This site uses cookies to improve your experience and to provide services and advertising. By continuing to browse, you agree to the use of cookies described in our Cookies Policy. You may change your settings at any time but this may impact on the functionality of the site. To learn more see our Cookies Policy.
OK
Dublin: 8 °C Friday 18 October, 2019
Advertisement

5 serious questions for the government that Dáil 'clarifications' did not clarify

Enda Kenny, Frances Fitzgerald and Katherine Zappone said they were going to clear up any remaining confusion last night. Here’s how that went.

File photo
File photo
Image: Niall Carson/PA Wire

IN RESPONSE TO the growing controversy and scandal surrounding false allegations made against Garda whistleblower Maurice McCabe, the Dáil last night hosted ‘Statements of Clarification on Statements made by Taoiseach and Two Ministers’.

It was intended for Enda Kenny, Frances Fitzgerald and Katherine Zappone to clear up any remaining confusion over what they knew about the unfolding debacle, and when they knew it, and for other TDs to have their questions answered.

However, not everything was clarified. Here are the five most serious and significant questions that the government did not give a proper or sensible explanation for tonight.

1. When did Enda Kenny first hear about the false allegations against Maurice McCabe?

The Taoiseach was asked this question on several occasions last night, without giving a direct or specific answer to all but one of them – something that was not lost on opposition TDs.

Finally, he gave a response to Sinn Fein’s Maurice Quinlivan, claiming that he first became aware of the false allegations against Maurice McCabe, “When I watched the Prime Time programme last Thursday night”.

However, this contradicts the Taoiseach’s own remarks from earlier in the evening, when he confirmed that two days before the Prime Time broadcast, Katherine Zappone had told him that in her meeting with Maurice McCabe in January, she had discussed “false allegations of sexual abuse made against Maurice McCabe to Tusla”.

Furthermore, Labour leader Brendan Howlin had raised those false allegations during a high-profile contribution to Leaders Questions, the day before the Prime Time broadcast.

Another Sinn Féin deputy, Jonathan O’Brien, followed up on these discrepancies, pointing out the fact that Howlin had raised the false allegations before the Prime Time broadcast.

The Taoiseach acknowledged this, even venturing to say “And I responded to Deputy Howlin”, which confirms the obvious – that he had heard the Labour leader’s contribution, which was addressed to the Taoiseach.

And yet, Kenny reiterated at the very end of the Dáil session that the first time he had heard of the false allegations against Maurice McCabe was during the Prime Time broadcast.

It remains to be seen how the Taoiseach can reconcile those seemingly irreconcilable facts.

2. What did Enda Kenny and Katherine Zappone discuss in their conversation before last Tuesday’s cabinet meeting?

In his opening remarks last evening, the Taoiseach stated that, in a meeting with Minister Zappone before last Tuesday’s cabinet meeting, she “did not divulge any of the details” about her meeting, in January, with Maurice McCabe.

I was aware of the meeting between Minister Zappone and Sergeant McCabe, but I was not aware of the details or of the very serious and disturbing issues that arose at the meeting.
…As Minister Zappone has confirmed, she did not divulge any of the details of those very serious issues to me or to anyone else in government, and that was absolutely the correct course of action.

However, this was contradicted by Katherine Zappone, who later told the Dáil that in her meeting with the Taoiseach last Tuesday, she told him that she and Maurice McCabe had discussed “false allegations of sexual abuse made against Maurice McCabe to Tusla”.

Unless the Taoiseach does not regard this as one of the “serious and disturbing issues that arose” at Zappone’s meeting with McCabe, his account of the Tuesday meeting is irreconcilable with Minister Zappone’s account of the Tuesday meeting.

In response to questioning from the AAA-PBP’s Paul Murphy, the Taoiseach reiterated that he “was not aware of any of the details of the discussion that Minister Zappone had with the McCabe family”.

Just seconds later, though, he added: “What Minister Zappone did say to me was that she had met the McCabes, and that they had discussed false allegations of sexual abuse that had been sent to Tusla”.

As you may have observed, this directly contradicts Kenny’s separate claim, made just seconds earlier, that he “was not aware of any of the details of the discussion that Minister Zappone had with the McCabe family”.

