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 Header Item Business of Dáil (Continued)
 Header Item Clarification of Statements made by the Taoiseach and Ministers: Statements

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 938 No. 3

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  6 o’clock

Clarification of Statements made by the Taoiseach and Ministers: Statements

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar The sole objective of the Government in regard to the shocking allegations that are now in the public domain has been and remains getting the full truth for all of those involved. These allegations are extremely grave. At their heart is the suggestion that there was a deliberate smear campaign against Sergeant Maurice McCabe based on false claims of sexual abuse and that that campaign was orchestrated by senior Garda management.

Sexual abuse is probably the worst crime a person could be wrongly accused of. The suggestion that false allegations could be spread to undermine the credibility of a serving member of the Garda force is truly shocking. It should be noted that the Garda Commissioner has emphatically denied these allegations. We owe it to Sergeant McCabe and his family, and to all others about whom allegations have been made, to ensure that the truth of all of these matters is definitively established. This objective has been central to the Government's approach to these issues.

When two protected disclosures were made to the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality in October 2016, she referred them within four days to Mr. Justice Iarfhlaith O'Neill for examination and assessment. Following a thorough analysis of the protected disclosures Mr. Justice O'Neill reported back to the Tánaiste and recommended that Government establish a commission of investigation to determine the truth. Last week, the Government accepted this recommendation and published Mr. Justice O'Neill's draft terms of reference in full and without any changes. The Government also announced the nomination of the eminent serving Supreme Court Judge, Mr. Peter Charleton, as head of the commission.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher Is a copy of the Taoiseach's statement available for circulation?

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar I will have a copy circulated.

Deputy Mary Lou McDonald: Information on Mary Lou McDonald Zoom on Mary Lou McDonald Will each of the Ministers also circulate a copy of their statements?

Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald Yes, they will be circulated.

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar Some in the House have suggested that the Government tried to constrain the work of the commission. I utterly reject that assertion. Not only did it accept Mr. Justice O'Neill's draft terms of reference in full but the Tánaiste agreed to accept some amendments from Opposition parties and to consider others. It has now emerged that Sergeant McCabe has indicated that he is not happy to participate in a commission of investigation because of the private nature of its proceedings. This would make it difficult for a commission to establish all of the facts. In that context, the Government decided this morning to have these matters investigated by a tribunal of inquiry under the 1921 Act. The Tánaiste is drawing up the terms of reference for this tribunal and will be in contact with Opposition spokespersons on justice in that regard. It is essential that these terms of reference are fair to and respect the rights of all those involved in these matters.

I want again to refer to the important work being undertaken by the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs. As Minister with responsibility for Tusla, Deputy Zappone engaged with Maurice McCabe about very sensitive and personal matters. She quite rightly respected his right to privacy and confidentiality in relation to those matters. As I have said previously, I was aware of the meeting between the Minister, Deputy Zappone, and Sergeant McCabe but I was not aware of the details of, or the very serious and disturbing issues that arose at the meeting. In referring to this last Sunday I mistakenly said that I had spoken to the Minister, Deputy Zappone, prior to her meeting with Sergeant McCabe. That comment was inaccurate. The correct sequence is 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. However, as confirmed by the Minister, Deputy Zappone, she did not divulge any of the details of those very serious issues to me or to anyone else in government, which was the correct course of action.

I remind the House that this Government, like the previous Government, has a strong track record on justice reform in terms of the changes in structure, the analysis being carried out by Ms Justice Mary Ellen Ring in regard to the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission, GSOC, the putting in place of the first ever independent policing authority since the foundation of the State, an independent police inspectorate and protection in legislation for whistleblowers.


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