Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin and Sean O’Rourke this morning
Further to Fianna Fail tabling a motion of no confidence in the Tanaiste and former Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald which effectively breaches the Confidence and Supply Agreement.
The party’s leader Micheál Martin spoke to Sean O’Rourke this morning on RTE Radio One.
Sean O’Rourke: “So is there no going back now from the collapse of this government? Because you’ve torn up the Confidence and Supply Agreement.”
Micheál Martin: “Well we haven’t. This is a very core part of the agreement. Where there is an issue that causes a threat to the Government, there’s a specific clause within the Confidence and Supply Agreement which allows for the two leaders to engage on that issue. And I did that on Wednesday. I rang the Taoiseach on Wednesday and said, you know, I’m invoking the Confidence and Supply.
“There’s an issue here that will threaten, in my view, the Confidence and Supply Agreement and the Government. It has to do with the Tanaiste’s knowledge of a campaign, a legal strategy, to undermined the character and integrity of Maurice McCabe. It’s a very fundamental issue that goes to the heart of justice for every citizen in this country. Not just Maurice McCabe. It’s broader than that.
“And the State, in my view, should not, in any way, be complicit in undermining a man’s character or indeed his integrity, particularly on bogus grounds and the minister is aware of that at the time and choose not to act. Now I went, I spoke to Leo Varadkar, I indicated that we could no longer have no confidence. I didn’t publicise, I wanted to give him space and time.
“He said, could I come back to you? I said, you can. But the following day, that was yesterday, he didn’t come back. I did initiate contact again through our Chef de Cabinet with his special advisor and I then made contact by, I then had to phone, I didn’t text him, we spoke…”
O’Rourke: “This was a second conversation?”
Martin: “This was a second conversation yesterday which didn’t come to a conclusion which didn’t, basically, he’s of a view, he’s saying that Frances Fitzgerald did nothing wrong. But the whole situation is so unsatisfactory because I made the point to him: look, Alan Kelly asked some very basic questions, right? If you look at the replies, I’d invite people to study them.
“Basically, the answers were avoided by those replies…avoided...”
Talk over each other
Martin: “I think Alan Kelly touched a raw nerve there. This documentation surfaced. There was people dithering around with him for 10 days. It’s extraordinary that that documentation never made its way to the Charleton inquiry [Disclosures Tribunal]. The Dail is misled on a number of occasions, and basic trust breaks down when something like that happens and basic trust and credibility about how this issue has been handled, but fundamentally goes to the character of Maurice McCabe and the attempt on…”
O’Rourke: ” [talk over each other]…in a few minutes. I just think the latest thing in from Martina Fitzgerald, our political correspondent quoting Government sources, saying the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has issued an open offer to the Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin to meet to discuss the ongoing crisis. Now, Regina Doherty told us that offer has been there for the past 24 hours. Why didn’t you take up the opportunity to meet face-to-face?”
Martin: “Sorry, I made it clear to the Taoiseach, I had no difficulty in meeting him last evening. And I made that clear to him…”
O’Rourke: “So could he not suggest a time? Could you not suggest a time? A breakfast this morning at 8am?”
Martin: “We had a discussion, we did not agree. We have to agree to disagree on the core issue. I’ve no difficulty meeting with the Taoiseach in relation to this but he knows our position. We don’t want an election. I made that clear in the phone call to him.”
O’Rourke: “But you have caused an election..”
Martin: “No, sorry Sean, we haven’t. And let’s be very straight about this, there was a big failure here to stand by the character of Maurice McCabe. To allow state agencies essentially to go and essentially…”
Talk over each other
O’Rourke: “What do you know now about Maurice McCabe and Frances Fitzgerald’s state of knowledge or action or inaction…
Martin: “That she…”
O’Rourke: “No, no..that you didn’t know two years ago or even one and a half years ago?”
Martin: “That she was aware of it. I didn’t know that two years ago, that she was aware of this strategy...”
Talk over each other
O’Rourke: “When Mick Clifford and Katie Hannon had revelations about the events and the exchanges in the O’Higgins Commission, everybody was aware of it at that stage…”
Martin: “Nobody was aware, in terms of that, no one knew that the Minister knew at the time, in advance of the legal strategy being prepared. I mean it was a notification went around, basically saying to the minister, the secretary general, to the assistant secretary, and others, that the Garda Commissioner is now advancing a legal strategy to undermine the character and integrity of Maurice McCabe.”
O’Rourke: “Even if they did know…”
Martin: “Can I also say, Sean, this, I had all this with Tusla as well. Now my patience has been stretched on this issue. And I’ve been involved with it for quite some time. It was I who led to the establishment of the Guerin report by bringing that dossier into Dail Eireann and showing it to Enda Kenny, detailing serious malpractice with An Garda Siochana.