This is a contradiction that remains to be reconciled by the Taoiseach.

3. On what basis did Enda Kenny assure Katherine Zappone that allegations against Maurice McCabe would be included in the Commission of Inquiry?

This goes to the heart of the criticism faced by Katherine Zappone, after it emerged last week that, after her meeting with Maurice McCabe in January, she didn’t raise the issue of false allegations being made against him to Tusla, during last Tuesday’s cabinet meeting.

In her opening statement tonight, Katherine Zappone told the Dáil that in her meeting with the Taoiseach, before last Tuesday’s cabinet meeting:

I told him that I had met with the McCabes, that we had discussed false allegations of sexual abuse made against Sergeant McCabe to Tusla. The Taoiseach said this would be covered by the Commission of Investigation. (Emphasis added).

Later on, in response to questioning by Ruth Coppinger, the Taoiseach said:

I had looked at the terms of reference and I was clear in my mind that anything to do with allegations of a sexual nature would be covered by the terms of reference.

When pressed on whether he had indeed given Zappone an assurance that these matters would be included in the Commission of Inquiry, the Taoiseach confirmed this:

Yes, I said these would be covered in the terms of reference because they were false allegations of a sexual nature.

The Taoiseach went on to reiterate that Zappone had not told him “the detail of the discussion she had with the McCabes”.

As shown in the previous section, this claim is incompatible with the Taoiseach’s own description of what Zappone told him about her meeting with Maurice and Lorraine McCabe.

In any event, there is a major question mark over the Taoiseach’s claim that, on the one hand he was not aware of the details of the allegations against McCabe, and his assurance to Katherine Zappone that they would be covered by the terms of reference of the commission.

This is because the terms of reference of what was to be the Charleton Commission of Inquiry related exclusively to the alleged smear campaign against Maurice McCabe.

Therefore, as was pointed out by Today FM political correspondent Gavan Reilly, as well as AAA-PBP TD Mick Barry and Sinn Féin TD Pearse Doherty, it would have been impossible for the Taoiseach to assure Katherine Zappone that the false allegations against McCabe would be covered by the commission, unless he knew that those allegations were related to that alleged smear campaign. 

And that would mean the Taoiseach was aware of greater detail about the false allegations against Maurice McCabe than he admitted tonight in the Dáil.

This is another inconsistency in the Taoiseach’s statements tonight.

4. Did Enda Kenny just make a “mistake” in saying he spoke to Katherine Zappone before her meeting with Maurice McCabe?

The Taoiseach had what he called a “mea culpa” in the Dáil at Leaders Questions, earlier today.

He admitted that, in an interview with RTE Radio One’s This Week on Sunday, he was “guilty of not giving accurate information” about a conversation he had supposedly had with Katherine Zappone, before her meeting with Maurice McCabe.

That conversation did not, in fact, take place.

During This Week on Sunday, host Colm O’Mongáin asked the Taoiseach: “What did Katherine Zappone tell you, and what did her officials tell your officials?”

The Taoiseach replied:

Minister Zappone is doing a very good job, did tell me that she intended to meet Sergeant McCabe in a private capacity, and that’s all I knew. I said to her: ‘If you do have a meeting, make sure you have a thorough account of it.’

It’s noteworthy here than O’Mongáin, in his question, referred to ‘what her officials told your officials’.

Given that it was, in fact, Zappone’s officials who notified Kenny’s officials in advance of the meeting, this would appear to have been a perfect cue for the Taoiseach to accurately describe what had happened.

But he did not do that.

And during tonight’s Dáil session, Kenny stated:

In referring to this last Sunday, I mistakenly said that I had spoken to Minister Zappone before her meeting with Sergeant McCabe. That comment was inaccurate.
The correct sequence was that I was informed through officials in my office that the Minister intended to meet Sergeant McCabe, and last Tuesday she informed me that she had met Sergeant McCabe.

There is a serious question mark over the plausibility of Kenny’s claim that he was simply “mistaken” in his description of a conversation with Katherine Zappone, which he now admits never took place. There are specific, objective reasons for this.

