Justice Issues: Statements

This business, which was proposed by the Business Committee and adopted by the House, is the statement by the Tánaiste on justice issues. The Tánaiste will have ten minutes for an opening statement. Each of the groups will then have six minutes in total, three for a spokesperson and three for the Tánaiste, who will take one minute each at a time. I will be strict on that.

Let us set down the guidelines, which I referred to earlier today. Questioning as to the level of knowledge that the Minister was given by her Department, what she told the Taoiseach she knew and when she knew it is not technically sub judice, so it does not fall within the terms of reference of the tribunal because it does not involve communications between the Minister and the then Commissioner. However, I cannot allow questions regarding communications involving the Commissioner, as these are covered by the tribunal's terms of reference and would be sub judice. I am sure that this is quite clear to all.

I call the Tánaiste, who has ten minutes.

I welcome this opportunity to put on the record of the House certain matters that have been raised in the Chamber and in the media in recent days. I am circulating separately the email that has been the subject of discussion. My objective is to put as much information as I can into the public domain while respecting the work of the Charleton tribunal.

For the benefit of all Members of the House, I again wish to put on record that there is a tribunal of inquiry, chaired by Mr. Justice Charleton, that is continuing to carry out its work. It is a judicial body, with wide terms of reference agreed by this House after thorough consultation by me, and its work should be respected.

Standing Order 59(3) of this House states, "a matter shall not be raised in such an overt manner so that it appears to be an attempt by the Dáil to encroach on the functions of the Courts or a Judicial Tribunal". I would ask Members of the House to consider the tribunal’s current work and its wide terms of reference before coming to conclusions. All of us must be circumspect when commenting on matters before a tribunal and, as parliamentarians, we want to be responsible in making public comment on matters covered by a sitting tribunal.

The terms of reference clearly mandate the tribunal to consider a wide range of questions, including the then Commissioner’s legal strategy. Among its 16 separate terms of reference are to investigate contacts between members of An Garda Síochána and the media and broadcasting personnel, members of the Government, Tusla, the HSE, any other State entity or any relevant person as the sole member may deem necessary to carry out his work relevant to the matters set out, and to investigate whether the false allegations of sexual abuse or any other unjustified grounds were inappropriately relied upon by Commissioner O'Sullivan to discredit Sergeant Maurice McCabe at the Commission of Investigation (Certain Matters Relative to the Cavan/Monaghan Division of An Garda Síochána) under the chairmanship of Mr. Justice Kevin O'Higgins. Members will have to agree these are very broad terms of reference which were, as I said, agreed after a lot of consultation with all Members of the Opposition. They were accepted on the night in the House. Members will have to agree that the consultation took place and that is why we have such comprehensive terms of reference.

I will endeavour this evening to shed as much light as possible on what I and the Department of Justice and Equality knew, and at what time. I can only speak about my personal experience and knowledge and I must be careful not to say anything that would undermine or interfere with the work of the disclosures tribunal. Last Monday week, I confirmed to the Taoiseach that neither I nor the Department of Justice and Equality had any hand, act or part in the legal strategy of the former Commissioner. In that phone conversation, I also confirmed to the Taoiseach that I only became aware of the broad details dealt with in the commission when they came into the public domain in May 2016.

Last Thursday, the Department of Justice and Equality informed me that an email had been located. It had been sent to me late in the afternoon of 15 May 2015. It outlined a conversation between an official in the Department of Justice and Equality and an official from the Office of the Attorney General, highlighting a disagreement that had arisen between the two legal teams at the commission, that is, the legal teams representing An Garda Síochána and Sergeant Maurice McCabe. The email indicated that counsel for An Garda Síochána had raised, during the hearings, an allegation of a serious criminal complaint against Sergeant Maurice McCabe which had previously been made.

It is important to state that the email said that Sergeant McCabe had always denied this allegation. Counsel for Sergeant McCabe objected to this issue being raised and asked whether the Garda Commissioner had authorised this approach. The Garda Commissioner’s authorisation was confirmed, although it was understood separately that that might be subject to further legal advice. It should be noted that this matter was extensively referenced on the public record in the opening days of the disclosures tribunal earlier this year - all of that is on the website. The email also references the fact that the independent review mechanism found that an investigation file on the case had been submitted to the Director of Public Prosecutions, DPP, which had directed no prosecution.

