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Fianna Fáil to abstain from vote of no confidence in Government

The Taoiseach meanwhile says he isn’t ruling out a criminal investigation into the Tusla saga.

1916 Easter Rising commemoration Source: Niall Carson

Updated 18.19

FIANNA FÁIL IS to abstain in next week’s vote of no confidence in the government, meaning the motion will almost certainly be defeated.

The decision will be formally ratified by the party at its meeting on Tuesday before the vote, sources within the party said this evening.

Supporting, or not voting against, Fine Gael in such circumstances is part of the confidence and supply agreement between the two parties in order to support the current minority government.

However, this evening a clear division between the two parties has emerged as to whether or not Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald knew about the issues between Tusla and whistleblower Garda Maurice McCabe before last Thursday’s Prime Time broadcast.

Earlier Micheal Martin told RTÉ that the party’s spokesman on justice Jim O’Callaghan met with Frances Fitzgerald last Wednesday evening to discuss the Charleton Commission of Investigation and raised the Tusla story.

This evening Fitzgerald said in a statement:

“Deputy O’Callaghan said to me that Prime Time would have a programme the following evening related to the establishment of the Commission.”
At no point did he mention Tusla or any of the details that emerged in the programme. If deputy O’Callaghan had information concerning the Tusla file, why did he not raise those issue during his statement on the Commission’s terms of reference which took place the following day?

‘Private capacity’

Meanwhile, Taoiseach Enda Kenny has clarified that when he said Minister for Children Katherine Zappone was meeting Maurice McCabe “in a private capacity”, he meant that the meeting was “confidential”.

A Government spokesperson this evening said that “Minister Zappone met Garda McCabe confidentially on Tusla-related, highly sensitive issues – that is what the Taoiseach means when he says ‘in a private capacity’”.

Earlier the Taoiseach said that he knew that Minister for Children Katherine Zappone was meeting Sergeant Maurice McCabe in late January but didn’t ask what the meeting was about.

Speaking to RTÉ Radio’s This Week, The Taoiseach said that as “Minister Zappone, who is doing a very good job, was meeting Maurice McCabe in a private capacity I simply said ‘do make sure you have a very thorough account of it’”.

So when we had our cabinet meeting on Tuesday I wouldn’t have had any details.

When asked again if he had known what was the context of the McCabe – Zappone meeting, the Taoiseach replied once more: “No, as she was meeting him in a private capacity”.

“Cabinet dealt with the terms of reference (of the coming Charleton Commission of Investigation into the alleged smear campaign against McCabe) and Minister Zappone has made it clear that the terms of reference covered the things she was discussing (with McCabe),” the Taoiseach said.

He added that after the broadcast of last Thursday’s Prime Time programme regarding the ongoing Tusla saga, Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald said “she had no problem having Tusla added to the terms of reference”.

When asked about the 13 letters sent by a whistleblower to Frances Fitzgerald late last year, as raised by Labour’s Alan Kelly earlier this afternoon, the Taoiseach said “I don’t have the details of those investigations”.

Criminal investigation?

Kenny was more forthcoming on the possibility of a full criminal investigation into the Tusla saga, as opposed to the Charleton investigation which has no formal powers.

“The central issue is to find out was there or was not a scheme against (McCabe) based on erroneous allegations of sexual misconduct,” he said.

Irish general election Enda Kenny Source: Niall Carson

The conditions of the tribunal of investigation allow for a criminal investigation, but I don’t deal in endless allegations and hearsay, they’re not valid in my book.

Asked directly if he isn’t accepting calls for a criminal investigation at present, the Taoiseach said:

“I’m not ruling it out either.”

Brendan Howlin made his comments in the Dáil the other day, but in order to have a criminal investigation you have to have evidence of criminality.
That may well happen when the (commission of investigation) is completed. I wouldn’t rule it out, and the terms of reference allow for that.
Additional reporting Christina Finn 

Read: ‘Thanks for calling Katherine’ – Frances Fitzgerald has torrid time of it explaining her role in Tusla saga

Read: Poll: Who would you support if an election was held tomorrow?

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