Garda whistleblower Sergeant Maurice McCabe during the O’Higgins Commission of Investigation.

The email contained the strategy of the then-Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan’s legal team against McCabe, and was sent to Fitzgerald’s officials. It mentioned an allegation against McCabe “which he has always denied”, the email said.

When asked in the past week whether the Tánaiste knew of the legal strategy to discredit McCabe, Fitzgerald had that she didn’t remember the email.

File Photo It is reported that Frances Fitzgerald Has Resigned. End. Source: Leah Farrell via RollingNews.ie

But the emails, which were released by the Department of Justice last night, showed that Fitzgerald had “noted” the legal strategy being employed, and that the email had been sent to her on three separate occasions in May 2015.

The revelation intensified called for her resignation, which Fitzgerald gave to the Dáil at lunchtime today.

Today, the Department of Justice Secretary General Noel Waters also announced he was leaving the department; he would retire immediately, telling staff that department has been subjected to “a barrage of unwarranted criticism in recent days”.

Flanagan acknowledge his resignation in his statement to the Dáil this evening, saying that he wished to acknowledge his long service to the State over five decades.

“My experience of him was of a very capable Secretary General who led his staff with dedication, a clear sense of civic duty, humility and kindness in extremely difficult times.”

The Taoiseach, Minister Flanagan, and Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy are among the senior ranking government figures to continue to express their support in Fitzgerald after her resignation this evening.

“It is my view that a good woman is leaving office without a full and fair hearing,” the Taoiseach told the Dáil upon Fitzgerald’s resignation at lunchtime today.

Murphy told Drivetime that he found it difficult that Frances Fitzgerald has resigned, saying she acted appropriately “in all of this”.

He echoed comments by Charlie Flanagan when he said that the Department of Justice was dysfunctional, but said that “Flanagan has acted appropriately in this”.

The key thing is to reform the Department of Justice and we need ministers and government in place to be able to do that work in the public interest.

Earlier today, former Justice Minister Alan Shatter told Newstalk’s Pat Kenny Show that reform was needed at the Department of Justice – in the Garda unit of the department.

They have argued that Fitzgerald shouldn’t have resigned before the Disclosures Tribunal had concluded; it’s due to conclude in six weeks’ time. But opposition politicians have been quick to point out that the trove of emails released last night were never sent to the Disclosures Tribunal (they’ve been sent over now, however).

Due to Fitzgerald’s resignation from Cabinet a snap election before Christmas has been avoided, but political commentators have surmised that the Taoiseach’s delay in reacting to the political turmoil will result in the minority government collapsing after the Christmas period, and a possible election in the Spring.

The Department of Justice has been contacted for comment.

Read: ‘I believe it is necessary’: Frances Fitzgerald resigns as Tánaiste following whistleblower email controversy

Read: Tánaiste defends position after emails show she ‘noted’ legal strategy against whistleblower

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