The concluding point in the email sent to me advised that neither the Attorney General nor the Minister had a function relating to the evidence a party to a commission of investigation may present. I could have no role whatsoever in questioning or in any way seeking to influence the evidence another party gave to a commission of investigation or any legal argument made by such a person. I might add that this is all the more so in circumstances where the Department of Justice and Equality was appearing before the commission and had separate legal representation, all of which is carefully documented in the final report of the O'Higgins commission.

As I said to the Taoiseach, I had no knowledge of the details which later emerged in May 2016. I learned of the details in May 2016 through media reports like everyone else. At that time, I was asked to comment on leaked transcripts. I said at the time that it would be utterly inappropriate and unfair of me to comment on such leaks. That remains the case today. I addressed this comprehensively when I spoke on the O'Higgins commission in this House and outlined the various follow-up actions that I felt were necessary because of what the O'Higgins commission had found. We entrusted a commission of investigation to look into all these matters and that is exactly what the commission did. That commission was held in private session. That protection of witnesses is pivotal to the effective operation of commissions of inquiry.

As Minister for Justice and Equality, I strongly encouraged Garda management to put in place comprehensive policies and procedures for whistleblowers, including, for example, bringing Transparency International on board to advise on best practice in regard to whistleblowers. I established the Policing Authority, one of the most fundamental reforms of An Garda Síochána in the history of the State, and at all times sought to support and protect whistleblowers. I never did anything other than protect whistleblowers and make sure they were being dealt with properly within An Garda Síochána. At every opportunity I had, that was the clear point I made to Garda management.

Following the report of Mr. Justice O’Higgins, I used the powers available to me under the legislation establishing the Policing Authority to ask it to conduct a detailed examination of the procedures and policies around whistleblowing in An Garda Síochána and to prepare a report on the matter, including any recommendations necessary to ensure those arrangements operated to the very best practice. I also used the legal powers available to me to ask the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission, GSOC, to investigate matters alleged to have occurred regarding a meeting in Mullingar involving certain officers. This emerged at a later stage. I established the Mr. Justice O'Neill review which arose in regard to protected disclosures I received as Minister.

My record speaks for itself, as does my commitment to deal with these issues in a comprehensive, committed and fair manner. As Minister for Justice and Equality, I paid tribute to the work that Sergeant Maurice McCabe had done and I met him and his wife, Lorraine, early in my tenure as Minister for Justice and Equality. In welcoming the publication of the O’Higgins commission report last year, I pointed out that Mr. Justice O'Higgins described Sergeant McCabe as a man of integrity who has performed a genuine public service at considerable personal cost. He is due the gratitude not only of the public but also of An Garda Síochána and of this House.

We set up tribunals of inquiry to look at all of the evidence, hear all sides and establish the truth. Above all, everyone is entitled to basic, fair procedures enshrined in our Constitution. We need to let the tribunal of inquiry get on with the work we tasked it with doing. It is incumbent on us all to let it carry out that work.

I have sent the email around and I hope Members have received it. They will receive it very shortly. I am arranging for it to be circulated. The Taoiseach has also spoken to Sergeant McCabe in the past two hours and had a conversation with him about some of the issues in the email.

I thank the Minister for observing the time.

Could we wait until we get the emails? That would help everybody.

No. I am not aware of any emails.

The Minister will circulate the email.

We are awaiting hard copies.

She said the email will be circulated.

Perhaps those posing questions could get copies of the email first.

Will the email be circulated to Members in the House or is it being emailed to us?

It will be distributed here and spokespersons will get it first.

Deputy Jim O'Callaghan will need time to read it.

Should we suspend for a few minutes?

The Deputy will have time to read it. The only person who needs a bit of time will be the first to speak, who is Deputy O'Callaghan. The email has only three paragraphs. Rather than suspending we will allow Deputy O'Callaghan to read it.

