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Clarification of Statements made by the Taoiseach and Ministers: Statements (Resumed) (Continued)

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 938 No. 3

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  8 o’clock

(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Alan Kelly: Information on Alan Kelly Zoom on Alan Kelly] Among 13 letters he sent to the Minister for Justice and Equality, the last three of which she has not even replied to, was a letter dated 21 October in which he outlined his issues regarding Tusla. Did an alarm bell not go off for the Minister when, on 25 January, the Minister, Deputy Zappone, came to her and said that she was meeting Sergeant McCabe that there was more than one case in relation to Tusla and whistleblowers? Finally-----

Acting Chairman (Deputy Jim Daly): Information on Jim Daly Zoom on Jim Daly Very briefly, Deputy.

Deputy Alan Kelly: Information on Alan Kelly Zoom on Alan Kelly -----would the Taoiseach and the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs - I am sorry now for breaking a bit of protocol - and also the leader of Fianna Fáil and its justice spokesperson be willing to meet Garda Harrison's representatives in the next 24 hours before the terms of reference are closed off in order to ensure that we get the proper terms of reference to what is an incredible situation?

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar I do not think that nominating a date for having heard allegations or rumours or hearsay or innuendo would do anything to deal with the central question: Was there or was there not a systematic campaign to smear Sergeant Maurice McCabe and his family? That is why Mr. Justice O'Neill examined two protected disclosures; why the Cabinet, at the time, decided there should be a commission of investigation; why Mr. Justice O'Neill set out his terms of reference as he did, which covered issues within those protected disclosures, including criminality; and why the Cabinet this morning decided to move beyond that and to have a full scale public inquiry under the Tribunals of Inquiry (Evidence) Act 1921. It is because one could not conduct any inquiry without the participation of the McCabe family. We should be discussing what should go into those terms of reference. They should be comprehensive and fair so that they work effectively in the interests of answering that question, which is whether there was a definitive smearing campaign by senior gardaí against Sergeant McCabe. That is what is at stake here.

Deputy Frances Fitzgerald: Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald I have never commented on other disclosures that I have received and I believe it is incumbent on me not to do so. In fact, I have only given details in respect of the protected disclosures that are relevant to the setting up of the commission. I have only commented on those in so far as I needed to do so to establish the commission. I want to make the point to Deputy Kelly that I do not investigate protected disclosures.

Deputy Alan Kelly: Information on Alan Kelly Zoom on Alan Kelly I did not ask that of the Minister.

Deputy Frances Fitzgerald: Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald We have a process to investigate protected disclosures. Every Department receives protected disclosures and there are clear ways of dealing with them. When I get a protected disclosure from a member of An Garda Síochána, and there have been a number of them, GSOC is the body that has been appointed to investigate-----

Deputy Alan Kelly: Information on Alan Kelly Zoom on Alan Kelly Does the Minister not see the similarities?

Deputy Frances Fitzgerald: Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald We spend a lot of time in this House talking about setting up-----

Deputy Alan Kelly: Information on Alan Kelly Zoom on Alan Kelly Does the Minister not see the similarities between-----

Acting Chairman (Deputy Jim Daly): Information on Jim Daly Zoom on Jim Daly I will move on, Deputy.

Deputy Alan Kelly: Information on Alan Kelly Zoom on Alan Kelly I did not ask the Minister-----

Acting Chairman (Deputy Jim Daly): Information on Jim Daly Zoom on Jim Daly I will move on from the Deputy's question. That is it.

Deputy Frances Fitzgerald: Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald We spend a lot of time in this House talking about setting up independent procedures to remove policing from this House. We give these protected disclosures to GSOC so that they can be independently assessed. That is what I did with the information I received.

Deputy Alan Kelly: Information on Alan Kelly Zoom on Alan Kelly I asked-----

Acting Chairman (Deputy Jim Daly): Information on Jim Daly Zoom on Jim Daly The Minister, Deputy Zappone, wanted to come in.

Deputy Katherine Zappone: Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone I wanted to respond to Deputy Rabbitte.

Deputy Alan Kelly: Information on Alan Kelly Zoom on Alan Kelly I asked the Taoiseach and the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if they would meet Garda Harrison in the next 24 hours.

