Taoiseach says he doesn't think Frances Fitzgerald 'did any wrong'

The former Tánaiste resigned from Cabinet after a dramatic week in Irish politics

Taoiseach says he doesn't think Frances Fitzgerald 'did any wrong'

File photo of Frances Fitzgerald and Leo Varadkar. Image: RollingNews.ie

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said he does not believe former Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald 'did any wrong'.

Deputy Fitzgerald resigned from Cabinet earlier this week, only hours before she was due to face a vote of no confidence in the Dáil.

Opposition parties had seized on the former justice minister's handling of an email in May 2015 which alluded to a Garda legal strategy against whistleblower Maurice McCabe during the O'Higgins Commission.

Deputy Fitzgerald has continually insisted she had no knowledge of any alleged strategy until 2016, when it entered the public domain.

However, the pressure from opposition increased when it emerged on Monday that she had received additional emails detailing the proposed "aggressive" Garda legal strategy against Sgt McCabe.

A vote in favour of the no confidence motion would have seen the collapse of the confidence and supply agreement between Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil - a development that would effectively have forced a general election before Christmas.

Announcing her resignation from Cabinet, Deputy Fitzgerald said she had decided "to put the national interest ahead of my own personal reputation".

'It was never about winning or losing'

Leo Varadkar has continued to publicly support the former Tánaiste in the wake of her resignation.

Speaking to Marian Finucane on RTÉ, the Taoiseach explained: "The events of this week, at least in terms of Frances Fitzgerald, were never about winning or losing, or some sort of poker game with Micheal Martin. For me it was always about getting to the facts."

Responding to concerns that there was a delay between additional emails being discovered and being made available to TDs, Mr Varadkar said the Justice Department had highlighted 'some of the emails' on Saturday in an interim report - but stressed the full report wasn't completed until Monday.

He acknowledged that it seems there was "some level of awareness" of the Garda strategy based on the emails the then justice minister received, "but certainly not any detail".

He observed: "She took the view, and understandably took the view, that there was a Commission of Investigation underway at the time."

Speaking about a dramatic week in Irish politics, he explained: "I wanted all the facts, and I wanted to get to the truth. I still think the best place for that to happen, by the way, is the Charleton Tribunal, not in the court of the Dáil.

"I don't think the Dáil should ever be a court - sometimes it turns itself into a court, and I think that's a dangerous thing quite frankly.

"For me, I wanted to stand by a colleague who ultimately I don't think did any wrong."

He added that he believes tribunals "allow people a chance and opportunity to make their case, in a way that can't be done in an adverserial environment like the chamber of Dáil Eireann."