Taoiseach meets Independent Alliance over McCabe fallout

A Cabinet meeting on a public tribunal has been delayed

Taoiseach meets Independent Alliance over McCabe fallout

Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald and Taoiseach Enda Kenny at Dublin Castle in 2016 | Image: Merrion Street

The Taoiseach Enda Kenny is insisting it was clear in his mind than an investigation into the alleged smearing of garda whistleblower Sergeant Maurice McCabe would include the false allegations to Tusla.

But opposition parties say the explanation is not clear - with Micheál Martin suggesting there would have to be "Cabinet telepathy" at work.

It comes as it was revealed that Independent Communications Minister Denis Naughten and Independent Deputy Michael Harty met directly with Mr Kenny on Wednesday morning.

A statement from the two men says: "The purpose of the meeting was to hear personally from the Taoiseach about the events that have unfolded since late last week and to bring clarity to their understanding of the sequence.

"Minister Naughten expressed his request to see better handling of sensitive Government memos...that come before the Cabinet in order to allow him and Independent Minister Zappone the opportunity to study the information contained in a timely manner prior to Cabinet."

They say the Taoiseach agreed to put in place a mechanism around this area that will ensure Ministers Naughten and Zappone receive a briefing on sensitive memos prior to Cabinet.

Both Minister Naughten and Deputy Harty say they were "satisfied" with the outcome of the meeting and will work with the Government "to implement these reforms and added the main priority now is establishing the Tribunal of Inquiry."

Meanwhile Mr Kenny is meeting the Independent Alliance in an attempt to save the minority Government in a motion of confidence tonight.

His day started with the Independent Alliance unable to declare their confidence in him and the Government they are part of.

The Taoiseach was attending an event, and Dublin's Q102 recorded him telling the gathering: "I think...it's a lot easier talk to you than talk to some of the other people I've to talk to these days".

As he headed back to the Dáil for Leaders Questions, it was revealed the two sides would meet later today.

But back in the chamber, opposition leaders simply could not understand how, if Mr Kenny had no knowledge of the actual smear campaign or the details of the false allegations to Tusla, he would know they would all be investigated by the then-planned Commission of Investigation.

Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams told the Taoiseach: You had no way of knowing that false accusations brought to you by Minister Zappone were the false accusations were the false accusations contained in the protective disclosures".

While Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin added: "It does beg the questions as to how anybody knew. It seems an extraordinary display of Cabinet telepathy at work, that each individual minister deduced to themselves individually, that this was somehow going to cover something that nobody knew anything about".

But the Taoiseach says he felt the issue would be covered, replying: "I was very clear in my mind that that covered and would cover false allegations of sexual misconduct".

Mr Kenny also confirmed to the Dáil that the terms of reference for the tribunal will allow the judge if he or she sees fit to extend investigations to other garda whistleblowers.

"It's a time for cool heads"

Health Minister Simon Harris told Newstalk earlier it is a time for cool heads among the Independent Alliance Ministers.

"The Independent Alliance remaining in Government and as a party (of) Government is crucial to Government survival.

"And I absolutely hope it happens - they have many excellent people playing a very important role.

"And I think it's a time for cool heads, it's a time for people to deliberate on the important issues - but ultimately it's time for people to put the national interest first.

"And the best thing we can do as a Government and as (the) Oireachtas is set up a full public inquiry to address these very, very serious allegations".

While the CEO of Barnardos and former advisor to the Labour Party, Fergus Finlay, told Newstalk Breakfast earlier the Taoiseach's response to this crisis has been very poor.

"The political handling of this has just been appalling beyond belief.

"I've never seen a performance - well, I saw one performance on a previous occasion as shambling and as bumbling as the Taoiseach yesterday.

"And I really think he has to be reflecting this morning on what a mess he made of it".

Mr Finlay also says he believes the child and family agency Tusla was 'used and set up'.

Additional reporting: Jack Quann