Acting Chairman (Deputy Jim Daly): Information on Jim Daly Zoom on Jim Daly I am aware of that. Will the Minister, Deputy Zappone, respond to Deputy Rabbitte and I will then deal with-----

Deputy Katherine Zappone: Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone On the question about an apology, we asked Tusla to issue an apology after our meeting and were examining the most appropriate way to do it and we did see it before it was issued. If I may, I will take this moment to correct myself again so as to not mislead the Dáil. Deputy O'Brien asked about my communication with the Tánaiste and whether I told her what the meeting was about. I did not tell her what the meeting was about. There were a couple of phone calls between my office and the McCabes. There was some information available. When I said that there was no information, I was thinking "not full information". I think his question was whether I shared that at all with the Tánaiste. I did not.

Acting Chairman (Deputy Jim Daly): Information on Jim Daly Zoom on Jim Daly Does the Taoiseach or the Minister for Justice and Equality want to respond to the question on the invitation to meet-----

Deputy Alan Kelly: Information on Alan Kelly Zoom on Alan Kelly It was the Taoiseach and the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs. Garda Harrison does not want to meet the Minister for Justice and Equality. Will the Taoiseach and the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs meet Garda Harrison in the next 24 hours. It is a simple "yes" or "no" answer.

Deputy Katherine Zappone: Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone In relation to the protected disclosure?

Acting Chairman (Deputy Jim Daly): Information on Jim Daly Zoom on Jim Daly Does the Taoiseach want to answer that question? Very briefly, please.

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar The priority here is that the Government-----

Deputy Alan Kelly: Information on Alan Kelly Zoom on Alan Kelly Is that a "no"?

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar -----that is, the Cabinet, has made a decision which I understand the House accepts in principle and which is that we should have a commission of inquiry. It is important because of this sensitive matter that the commission of inquiry be set up as quickly as possible and allowed to do its work.

Deputy Alan Kelly: Information on Alan Kelly Zoom on Alan Kelly That is a "no".

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar Therefore, we have agreed, I understand, that the spokespersons on justice for the different parties will get together with the Minister for Justice and Equality to draft these terms of reference and nominate a chairperson to conduct the proceedings and determine the question that needs to be answered. The answer to that question is in everyone's interest.

Deputy Alan Kelly: Information on Alan Kelly Zoom on Alan Kelly The Minister for Children and Youth Affairs has to answer the question.

Acting Chairman (Deputy Jim Daly): Information on Jim Daly Zoom on Jim Daly One second. Relax, Deputy. I think the Taoiseach has addressed the issue.

Deputy Alan Kelly: Information on Alan Kelly Zoom on Alan Kelly The Minister for Children and Youth Affairs has to answer the question as well.

Acting Chairman (Deputy Jim Daly): Information on Jim Daly Zoom on Jim Daly Excuse me, Deputy. I am not responsible for the responses they give. The question was asked and a response was given.

Deputy Alan Kelly: Information on Alan Kelly Zoom on Alan Kelly I asked the question of the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs.

Acting Chairman (Deputy Jim Daly): Information on Jim Daly Zoom on Jim Daly Also, it is somewhat-----

Deputy Alan Kelly: Information on Alan Kelly Zoom on Alan Kelly It would take five seconds. It would be over by now.

Acting Chairman (Deputy Jim Daly): Information on Jim Daly Zoom on Jim Daly It is somewhat outside of what we are discussing.

Deputy Alan Kelly: Information on Alan Kelly Zoom on Alan Kelly It is a "yes" or "no" answer.

Acting Chairman (Deputy Jim Daly): Information on Jim Daly Zoom on Jim Daly Does the Minister want to give an answer to it?

Deputy Katherine Zappone: Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone To meet them about what?

Deputy Alan Kelly: Information on Alan Kelly Zoom on Alan Kelly About the letter he wrote to the Minister three days ago.

Deputy Katherine Zappone: Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone In which he indicated a series of questions on which he was looking for a response.

Deputy Alan Kelly: Information on Alan Kelly Zoom on Alan Kelly Yes, before the terms of reference are closed off.

Deputy Katherine Zappone: Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone My understanding, from what the Tánaiste has said, is that is in reference to a protected disclosure.

Deputy Pearse Doherty: Information on Pearse Doherty Zoom on Pearse Doherty No.

Acting Chairman (Deputy Jim Daly): Information on Jim Daly Zoom on Jim Daly We are straying into an area. I am going to leave it there.

Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett Tusla and a false claim of sexual-----

(Interruptions).

Acting Chairman (Deputy Jim Daly): Information on Jim Daly Zoom on Jim Daly Shouting will not change anything.

Deputy Katherine Zappone: Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone I will consider it.

Acting Chairman (Deputy Jim Daly): Information on Jim Daly Zoom on Jim Daly I thank the Minister.

Deputy Alan Kelly: Information on Alan Kelly Zoom on Alan Kelly That is not an answer.

Acting Chairman (Deputy Jim Daly): Information on Jim Daly Zoom on Jim Daly I am moving on. I call Deputy Ó Caoláin.

Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin Would the Taoiseach not accept that it is critically important that we establish when he first became aware of the smear of sexual activity with children involved in relation to Garda Sergeant McCabe? It is important we establish how the Taoiseach acted on receipt of that information. Dismissing it as rumour or whatever it might be does not inform us as to how the Taoiseach acted. The only way we can establish if the Taoiseach acted appropriately is if he tells us when he first became aware of it. The fact of the matter is that we can only conclude that the Taoiseach bought into the smear and did nothing if he does not share that information. It is critically important that the Taoiseach informs this House. In relation to the reference to a "private capacity", what does the Taoiseach mean by "private capacity" in the context of everything to do with Garda Sergeant McCabe? I ask this of the Minister, Deputy Zappone, too. There can be no question that Garda Sergeant Maurice McCabe and his wife were meeting the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs in a private capacity.

Deputy Charles Flanagan: Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan It was a private meeting.

Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin They were meeting the Minister because she is the Minister with responsibility for children and youth affairs. There is no two ways or pick a cap. She is either the Minister or she is not. I want that cleared up. I want the Minister to clarify in what capacity she met Garda Sergeant Maurice McCabe and his wife.

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar I can help the Deputy. The Minister met privately with the McCabes but she had personnel with her from her Department.

Deputy Mary Lou McDonald: Information on Mary Lou McDonald Zoom on Mary Lou McDonald What does that mean?

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar Hold on. The Secretary General of the Department-----

Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin She was meeting as the Minister-----

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher The Taoiseach without interruption, please.

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar The Minister, who is doing a very good job by the way, was quite entitled to meet privately with Sergeant McCabe and his wife and to have a note taker there to have an account of the meeting.

Deputy Róisín Shortall: Information on Róisín Shortall Zoom on Róisín Shortall That was not a private meeting.

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar The Secretary General of the Department of Children and Youth Affairs sent a copy of the note taken at the meeting to the Secretary General of my Department.

Deputy Róisín Shortall: Information on Róisín Shortall Zoom on Róisín Shortall Then it is not a private meeting.

Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin How can that be in a private capacity?

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar In respect of knowing-----

Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin That is total nonsense.

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar It is a little bit far fetched for Deputy Ó Caoláin-----

Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin That is nonsense.

Deputy Louise O'Reilly: Information on Louise O'Reilly Zoom on Louise O'Reilly The Taoiseach should stop trying to deflect.

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar It is a little bit far fetched for Deputy Ó Caoláin to accuse me or anyone else over here of buying into a smear campaign against Sergeant McCabe.

Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin Will the Taoiseach tell us when he first became aware of that smear against Garda Sergeant McCabe?

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar I became aware of it the same as most of the rest of the nation, which was after the "Prime Time" programme. For Deputy Ó Caoláin to suggest that someone deliberately bought into a smear campaign is certainly not the way Deputy Ó Caoláin normally conducts his business.

Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin The Taoiseach has to clarify when he became aware for us to be able to establish whether he acted appropriately or not.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher Le do thoil, a Theachta. Ní féidir leat leanúint ar aghaidh. Glaoim ar an Teachta Pearse Doherty.

Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin He has to do that.

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar It was after the "Prime Time" programme.

Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin That does not appear to be the case.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher Bomaite amháin, a Theachta.

Deputy Pearse Doherty: Information on Pearse Doherty Zoom on Pearse Doherty I have three questions, one of which is for the Taoiseach. Obviously, the Taoiseach is not aware of what is in the protected disclosures from Superintendent David Taylor. He stated that there are allegations of criminality. We know that from the terms of reference, but the Taoiseach stated that they were of a sexual abuse nature. Perhaps the Taoiseach should clarify it. Is he aware that is what the protected disclosures included?


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