Govt pact over as Fianna Fail say no confidence in Minister


The latest embarrassing revelation of attempts to silence a police corruption whistleblower has escalated dramatically tonight with apparent confirmation that a deal underpinning the minority 26 County government is at an end.

This week it emerged that the Fine Gael Tanaiste [Deputy Prime Minister] Frances Fitzgerald (pictured) was aware of a key element of the attempted cover-up at least one year before she and her party previously admitted to knowledge of it. Sinn Fein called for Fitzgerald’s resignation and put down a motion of no confidence in the Dublin parliament, set to be debated on Wednesday.

Fine Gael insisted the matter should not be discussed as it is to be investigated by a tribunal of inquiry

Fianna Fail, which supports the Fine Gael minority government, has now agreed to put down its own no confidence motion in the Minister for Enterprise for Tuesday, and has therefore ended the pact agreed after last year’s general election under which it vowed to support the government in such situations.

The scandal has already claimed the careers of former Fine Gael Minister for Justice Alan Shatter, two former Garda Commissioners, Martin Callinan and Noirin O'Sullivan, as well as a number of other senior officials.

Tonight, the Taoiseach [Prime Minister] Leo Varadkar led a strong defence of Fitzgerald at an emergency Fine Gael meeting tonight at the Dublin parliament, and appeared ready for an election.

The meeting voted unanimously to support the Tanaiste. A party official said earlier Fitzgerald had “acted honourably at all times. We will not be throwing our colleague to the wolves and allowing Sinn Fein to subject her to yet another kangaroo court.”

The decision by Mr Varadkar to not remove Ms Fitzgerald means Fianna Fail is certain to publish its own no confidence motion on Friday morning, and this was unofficially confirmed to journalists on Thursday night. The move should precipitate the end the current minority government and could see a general election around Christmas or in the New Year.

Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy told Irish state television that if Fianna Fail collapsed the confidence and supply agreement, that the government would be forced into a general election without the public understanding why.

Asked when there might be an election and if it could be delayed, the minister said there was outstanding work that the government wanted to get done.

“We are going to stand behind the Tanaiste because she acted appropriately and done nothing wrong,” added Mr Murphy.

However, the government has refused to discuss why Ms Fitzgerald (then Minister for Justice) apparently covered up a controversial email dating from 2015 that revealed a Garda management strategy to discredit whistleblower Sgt Maurice McCabe, who revealed corrupt police practices.

The Fianna Fail spokesperson on Justice and Equality Jim O’Callaghan said that his party leader Micheal Martin and Mr Varadkar spoke on Wednesday and it was made clear that Fianna Fail no longer had confidence in the Tanaiste.

He said that the ‘Confidence and Supply’ agreement to support the Fine Gael government had been undermined by the events of the past week, which showed Ms Fitzgerald was aware of a campaign to discredit Garda whistleblower Sgt Maurice McCabe at the O’Higgins commission, which examined claims of Garda malpractice.

Fitzgerald was the minister for justice when the tribunal questioned Sgt McCabe about his claims, and it emerged she received an receiving an email on May 15th, 2015 advising her of the legal strategy being pursued by the Garda legal team at the commission of inquiry to raise a “serious criminal” complaint against Sgt McCabe during the inquiry. This was a devastating smear that he sexually abused his own children, which has since been retracted and an apology issued.

There were heated exchanges in the Dail earlier this week as the Tanaiste passionately defended her response to the matter. Sinn Fein deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald warned her it was “time for you to go”.

She told Ms Fitzgerald that: “you may think Tanaiste that you’ll ride out this storm, you’ll weather it -- you won’t.”

Speaking tonight, Sinn Fein’s Donnchadh O’Laoghaire said the Taoiseach could just sack Minister Fitzgerald.

“We’re not trying to precipitate a General Election and this can be avoided. This can be avoided if the Tanaiste does the right thing, or if the Government intervenes itself,” he said.

“Sinn Fein is ready for a General Election, we have always been ready for a General Election due to the nature of this Dail. The make-up of it requires that we are always prepared and we are not fearful of a General Election. We’re merely trying to enforce political accountability,” he said.

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