Frances Fitzgerald said she had no knowledge of the Tusla file on Sergeant McCabe and questioned why Fianna Fáil failed to bring it up in the Dáil
A new row has broken out between Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil over precisely when the government found out about Tusla's role in the Maurice McCabe affair.
Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin has claimed his party told the Tánaiste about Tusla's role on Wednesday - 24 hours before it first emerged in the media.
However, Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald has insisted this evening that Fianna Fáil's Jim O'Callaghan did not mention Tusla’s role in the scandal when he met her on Wednesday night.
The Tanaiste said she only learned the details the scandal through media reports 24 hours later.
She has admitted however, that she was aware of a meeting between the McCabes and the Children's Minister Katherine Zappone two weeks earlier.
In a statement this evening, Minster Fitzgerald said Deputy O’Callaghan had used the meeting to discuss the terms of reference for the upcoming Commission of Investigation into the affair.
“Deputy O'Callaghan said to me that Prime Time would have a programme the following evening related the establishment of the Commission,” she said. “At no point did he mention Tusla or any of the details that emerged in the programme.”
“If Deputy O'Callaghan had information concerning the Tusla file, why did he not raise those issues during his statement on the Commission's Terms of Reference which took place the following day?”
She said the government is now focused on moving ahead to establish the Commission of Investigation under Supreme Court Judge Peter Charleton to “ascertain the truth of what happened.”
Fianna Fáil has announced this evening that the party will abstain from voting on a motion of no confidence in the government next week.
The motion is being brought forward by Sinn Féin in response to the government’s handling of the whistleblower controversy and the ongoing hospital waiting list crisis.
In a statement this evening Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald said claims from the Taoiseach and Tánaiste that they were not aware of the Tusla file are “not credible.”
“Both were aware of the meeting between Minister Zappone and Maurice McCabe yet they claim that neither questioned the context of the meeting nor sought any feedback,” she said.
"Over the past three years, Fine Gael has failed to protect the good name of Maurice McCabe and has failed to get to the bottom of his allegations and the smear campaign against him.
"The public will not be played for fools on this issue. They have no confidence in An Taoiseach and his government’s handling of this scandal.”
Fianna Fáil spokesperson on expenditure and reform, Dara Calleary said the Sinn Féin motion is “entirely opportunistic at this point in time.”
“All it is is political game-playing," he said.
"We want answers as to what happened in this situation regarding Tusla and Sergeant Maurice McCabe and his family; this motion will not give those answers.
"We want to ensure that a commission of inquiry is established to investigate all of the issues that have been highlighted."
He said the government does have questions to answer over the controversy and said Fianna Fáil will be seeking further clarification from the Taoiseach into how it has been handled.
He confirmed however that the party will abstain from voting on the motion of no confidence.