Republic of Ireland news

Frances Fitzgerald was advised on line to take over whistleblower

Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald is facing calls to resign over a whistleblower scandal. Picture by Brian Lawless, Press Association
By Press Association reporters

THE Republic's former Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald was emailed about an "aggressive stance" towards a police whistleblower at the centre of an Irish Government crisis, records have revealed.

She received lines to take in public on Sergeant Maurice McCabe, who was taking part in a judicial investigation into policing in the Irish midlands, it emerged last night.

The future of Ms Fitzgerald's ministerial career hangs in the balance as critics are pressing for her resignation over her handling of the 2015 email that revealed attempts to discredit the Garda whistleblower.

She has said she cannot recall the contents of the message.

Sinn Féin and Fianna Fáil are due to debate no confidence motions in Ms Fitzgerald today as the future of the minority Fine Gael government looks doubtful.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar held the latest round of talks with Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin last night in a bid to hold off a snap election before Christmas.

Fianna Fáil, which has been propping up the minority government, has called for Ms Fitzgerald to resign over the affair.

A 2015 email from one of Ms Fitzgerald's officials said: "The Garda Commissioner phoned me to let me know they had received queries from (RTÉ journalist) Colm Ó Mongáin about Sgt McCabe.

"They were asked was it the case that Sgt McCabe was looking to be taken out of the traffic unit in Mullingar and was it the Garda Commissioner who had instructed counsel to adopt an aggressive stance towards Sgt McCabe at the O'Higgins Commission.

"The Gardaí are not commenting."

According to emails released by the justice department last night, an official emailed then Ms Fitzgerald on lines to take if Sgt Maurice McCabe was raised with her.

The official continued: "I understand that some weeks ago Sgt McCabe indicated to his authorities in Mullingar that he no longer wanted to stay in his post in the traffic unit.

"Apparently he blamed the Commissioner for this though he said he could not be more specific as he was bound by confidentiality."

This coincided with hearings at the O'Higgins Commission which investigated policing in the Irish midlands.

The email added: "Sgt McCabe remains in his post at the Traffic Unit, though in practice his time recently has been taken up giving evidence to the Commission."

A department of justice civil servant wrote that the minister had "noted" an email surrounding the matter which has already been released by the Tánaiste.

Mr Varadkar said he was working with Fianna Fáil to try and find a way forward without triggering an election.

"We are trying to find a middle way that allows the Government to continue and continue with the important work we are doing, particularly with Brexit and ensuring that we have necessary legislation through," he said.

"We are doing everything we can."

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