We learned today for the first time that the Tánaiste received an email from an official in her Department dated 15 May 2015. It is not the email we have been given but rather a transcript from that email. We know the email clearly highlighted that a confrontational approach was being adopted by counsel for the Garda Commissioner against Sergeant McCabe in the O'Higgins commission of investigation. We can also agree it is highly unusual that an email such as this, involving a hearing concerning the Garda Commissioner, would be sent directly to a Minister for Justice and Equality. The Tánaiste told the country earlier today that she cannot remember whether she read the email. Does she agree that a conscientious and competent Minister for Justice and Equality would have read the email and would have been aware from reading the email that a very confrontational approach was being adopted towards Sergeant McCabe at the commission of investigation?

What is very clear from the email is that an official in the Office of the Attorney General decided, having heard from the Chief State Solicitor, I understand, to contact an official in the Department of Justice and Equality and relay to that official the fact that an issue had arisen in the tribunal. Subsequent to that, the official put this in an email, stating that it had arisen and the counsel for Sergeant McCabe had objected to it. It was stated that it was very much in the context of the work of the O'Higgins commission, which was ongoing, and the email made it absolutely clear that I had no role relating to the evidence put forward. In fact, it states it was "for information".

Shortly after the Tánaiste was appointed as Minister for Justice and Equality, she spoke in this House in response to the Guerin report. She stated the following in respect of Sergeant McCabe on 15 May 2014, "I acknowledge the very difficult experience Sergeant McCabe has had and the critical role he played in bringing these issues forward." She also indicated the highest levels of legal support and protection would be given to Garda whistleblowers. When this email was brought to the Tánaiste's attention, was she not astonished by the fact that an aggressive approach was being adopted to Sergeant McCabe in the commission of investigation, which was completely contrary to what she said would be the policy of the State when she spoke in the House the year before?

When he came to the House, the Taoiseach stated I had no hand, act or part in the strategy of the Garda Commissioner and, to this day, we do not know what that strategy was. It is being examined by the disclosures commission that is currently sitting. It is very clear that this was in the context of a commission. I stand by what I said with respect to whistleblowers and supports. I made it clear any time this was discussed with Garda management that Sergeant Maurice McCabe should get every support. After my meeting with Maurice and Lorraine McCabe, he had asked that he could be more involved with some of the reform that was ongoing in An Garda Síochána. I discussed that matter. I have always supported Sergeant McCabe and insisted that whistleblowers are both protected and supported. The Deputy knows very well as a lawyer that it is not my role to get involved with evidence being given before a tribunal. It would be a criminal act, as the Deputy knows.

I know it is the Tánaiste's responsibility to answer questions in this House; I have asked her two questions and she has not answered either of them. At the heart of this allegation lies the fact that the Tánaiste publicly gave the impression that she was supportive of Sergeant McCabe and would oppose any strategy to be confrontational with him in the tribunal of inquiry. When did the Tánaiste first become aware of an allegation of a criminal charge against Sergeant McCabe? Is she telling us the first time she became aware of this was in May 2015, when this email arrived, or was she also aware of it from whisperings made to others?

The Deputy's leader raised the matter and gave a series of files to the then Taoiseach, Deputy Enda Kenny, when Ms D was not satisfied with the way a criminal charge had been investigated. The independent review mechanism, IRM, had investigated this and therefore I would have been aware of it at that time. It was being appropriately handled. I have never discussed the details of the 300 cases before the IRM and I do not intend to now.

The Taoiseach told us earlier today that he received the email the Tánaiste discussed today on the radio at 11.30 p.m. last night for the first time. Why did the Tánaiste not hand over the email to the Taoiseach when it surfaced on Thursday? Why did it take journalists like Ms Katie Hannon to make inquiries for this to surface? The Tánaiste essentially withheld this information from the Taoiseach, and according to the record, he had to find out about this last night. Essentially, is it not the case that the Tánaiste was aware the Taoiseach had misinformed the House? Surely, she was aware of the controversy that was happening. Was she happy for the record to remain uncorrected with regard to this matter until the media started poking around and making inquiries?

No, that is not accurate. I was informed by the Department of Justice and Equality last Thursday that this email had surfaced. The Department informed me it was continuing to search its systems to see if there was any other material it felt could be relevant. It was also getting some legal advice on the matter. I asked that I would be informed as soon as the information was available. I was waiting to see if other information would emerge that was relevant and what the legal advice from the Department was. The Taoiseach was travelling on Friday, as I was. I spoke to him on Monday and had a discussion about the email with him.

