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Kenny doesn't rule out external probe into Garda whistleblower smear row

The Taoiseach has said he would not rule out a future external criminal probe into the Garda whistleblower smear campaign controversy.

Enda Kenny said if allegations of criminal conduct emerged during the forthcoming Commission of Investigation then police officers from outside the jurisdiction may be required to examine what went on.

An inquiry led by Judge Peter Charleton is to examine claims senior gardai peddled false rumours of child sex abuse against whistleblower Sergeant Maurice McCabe in order to blacken his name among journalists and politicians.

The long-running furore took a dramatic twist last week when it emerged an "administrative error" resulted in a file circulated by Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, documenting a complaint against Mr McCabe based on an entirely false statement that he had been accused of child rape.

Over the time that false sexual allegation was on record, Mr McCabe was at the centre of exposing routine abuse of the Garda penalty point system.

Mr Kenny said: "In order to have a criminal investigation you have to have evidence of criminality and that may well happen, as is the case in any commission of investigation.

"When it's completed, or during the course of its work under way, there may be High Court injunctions or there may well be criminal investigations to follow that, so I wouldn't rule it out."

He told RTE's This Week that any criminal investigation could run "in parallel" with the commission but he said the police probe would "probably take precedence".

The Taoiseach's comments came as the McCabe family rejected an apology issued by Ireland's Health Service Executive (HSE) for its role in the false rape claim episode.

The McCabes questioned the HSE assertion that correct procedures had been followed once the error had been identified and also said the apology had not been made in private to them before a media statement was issued on Saturday.

The contention over the HSE apology came after Tusla's official apology to the McCabes was delivered to the wrong house.

Meanwhile, Government ministers continue to face calls to explain who knew what about the botched Tusla report before the terms of inquiry for the commission were agreed around the Cabinet table.

The Tusla revelations were made public subsequent to that Cabinet meeting - in an RTE Prime Time investigation on Thursday night.

Children's Minister Katherine Zappone met Mr McCabe in January to discuss the issue, but Mr Kenny and Tanaiste and Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald have claimed they neither sought or were told what was discussed.

The Taoiseach said he did not enquire because Ms Zappone was meeting the officer in a "private capacity".

Mrs Fitzgerald told RTE's The Week In Politics she was "stunned" by what emerged on Prime Time and said it was all "new to her".

Explaining why she had not asked the independent Children's Minister for details of her discussions with Mr McCabe, she said: "I was respecting the integrity of her meeting with him, I was respecting it fully.

"There is no conspiracy theory here of me taking certain actions in order to avoid certain things."

Sinn Fein is to table a motion of no confidence in the Government in the Dail this week. Mrs Fitzgerald branded the move "opportunistic".

Sinn Fein's call for an early election has been rejected by other opposition parties Fianna Fail and Labour.

The erroneous sex crime allegations were ultimately used as a slur against Mr McCabe by at least one senior garda.

Under-pressure Garda Commissioner Noirin O'Sullivan has vehemently denied spreading the rumours or having any knowledge of the smear campaign.

Mr Kenny said the central issue the commission had to discover was whether there was "systematic scheming" to blacken Mr McCabe's name.

"The central issue here is was there a programme of systematic doing down of Sergeant McCabe based on erroneous sexual allegations and rumours by senior police officers and that's the central and core issue," he said.

"It is about the truth and I hope that we can find that in the shortest possible time and provide justice and understanding for the people of the country that they can trust the system."

Mr McCabe is not the only officer to come forward to make claims about malpractice within the Garda. However, Mr Kenny said he would not recommend including other whistleblower allegations in Judge Charleton's specific probe, insisting any further widening of the investigation would only delay the process of getting answers around the smear claims.

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