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The Taoiseach has maintained that he has confidence in the Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald, but says he is not happy that on at least two occasions in the last week the Department of Justice gave him misinformation.

Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald is fighting for her political life today after her hour long grilling last night over an email relating to the former Garda Commissioner’s legal strategy in the O’Higgins Commission.

It centres around an email, which mentions specifically a criminal complaint being used to question Maurice McCabe’s motivation.

Catch up here:

Frances Fitzgerald sends TDs email at centre of Maurice McCabe row

Micheál Martin says the email in “damning” and states that it should have raised alarm bells for the minister.

It is simply not credible that the minister would not remember the email, he says, given the enormity of the McCabe scandal.

He says what is far worse is the did nothing when she got this email.

She became a bystander to a legal strategy that sought to undermine McCabe. Martin says it was kept quiet for four days, with the Taoiseach “inadvertently” misleading the Dáil.

“She may have not thrown him to the wolves but she allowed them free rein,” says Martin.

Leo Varadkar repeats the line that the Minister had “no hand, act or part” in the legal strategy – which in fairness, is not the question being asked.

The Taoiseach says he spoke to McCabe for 20 mins last night and he McCabe disputes that the allegation of sexual abuse was raised at the O’Higgins Commission – which the Taoiseach says has everyone confused.

He stands by the minister and says she did what she should have done. Varadkar says he does have confidence in the Tánaiste.

Martin says he doesn’t accept his reply. He says no one is saying she had a part in the legal strategy.

He also wants to know why the individuals who sent and received this email was omitted from what TDs were given. He wants to know who the correspondence was sent.

Varadkar says “there is no one here that I or the government is trying to protect”.

He says the email was sent to the Assistant Secretary from Dept of Justice and it was sent to a number of people in the department, including to the minister’s private secretary who then sent it on to her.

“At the heart of this is a terrible vista. An appalling set of actions were afoot… simply not good enough to say a minister in charge of a portfolio on the most explosive issue in this Dail in the last three years, merely stands by,” says Martin.

Varadkar has asked the department to trawl through all emails to make sure that all relevant documents have been sent to the Commission of Investigation.

He says he is also revisiting a report into the functionality of the Department of Justice.

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Mary Lou McDonald is up now and she says there are now questions over the Tanaiste’s “competence and judgement” given the email sets out the former Garda Commissioner’s strategy “to undermine and attack the credibility”.

She points out what Alan Kelly has observed that the email was sent to Fitzgerald three days before the cross-examination actually took place at the O’Higgins Commission.

She said she did not give the answers that were needed last night and said her role in the second most powerful job in government be tenable.

I have been given incomplete information from the Department, says Varadkar.

He says he is not happy which is why he is asking for an update on the Toland report on the functionality, operation and modernisation of the Justice Department.

The Taoiseach again reiterates that she had not hand, act or part in the legal strategy – which no one is disputing.

Varadkar says trying to distinguish between May 15 and May 18 is “moving the goalposts”. Fitzgerald says she only found out about it after the opening statements had been made.

She is now reading out the record of the Dáil and says the Taoiseach is misleading the Dáil again. He says he is happy to correct the Dáil if he checks back on what he said.

Mick Barry is up now and attacking the Taoiseach over the homelessness crisis.

He is highlighting a case in which an apartment complex is being refurbished so that it will appeal to “young professionals”.

He says tenants of this block have been told to vacate – some on Dec 20th. Another had their notice to vacate sellotaped to their door.

He says the action of this vulture fund are utterly unacceptable.

Varadkar says homelessness is something the government “feels very deeply about”.

Varadkar says he has read about the case in the newspapers but says the minister has committed to changing the rules around substantial refurbishment and what it means.

He thinks it is particularly cruel to evict people before Christmas.

“I absolutely condemn that … it could certainly be left into the new year,” says Varadkar.

Varadkar says the notices should be withdrawn and those that live in that development should be given adequate time to find a new home.

“Not good enough Taoiseach,” says Barry, who points out that this is not a minor refurbishment, it is going to cost €3m. But his point is that it is vulture funds that have got their claws in to the property market.

“Sometime apartments need refurbishment, there are fire safety issues there are cases where they need substantial refurbishment,” says Varadkar.

He says he does not know the specifics of this apartment block but says no one should be evicted before Christmas and should be given “many months” to find a new house.

Michael Healy Rae says something is wrong with our health system, referring to last night’s RTE Investigates programme which found a failure by the HSE and hospital managements to properly implement the 2008 Hospital Consultants’ Contract across acute public hospitals.

In one case a consultant observed for eight weeks was working less than 13 hours per week on average in the public system.

The Taoiseach says it was a very interesting piece of investigative journalism.

“I would like to say I was surprised from the outcome,” says Varadkar, but adds that there are a “minority” that are not living up their contractual obligations.

“Deeply offensive” is how he describes such actions.

When he was Health Minister he asked for an audit on something similar in relation to consultants working in emergency hospitals – this was never done, he says.

The new Slainte care health plan will be a game changer. He says this would never be allowed in the school system, but it is allowed in the health service. That is wrong, he says.

There are “perverse” incentives at play he says.

The Taoiseach says the IMO (the group the represents consultants) has said this happens on rare occasions. “I don’t think they can deny it now,” he adds.

He says getting TDs to log in ensures that politicians are at Leinster House – though he says it doesn’t ensure they are working – it at least says they have come to work.

“I don’t think it would be huge imposition to ask them to clock in and tag in to ensure they are on the premises,” he says.

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