In the context of the Taoiseach going on record saying the Tánaiste had no prior knowledge of this and first became aware of it in May 2016, it is scarcely credible that she would allow him to mislead the House in that way.

We heard earlier a reference to the scoping exercise carried out by Mr. Justice Iarfhlaith O'Neill for putting together the Charleton tribunal's terms of reference. A parliamentary reply to Deputy Alan Kelly goes on at length, indicating ultimately, on appointment, Mr. Justice O'Neill was provided with all relevant documentation necessary to undertake his review. In the context of a scoping exercise of that kind and if the Charleton tribunal requested discovery of documentation, surely there would have been a deep scouring of all the files in the Department, including emails? How is it credible that an email of this nature and sensitivity relating to criminal charges of this kind did not surface and was not provided to Mr. Justice O'Neill for the scoping exercise? Was the Tánaiste made aware in May 2015 of the nature of the criminal charges being alleged against Sergeant McCabe?

There is no reference in the email to what the criminal charges were. I will repeat that the independent review mechanism was under way.

Was the Tánaiste aware?

It was under way, and of course I had information on the various cases that were under that independent review mechanism, but that was a completely different issue. Those were the files that were handed over by Deputy Martin to the former Taoiseach, Deputy Enda Kenny, at that point.

The Tánaiste was aware in 2014, when Deputy Martin handed over the file from the individual who met with him which related to allegations of sexual abuse against Sergeant Maurice McCabe. The file was examined by the DPP which issued no prosecution. The Tánaiste was aware of that because she was the Minister who had to pass that on to the independent review mechanism. When she saw this email in May 2015 she was aware that the Garda Commissioner was instructing her legal team to put those accusations which had been dismissed by the DPP and the independent review commission to the sergeant. Allegations of sexual misconduct were put to him, and the Tánaiste was aware of that. All the evidence points to that. The Tánaiste decided to do nothing, and she denies seeing that email. How can that stand up to any test of credibility, given that this person was a central figure in the resignation of a Minister for Justice and Equality and two Secretaries General? How can the Tánaiste credibly tell us that, as parliamentarians, given that she knew that the issue referred to in this email was the same issue levelled against that same garda? This was being orchestrated by the Commissioner at that time.

The Deputy is making many assumptions and allegations about the behaviour at the tribunal. What I had in this email - which I did not remember when I spoke to the Taoiseach - was the fact that an allegation had been raised against Sergeant McCabe and that it was a serious criminal complaint, which he had always denied. The allegation was that it had not been properly investigated. That allegation came from Ms D, which we know from the Charleton tribunal. We are talking about a particular issue that arose at the commission of investigation, in which I had no role. I am clear that I had no role in the evidence that was being given at a commission of inquiry.

Today's speaking points for the Tánaiste and the Taoiseach have relied on refuting a straw man, namely, the allegation that the Tánaiste designed or influenced the legal strategy deployed against Maurice McCabe. None of us has suggested that. We have suggested that when the Tánaiste received an email making her aware of it, even in a general sense, she should have acted on it. Of course she should not have intervened with the commission of investigation, but surely she should have intervened with the Garda Commissioner. The Garda Síochána Act says that the Garda Commissioner is accountable to the Minister for the performance of the Commissioner's functions and those of An Garda Síochána. Does the Tánaiste not accept that the email that she received should have acted as a red flag and that she should have held the Commissioner to account for the actions she was taking, because she is legally accountable to the Minister for Justice and Equality? Rather than hold anybody to account the Tánaiste simply forgot the email.

Some people were actually saying that I or the Government were in some way colluding with the legal strategy of the Garda Commissioner. That was said. I am glad that the Deputy realises now that that was not the case.

I did not hear anybody in this House say that.

It was certainly out there as an innuendo about the approach that we were taking. The Deputy asked if I held the Garda Commissioner accountable on whistleblowing. I absolutely did, all of the time. The strategy is still under investigation by the Charleton tribunal, as the Deputy is aware. The issue of what precisely the strategy was is being examined by the tribunal right now. The email said that a serious criminal complaint had been raised. It was not a description of an overall strategy. I did hold the Garda Commissioner accountable on the issue of whistleblowers and how they were being dealt with.

