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'It's not enough to say she can't remember': Frances Fitzgerald under pressure in McCabe email row

Tánaiste and former Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald has come under fire over how much she knew.

Former Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald.
Former Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald.
Image: Sam Boal/RollingNews.ie

OPPOSITION POLITICIANS HAVE called for the former Justice Minister to give greater clarity over what she knew about a strategy to attack the credibility of a garda whistleblower.

Tánaiste and former Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald has come under fire after it was revealed that she received an email in May 2015.

The email concerned a row that had developed between the legal team for the then-Garda Commissioner Nórirín O’Sullivan and lawyers for garda whistleblower Maurice McCabe during the O’Higgins Commission of Investigation.

Speaking in the Dáil last night, Fitzgerald said the Department of Justice informed her last Thursday that the email had been located that was sent to her about the subject in May 2015. She said she did not remember the email when it was brought up last week.

original (2) The email in question. Source: TheJournal.ie

The email mentions an allegation that “a serious criminal complaint against Maurice McCabe – which he had always denied – had not been properly investigated by the Garda Siochána”.

Its relevance comes after it was revealed by RTÉ last year that former Commissioner  O’Sullivan’s legal team had been instructed to “challenge the motivation and credibility of Sergeant McCabe” during the O’Higgins Commission.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar told the Dáil last week that Fitzgerald was not aware of this until “after the fact, around the time it entered the public domain”.

Clarification 

Speaking yesterday, Fitzgerald said she likely did not remember the email as it said she did not need to take action.

“I can only assume that I did read it but I did not remember it when I spoke to the Taoiseach,” she said.

Speaking today on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, Social Democrats TD Roisin Shortall said that greater clarity was needed over how much Fitzgerald had known and why she had taken no action.

“It is unbelievable that the minister – if she had read that – would not have taken some action,” said Shortall.

Clearly alarm bells should have started ringing.

Shortall said that the email sent to Fitzgerald showed for the first time that former Commissioner O’Sullivan had attempted to use disproved allegations against McCabe to undermine his credibility.

“The question is what if anything did Frances Fitzgerald do about the information she received in 2015,” she said.

McCabe has disputed that the issue Fitzgerald was alerted about in the email was not discussed at the O’Higgins Commission.

Shortall said Fitzgerald needed to provide greater clarity over what she knew and why she didn’t remember seeing the email.

“It’s not enough to say ‘I can’t remember’,” said Shortall.

“She either did read it and didn’t respond appropriately, or there is something seriously wrong in the department, where the email and the important information in it wasn’t brought to her attention.

And we need to know which of these things it is. And we also need to know why it is that there is a contradiction between what is contained in that email and what Maurice McCabe is actually saying to the Taoiseach.

With reporting from Daragh Brophy and Orla Ryan

Read: Frances Fitzgerald sends TDs email at centre of Maurice McCabe row

Read: Government insists it had no ‘hand, act or part’ in McCabe legal strategy as questions mount 

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Cormac Fitzgerald

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