Firstly, on Sunday he recounted specifically a personal, one-one-one conversation with Zappone before her meeting with McCabe, saying “I told her”.

Secondly, he recounted his (supposed) exact words to her, in a conversation which he now admits never took place, claiming he advised her: “If you do have a meeting, make sure you have a thorough account of it.”

As Labour leader Brendan Howlin put it, later in tonight’s session, “I can’t understand how you would have such flawed recollections of such significant meetings.”

The Taoiseach’s characterisation this evening, echoed by his Fine Gael colleague Bernard Durkan on tonight’s RTE Radio One Late Debate, that he simply did not have “the correct sequence” of events, is also implausible.

The implication here is that Kenny was, on Sunday, recalling the conversation he had with Zappone last Tuesday, but accidentally dating it to before her meeting with McCabe in January.

But remember what he recalled saying to her: “If you do have a meeting, make sure you have a thorough account of it.”

It is implausible in the extreme for the Taoiseach to have said this (advice about a potential, future meeting), during a conversation about a meeting, after it had already happened.

Kenny did not inaccurately recall what he said in a conversation with Katherine Zappone in January, nor did he mistakenly recall comments made to a third party as having been made to Zappone.

And he did not simply get the date of the conversation wrong.

He volunteered details, down to the exact wording of what he supposedly said to his Children’s Minister, in a conversation that never took place.

Unless they’re met with a sensible, logical and comprehensive explanation, these facts will continue to damage the Taoiseach’s credibility.

5. When did Frances Fitzgerald first learn that Tusla was involved in the Maurice McCabe case?

It is agreed by both Frances Fitzgerald and Fianna Fail Justice spokesperson Jim O’Callaghan that the two met in Leinster House on Wednesday evening.

They also agree that O’Callaghan notified the Tánaiste about a Prime Time documentary about the alleged smear campaign against Maurice McCabe, to be broadcast the following night.

They also agree that O’Callaghan wanted the Tánaiste to expand the Terms of Reference of what was then a Commission of Inquiry, to take into account what was to be included in the documentary.

However, the two disagree on whether O’Callaghan told Fitzgerald that the documentary involved Tusla, specifically.

Fitzgerald said tonight:

At no time did Deputy O’Callaghan mention Tusla, and if he had mentioned it, or if he had said to me he wanted a particular reference in relation to Tusla, I would have included it.
It would have been to my advantage to include it, if I had been told about it and if he had made it clear to me that Tusla, because Prime Time were covering it, should be included, I would have absolutely included it.

O’Callaghan responded:

I disagree with you – I referred to Tusla in our conversation…

So there is a direct and significant contradiction there between the Justice Minister and her opposite number in Fianna Fáil – one which is unlikely to be resolved independently.

Later in this evening’s Dáil session, the Tánaiste was asked when she first became aware that Tusla was involved in the Maurice McCabe case, first by Labour leader Brendan Howlin.

As I have said consistently, the facts as they emerged on the [Prime Time] programme in relation to false allegations – the first time that I heard of those details was when I went home and I saw the Prime Time programme.
I had never been briefed on a Tusla file, I did not know whether there was any Garda involvement, for example, with Tusla, in relation to Maurice McCabe.
I never knew there was a councillor involved, I never knew about the set of false allegations that had been made from the councillor to Tusla – I had no information on those facts, as they emerged on the Prime Time programme.

What’s notable about this is that the Tánaiste did not say that she was unaware of any Tusla involvement in the Maurice McCabe case, before the Prime Time broadcast, but rather that she was unaware of specific details contained within the programme.

However, O’Callagan also asked if it was credible that a justice minister would agree to amend the terms of reference of a Commission of Investigation based on a television programme but wouldn’t even ask what that programme was about?

Read: Enda Kenny takes a number of different positions on Zappone conversation

Explainer: What exactly is a Tribunal of Inquiry?

As it happened: There will be a Tribunal into alleged smear campaign against Maurice McCabe

  • Share on Facebook
  • Email this article
  •  

About the author:

TheJournal.ie Team

Read next:

COMMENTS (48)