The Garda Commissioner was represented at the O'Higgins commission by lawyers from the Chief State Solicitor's office and the Office of the Attorney General. The Tánaiste and the Taoiseach are both on record as stating that the Department was only aware of the legal strategy deployed against Maurice McCabe after the fact. Can the Tánaiste clarify whether there was a management team within An Garda Síochána dealing with the O'Higgins commission, as had existed previously, and if so can she clarify whether her Department at the time was represented on that group or received any briefings from it?

The Commissioner was receiving her own advice. The Department was represented separately at the O'Higgins commission. The idea that the Department, or indeed myself as Minister, would be part of discussions about a legal strategy for any party appearing before the commission would be absolutely wrong, and I have no information that anybody from the Department was involved in such a management team.

Last Thursday it came to light in the Department of Justice and Equality that an email had been sent to the Tánaiste to inform her of what had happened in the O'Higgins commission in May 2015. Was there a deep trawl in the Department to find materials requested via parliamentary questions and requested by the tribunal itself? Is the Tánaiste now satisfied that all documentation and records have been located and communicated to the tribunal? Why was this only made public yesterday in response to press queries when it was found last week? Why was it brought to the Taoiseach's attention only at 11.30 p.m. last night? Most baffling of all, why was it only sent to the tribunal today?

I am not the Minister in that Department now, but my understanding from the information that I have sought is that there was a deep trawl done to make sure that everything that was in any way relevant to this issue had been found. I have explained what happened on Thursday and the Department's response at that time, when it reminded me about that email. No one else in the Department and in the team that I discussed it with remembered that email. I was waiting to see what the legal advice was and to hear back from the Department. Certain events took place yesterday which I discussed with the Taoiseach. I have now circulated the email.

Exactly one year after the email was sent to the Tánaiste, the Taoiseach told the Dáil, "I spoke to the Tánaiste, who told me she had no hand, act or part in that decision and that she was not aware of it until after the fact, around the time it entered the public domain." Is that what the Tánaiste told the Taoiseach? If that is accurate, was it accurate in terms of what the truth was from the Tánaiste's point of view? Is it actually the case that the Tánaiste is saying that not only did she forget the email but that she never read the email? Did the Tánaiste read the email at the time? If she did not read the email how was that possible, given that such an email should be in flashing lights given its contents referred to Maurice McCabe, who she had previously met?

I do not understand the last part of the Deputy's question. Can he repeat it please?

Did the Tánaiste read the email previously and then forget about it?

When the Department told me about this email last Thursday I did not remember it. I tend to read all of the emails that come to me.

I can only assume that I did read it but I did not remember it when I was speaking to the Taoiseach. I said to the Taoiseach that I did not know about any legal strategy in advance, that I was not part of any legal strategy, I had no hand, act or part in a legal strategy and was only aware of all the details that came out one year later, in May 2016. That is what I said to the Taoiseach. That is what I was referring to when I spoke to him. When he spoke here in the Dáil he was obviously repeating that. What I was referring to was the information that came out in May 2016 which was widely reported in the media, about tapes, Mullingar and other Garda witnesses but I had no information about that and that is what I said to the Taoiseach when I spoke to him. The email was then brought to my attention.

Let us remember what lay beneath this, namely, a disgusting attempt to destroy and blacken the name of Maurice McCabe, to completely discredit him because of his whistleblowing. How could the Minister possibly receive such an email and read it and forget that she read it? In the interview on the RTÉ "News at One" today she seemed to suggest that she forgot it because she did not have any role in this. That is simply not credible. That does not result in forgetting it. It might result in not doing anything about it but at the very least the Minister could have picked up the phone and requested more information.

If someone gets an email and the email explicitly states that the person has no role or function because it is a matter for a tribunal and there is due process at that tribunal and evidence is being given, that actually makes it more understandable that I might not remember it because it says I have no function in relation to it.

I do understand that a tribunal of inquiry or commission of investigation is under way and evidence is being given at it, including by officials in the Department on the various issues that were thrown up by the Guerin inquiry and which the O'Higgins commission examined. I am very clear that I did not have a role in that. I think that does make it more understandable that I did not remember it.

