Frances Fitzgerald said she had an 'absolute understanding' of no involvement with the O'Higgins Commission
The head of Human Resources in the gardaí has told the Disclosures Tribunal that his boss said "we’re going after him in the Commission" in relation to Maurice McCabe.
John Barrett said he was shocked and dismayed at the comment, but did not realise its significance until later.
Counsel for the Tribunal says Cyril Dunne is certain he never said that.
Head of HR in the gardaí, John Barrett was engaged in what he described as a cottage industry of activity in seeking to improve Maurice McCabe’s working conditions in Mullingar.
He says he was at a meeting with the chief administrative officer on other matters, when Cyril Dunne asked him to stay back and said to him 'we're going after him in the Commission' in reference to Mr McCabe.
Mr Barrett said he indicated his shock and display that such an approach would be taken in the O'Higgins Commision - and said he may have used an expletive.
While Mr Barrett thinks the comment was made on the eve of the Commission on May 13th 2015, he has no note to show this is the case.
Mr Barrett says at the time he did not realise the significance of the comment until a week or 10 days later when he was aware of contentious issues arising at the commission.
Earlier the tribunal heard of conversations between the then-Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald and Ms O’Sullivan.
Ms Fitzgerald asked Ms O’Sullivan was one thing being said in private about Maurice McCabe and another thing in public, after the publication of the O'Higgins report in 2016.
But the former justice minister told the Disclosures Tribunal that it would have been an entirely different situation to ask her the same question a year earlier.
In public, the Garda Whistleblower was being supported and praised by the Garda Commissioner, but behind closed doors, Noirin O’Sullivan’s legal team was challenging Maurice McCabe’s motivation and credibility at the O’Higgins Inquiry.
Ms Fitzgerald said an email in May 2015 was not informing her of the garda strategy at the inquiry - and she says she made a conscious decision not to interfere in it.
However a year later, after the O’Higgins Commission report was published, the then-justice minister asked Noirin O’Sullivan was one thing being said in private about Mr McCabe and another in public.
Asked if she put the same question to Commissioner O’Sullivan in May 2015, Deputy Fitzgerald said it was a completely different situation.
Under cross-examination, Ms Fitzgerald said the email did not raise a red light, just that an issue had arisen between legal teams and it was not appropriate for her to get involved.
She told the Disclosures Tribunal she had an absolute understanding that she had no involvement with the O'Higgins Commission as it was in private and independent.
Ms Fitzgerald said the protection of Maurice McCabe would take place at the commission, where the legal teams and judge would deal with it.
Deputy Fitzgerald said she had no knowledge of phone calls between the Garda Commissioner and Department of Justice officials at the start of the Inquiry.
She said they would not have changed the approach she took not to get involved.