Belfast Telegraph

Frances Fitzgerald denies Garda whistleblower knowledge

Tanaiste Frances Fitzgerald has denied having any prior knowledge about a legal strategy to discredit a Garda whistleblower.

The former justice minister made a statement in the Dail on Tuesday night after coming under political pressure to reveal how much she knew about the tactics used by lawyers acting for former Garda commissioner Noirin O Sullivan against Sergeant Maurice McCabe.

Ms Fitzgerald admitted she had received an email in May 2015 about a disagreement between An Garda lawyers and legal representatives for Sergeant McCabe.

She said she was only reminded about the email by her department last Thursday.

Ms Fitzgerald said what was reported to her in the email was a "serious criminal complaint against Sergeant McCabe, which he has always denied, had not been properly investigated" by An Garda.

She insisted however she only became aware of an alleged smear campaign by gardai against Sergeant McCabe when it became public knowledge in May 2016.

Ms Fitzgerald said: "Neither I nor the Department of Justice had any hand, act or part in the legal strategy of the former commissioner. I am very clear that I did not have a role in that."

She added that as minister for justice she strongly encouraged Garda management "put in place comprehensive procedures for whistleblowers" and "at all times sought to support and protect whistleblowers".

"My record speaks for itself and my commitment to deal with these issues in a comprehensive, committed and fair manner," she added.

"I pay tribute to the work Sergeant Maurice McCabe has done."

Ms Fitzgerald said Taoiseach Leo Varadkar had spoken to Sergeant McCabe on Tuesday evening to discuss issues within the email.

Earlier on Tuesday Mr Varadkar told the Dail he had not seen the email until 11.30pm on Monday night.

He also paid tribute to Sergeant McCabe as "one of the bravest people I have ever encountered in public life".

"He is somebody who I think has been very much wronged by the state on a number of occasions because of his bravery and his willingness to shine a light in dark places," the Taoiseach added.

Last year it emerged the legal team appointed by the former Garda commissioner was instructed to question Sergeant McCabe's motivation and credibility at the O'Higgins Commission, which was set up in February 2015 to examine allegations of Garda malpractice.

The strategy pursued against Sergeant McCabe is being examined by the disclosures tribunal, chaired by Mr Justice Peter Charleton.

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