I do not agree that it makes it understandable, not given the Minister's previous comments and the supposed approach of the Government to whistleblowers. Maurice McCabe is adamant that the criminal charges that the Minister referred to on the radio and that are referred to in the email were not raised at the O'Higgins commission. He is adamant that what was raised at the O'Higgins commission related to his supposedly seeking access to information about the Director of Public Prosecution's decision, which was false, and not criminal charges. He is adamant that the email is inaccurate. That begs a very serious question. I trust that this is the email. If it is the case, and if the transcript proves it to be the case that these were not issues raised at the O'Higgins commission, does it not raise more serious questions if a campaign of slander, etc., was continuing and being filtered through phone calls and then emails?

When this email is read it can be seen that it referred to a call from a senior official in the Office of the Attorney General. The Deputy is saying that Sergeant Maurice McCabe is saying that what is in the email is incorrect. I can only tell him what was in the email. I have absolutely no reason to believe that either a senior official from the Office of the Attorney General or a senior official in the Department would record what is here incorrectly or as part of any campaign.

That could be where it is coming from.

That would be quite an extraordinary allegation to make about a senior official in the Office of the Attorney General. If the Deputy is saying there is a discrepancy between Sergeant McCabe's view of it and what is in this email we will just have to see what he has to say about it. The Taoiseach had a conversation with him earlier.

On the second day of the O'Higgins commission investigation, the Garda Commissioner's legal team introduced the notion that Maurice McCabe had a grudge. Chief Superintendent Colm Rooney said that Maurice was angry and vicious and he wanted the Director of Public Prosecutions to overturn the directions on the Ms D file, not realising that Maurice had already seen them and they favoured him so he would not have been looking to have them overturned.

There was the issue of the Mullingar meeting where Superintendent Noel Cunningham and Sergeant Yvonne Martin alleged also that Maurice had a grudge and was driven by that. When that was put to them the counsel for Maurice McCabe, Senator McDowell, asked for evidence to be produced. There were no written documents so there could only be oral evidence and it was put together over that weekend. A meeting had to be held. Does the Minister know who attended that meeting or does she know anything about the meeting?

I do not know who attended that meeting. I do know regarding this allegation that Sergeant McCabe, as the Deputy will be aware, at the Charleton tribunal, the disclosures tribunal, said, "It did not happen, it did not happen, [it’s a] horrendous allegation to make and it did not happen." We are very clear about his view on this issue that arose.

I am not going to try to re-run the tribunal here or different elements of it. There is a very detailed report on the web of the disclosures tribunal about these issues. It is in the public domain. When I spoke earlier I said that I can speak about what I know personally but I cannot begin to speculate about the details which were raised.

Can the Minister confirm that a meeting did take place, if she does not know who attended it? Does she know if a meeting took place that weekend in preparation for the Monday when the Chief State Solicitor's office produced a five-page document which outlined the allegations against Maurice McCabe? When Maurice's legal team saw this he was able to contradict it with a transcript and a tape which took some time to put together showing that in fact these gentlemen were being seriously economical with the truth. Does the Minister know if that meeting took place that weekend? When did she ever find out that the evidence being brought forward by these people was totally contradicted by the tapes?

I have already said that I had no role in the legal strategy adopted by An Garda Síochána. How would I possibly know whether there had been a meeting on what the Deputy has outlined? I had no role. I do not have any role. I did not have any role in respect of the legal strategy. If the Deputy has information and queries, the place for them is to be laid before the tribunal which is sitting. It is investigating all of these issues in great detail under Mr. Justice Charleton.

I met with the Deputy and Deputy Clare Daly, and discussed the terms of reference for that tribunal and the Deputy knows that the very points he raised are all encompassed in the work of the tribunal.

I am not questioning the terms of reference. I know we met about them and, as the Minister knows, we insisted on communications with the Department and the Minister being included in them. We are not querying that. I am within my rights to ask the Minister the simple question and she has asked how could she possibly know about the meeting. I am asking did she know whether a meeting took place, "Yes" or "No". When did she first find out that the information put forward by Chief Superintendent Rooney and Superintendent Noel Cunningham turned out to be lies? When did she first find that out?

