Dáil agrees terms of reference for McCabe inquiry

Frances Fitzgerald has pledged to get the Charleton Tribunal up and running as soon as possible

Dáil agrees terms of reference for McCabe inquiry

Government Buildings in Dublin | Image: Rollingnews.ie

The Dáil has signed off on the terms of reference for a a Tribunal of Inquiry into the allegations of a smear campaign against Garda whistleblower Sergeant Maurice McCabe.

The inquiry has been expanded to include the treatment of other whistleblowers, as well as Sgt McCabe.

The terms - which are available in full on the Department of Justice's website - will go before the Seanad this evening.

Supreme Court judge Peter Charleton, who was due to chair a commission into the controversy, has agreed to take command of the public inquiry.

Priority will be given to allegations against Sergeant McCabe, with an interim report to be provided within three months.

Other whistleblowers will be looked at later, and the tribunal will be asked to investigative any negative links between Gardaí and the child and family agency Tusla.

Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald has promised to sign the necessary paperwork to get the Charleton Tribunal up and running as soon as possible.

Meanwhile, Fianna Fáil is standing by its position that Noirin O'Sullivan be allowed to continue as Garda Commissioner.

The party's justice spokesman Jim O'Callaghan cited Bertie Ahern as an example of someone who can keep their job while being investigated.

"The fact that you do hold office does not mean you cannot give evidence before a tribunal and continue with the job that you have," he argued.

Green Party leader Eamon Ryan has raised concerns at 'potential flaws' in the terms of reference.

He suggested: “We have real concerns that the wording of the terms of reference of the Charleton Tribunal would exclude access to telecommunications between relevant Gardaí and media in the period after May 2014.

"It’s deeply regrettable we spent a week debating who said what to who within Government, but in the end we rushed the terms of reference of the final inquiry through in 80 minutes."

Pressure on Enda Kenny

The McCabe controversy has put renewed pressure on Taoiseach Enda Kenny to step down as Fine Gael leader.

A number of senior ministers told the Parliamentary Party last night to begin preparations for a general election.

But Government Chief Whip Regina Doherty told Newstalk those behind any potential leadership heave should 'think twice'.

"Let's not make this a panic about Fine Gael, when actually what should be important and the focus on people's minds is the country right now.

"Yes we do have internal Fine Gael issues that we're going to deal with - but it's not to the frenzied level that some people would like to make it out to be".

It comes after the Dáil backed Mr Kenny's minority government last night by 57 votes to 52.

The margin was made tighter by Fianna Fáil choosing to abstain.

But the debate - and the victory - masks the greater internal trouble ahead within Fine Gael.

Both Leo Varadkar and Simon Coveney argued that the events of the last week show how the Government can quickly be thrown into doubt.

They both said Fine Gael needs to be ready for an early election - and given that Mr Kenny does not want to lead the party into it, the signal is that Kenny needs to move on.

Some TDs - including Mr Varadkar - even wanted another meeting scheduled for Thursday, to get the ball rolling on a change of leadership.

Under the Fine Gael constitution the election of a new leader must be completed within 20 days of a vacancy arising.

The result will be decided by TDs, Senators, MEPs, party members and councillors.