The answer to the first question is "No" and the answer to the second is that until the material emerged in May 2016, which was in the media, in respect of the various issues, that was the first time that I knew.

As I told the Taoiseach, that was the first time that I knew about any of those issues.

That completes the question and answer session for Independents4Change. Deputy Mattie McGrath now has one minute.

Will the Tánaiste tell the House how many times she met Sergeant McCabe and if he spoke to her about the serious efforts he believed were being undertaken by the then-Commissioner of An Garda Síochána to discredit him?

I met Sergeant McCabe on one occasion. I had a very good conversation with him and his wife, Lorraine. I do not have notes of the conversation with me, but from recollection it was primarily about his experiences, how difficult he had found things, some of his ideas about reform, and I think we may have also discussed the situation on penalty points. He spoke about how he would like to have a future role in An Garda Síochána. We had quite a long conversation which was attended by the Secretary General of my Department. It was on one occasion.

There was only one meeting. Counsel for An Garda Síochána were raising serious matters, false allegations, against Sergeant McCabe at the time in an effort to discredit him, and his motivations for revealing serious misconduct within An Garda Síochána. Everyone was aware of this at the time from media reports and his own statements and also from meeting Sergeant McCabe himself. Did the Tánaiste express concern at the time about that situation continuing?

Could Deputy McGrath repeat that question because I have not grasped what he is asking?

The many of us who met Sergeant McCabe were aware that counsel for An Garda Síochána were raising serious matters of false allegations against Sergeant McCabe, which are in the public domain, in an effort to discredit his position in An Garda Síochána.

The only information is that which was in this email, which I was reminded of last week. The matter raised in that email is that the allegation had been that a serious criminal complaint against Sergeant McCabe, which he had always denied, had been raised by counsel for An Garda Síochána. Counsel for Maurice McCabe objected to it and that is the only information in regard to allegations that I had in my possession, other than the information through the independent review mechanism, which looked at this issue because it had been referred to in the files which Deputy Mícheál Martin had given to the then Taoiseach, Deputy Kenny. It had already been investigated and the DPP had recommended no further action.

This infamous email was sent on the afternoon of 15 May 2015. That was the very day that the O'Higgins commission adjourned for half an hour in order that the barrister for the Garda Commissioner could get instructions as to whether he was to continue this aggressive line of attacking Sergeant McCabe. Was the Tánaiste told about this and did she object to the strategy taken by the counsel for the Garda Commissioner and ask him to desist from the very aggressive line of questioning?

To ask me that question is to completely misunderstand the way a tribunal or commission of investigation works. It would be absolutely inappropriate. As I said, it would be criminal for me as Minister for Justice and Equality to begin to interfere with evidence given before a tribunal. That would be a criminal act.

I am not suggesting that.

It is prohibited to interfere with the evidence which a witness gives before a tribunal or for me, as Minister for Justice and Equality, to get involved in any way with something like that. When my Department was represented at the O'Higgins commission it would have been wholly inappropriate for me to try to influence or change the legal approach of a witness to a tribunal.

We will move on to questions from the Social Democrats and the Green Party. I call Deputy Róisín Shortall.

What was the chain of communication that led to this email being written? Who wrote it and who was it addressed to? How did the Tánaiste receive it?

The chain appears to be that the Chief State Solicitor had some contact with the Office of the Attorney General, a senior official from the Office of the Attorney General made a phone call to a senior official in the Department of Justice and Equality, the senior official in the Department of Justice and Equality summarised the call, and that was the email which was sent to me and a number of others in the Department of Justice and Equality on that date. I have already described how I was reminded of that last Thursday and knew the detail of it then.

Who wrote it and who was it addressed to?

It was written by the official in the Department of Justice and Equality and it was sent to my parliamentary secretary.

Sorry, that was the first question.

I know, but the time is there.

I have only taken one minute, for goodness sake.

The Deputy has asked two questions.

That was the same question.

The Tánaiste did not say how she received it. The Tánaiste is aware of the scurrilous accusations that were circulating about Maurice McCabe regarding a serious criminal complaint and that the complaint had been rejected by the DPP. This campaign to denigrate Maurice McCabe provided the backdrop to the resignation of the previous Garda Commissioner, and the Minister for Justice and Equality. It was very big, hot news. The Minister received an email shortly afterwards telling her that the new Commissioner was using the same kind of tactics against Maurice McCabe. What was her reaction to this? Was she shocked to hear that the new Commissioner was continuing on from where her predecessor had left off? That is startling news. How could she fail to be shocked?

I want to correct something, it was an email sent to my private secretary who forwarded the correspondence to me.

Was that a personal email account?

Sorry, allow the Tánaiste please.

No, it was departmental. Sorry, the Deputy's question was -----

Yes, I will clarify that. When I was reminded of it last week, what struck me about it, and as I have already explained to Deputy Murphy, was that it was a matter that was currently under way before the commission of investigation. It was letting me know that an allegation had been made against Sergeant McCabe. Since reading the email again the other day, it says that I have no function relating to evidence of a party to a commission. I want to make it clear that in all my contact with the Garda Commissioner, and all my work in the Department of Justice and Equality, I took a series of initiatives and made continual efforts to ensure that whistleblowers were being dealt with properly. Where any allegations were raised in the Dáil I would have always asked that the Department would follow them up and ensure that whistleblowers were dealt with properly. I always acted in the interests of whistleblowers, ensuring that they would be protected.

I do not think that the evidence bears that out. The Tánaiste is relying a lot on the final paragraph to say that she did not have a legal role in it. It is the two paragraphs prior to that which are relevant. This is a situation where her predecessor had been forced to resign, the Garda Commissioner had been forced to resign as a result of the campaign to denigrate Sergeant McCabe, yet this email told the Tánaiste that the new Commissioner is continuing that campaign to denigrate whistleblowers.

The Tánaiste states that she has done everything she can to protect whistleblowers, yet the new Garda Commissioner was denigrating a whistleblower and authorised a legal strategy to raise that issue again when the Tánaiste knew it was not true. What action, if any, did the Tánaiste take on foot of it?

I do not agree with the Deputy. I outlined in my opening statement the various actions that I took. I also spoke of the continuous discussions I had with An Garda Síochána and the priority I gave to ensuring that whistleblowers-----

My question related to the action the Tánaiste took in relation to the Garda Commissioner.

In every discussion I ever had within the Department of Justice and Equality and with members of An Garda Síochána, I was always intent to ensure that whistleblowers were being dealt with properly.

The Tánaiste repeatedly expressed confidence in her.

Let me just say, Deputy Shortall, that the commission of investigation is doing its work.

When the O'Higgins report came out-----

The Tánaiste supported her.

-----I addressed many of these issues in the House and followed up the recommendations and the O'Higgins commission as well.

It was the Tánaiste's job to hold the Commissioner to account.

The Tánaiste expressed confidence in her knowing that.

That completes-----

The Tánaiste forgot about what the new Commissioner was doing. No one believes that.

Sorry, Deputy Shortall. That completes the questions and answers from the seven groups. There is provision for the Tánaiste to have five minutes to make a final response now. A maximum of five minutes is available to her.

I repeat that what the Taoiseach put on the record of the House the other day in relation to the fact that I had neither hand, act or part in the legal strategy of the Garda Commissioner is absolutely accurate. When I spoke to the Taoiseach about the other information, I became aware of that one year later, the same as everyone else, when it was put in the public domain. That is what I was referring to when the Taoiseach said that I did not know the details. Clearly, I was not aware of this strategy and I was just informed last Thursday about this email. I have circulated the email and I have tried to explain to the House tonight, as is the right of the House to know, that I had no part in the strategy and that I constantly protected whistleblowers in all of the actions I took.

The Tánaiste allowed the Commissioner-----

The Tánaiste, without interruption.

The email said that I did not have any function in relation to this. What possible advantage would it be to me if I had remembered that email to say to the Taoiseach that I did not? There would be absolutely no possible advantage. Clearly, it was there in the files, as has emerged.

The other question I wish to pose is why would I set up a commission of investigation and then purposefully work with someone to advance a particular legal strategy. I certainly did not do that. I had no hand, act or part in it. I was made aware of the issues after the fact. The tribunal and the commission are both independent and these matters are currently before the Charleton tribunal, where they will be analysed in great detail, given the broad terms of reference that were agreed in this House.