“That then, by the way, that report said Maurice McCabe was a man of strong character and integrity. I believe Mr Guerin put that in for a reason. It then, he recommended the O’Higgins report and that happened. It was never meant to be an adversarial engagement. It was meant to be inquisitorial…”
O’Rourke: “You’ve known since Katie Hannon’s revelations that that was the thing being adopted…”
Martin: “The adversarial nature of it became known in May 2016 but we didn’t know the Government was complicit in it.”
Derek Mooney: What Happened
Listen back in full here
Above (from top): The Four Seasons: Winter, Antonio Vivaldi; William Tell Overture, Gioachino Rossini and Flight of the Bumblebee, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov.
In these circular sweeps, as if laid down by the minute hand of a clock, each instrument is represented by a different colour. Each dot represents a note in the score. Pitch is indicated by the distance from the centre of the image, while the time at which the note occurs is given by the angle from the 12 o’clock position. The size of the dot indicates the duration of the note.
Rougeux (who, rather adorably, can’t read sheet music) adapts the traditional representation of scale, telling MyModernMet:
I did away with that and showed all notes in their natural position on the scale—distance from center—no matter how high (farther) or low (closer) they were. Essentially, while sheet music shows notes from different scales on the same staff, my project shows different staffs on the same scale—hence the name, Off the Staff.
From top: clockwise from top left: Ceann Comhairle, Pat The Cope Gallagher, Micheál Martin; Leo Vardkar and Frances Fitzgerald, all taken during Dáil proceedings on Wednesday ; Derek Mooney
How did we get to this situation?
Well, as with any crisis, we got to it one step at a time.
Leo Varadkar did not start this week with a plan to trigger a snap election, no more than Micheál Martin did, but with a series of serious missteps Leo Varadkar walked this government to the brink and last night whipped things up to a point that the country is now on a course that means a general election either before Christmas or early in 2018.
Misstep number one came with the Taoiseach’s opening comments on Leader’s Question in the Dáil last Tuesday. when he attempted to address the issue:
“The House will appreciate, once again, that I do not have first-hand knowledge of any of these matters.”
With those words it was clear that an Taoiseach was approaching the issue of Minister Fitzgerald’s level of knowledge on the campaign against Sgt McCabe satisfied that it had nothing personally to do with him and, so it was not something for him to be worried about.
In his own view he had not been directly embroiled in any of the Garda Sgt McCabe machinations that had brought down a Garda Commissioner, a Minister and dispatched a Department Gen Sec, in fact he had been the first Fine Gael minister to speak out in support of Sgt McCabe, so how could he be personally damaged by this issue?
What he had forgotten is that he answers for the actions of the whole of his government, not just the bits he has personal involvement in.
Misstep Two came a few minutes later in an exchange at the Order of Business between An Taoiseach and the Leas Ceann Comhairle, Pat The Cope Gallagher that inadvertently revealed part of the problem with how his government and ministers had approached this and other issues.
As a row ensued about whether the Dáil should require the Tánaiste to make a statement and answer questions on the unfolding email saga, the Taoiseach attempted to chide the Leas Ceann Comhairle, a TD of very long standing, saying:
“I do not wish to tell the Leas-Cheann Comhairle how to do his job here – he should not take me up in that way – but I believe it is important that he, his office or somebody get some legal advice”
The Cope exploded.
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Hold on. I do not need legal advice on a simple question. Deputies are requesting that an opportunity be given to make statements. It is a matter for the House, not a matter of legal advice for me…
I might not be a lawyer but I have common sense. I have been here for 36 or 37 years and I will not be dictated to by anybody in this House, not even the Taoiseach…
It is rare you see a Taoiseach so openly and roundly scolded in public. But more than that’ it is rare to see a Taoiseach having to be schooled on their role and reminded that Ministers are there to use their judgement and common sense, not to sit with a lawyer at their shoulder 24/7 and do nothing but to follow their legal advice.
If that is how government is to operate why not cut out the middle man, drop all ministers and simply appoint a panel of lawyers to oversee Departments and exercise neither judgement nor political common sense.
The surest way to never do the wrong thing, especially the wrong thing legally, is to do nothing. That is the basis of the charge against the Tánaiste. She did nothing and is championing her inaction while the State pursued an innocent man as a defence. This crisis is about what type of government we want.
There were another series of missteps with the Taoiseach having to come back into the Dáil again, and again, and correct the record. Did it never occur to Taoiseach that the volume of misinformation that his ministers was conveying to him and, in turn, to the public signalled a much greater problem? Did the Taoiseach and his advisers ever think to look at the timeline of the email revelations and maybe consider its implications? (courtesy of the Indo’s Kevin Doyle):
Nov 8 – Alan Kelly submits PQ
Nov 9 – Justice find the email
Nov 13 – Email is “mentioned” to Charlie Flanagan (but he didn’t see it)
Nov 15 – Flanagan alleges “smear campaign” in Dáil
Nov 16 – Fitzgerald phones Justice & is told about the email
Nov 20 – Taoiseach sees email.
These were then followed by two major missteps by the Taoiseach that border on reckless.
The first of these was not to respond adequately to Michael Martin’s contacts on Wednesday and Thursday which initiated the clause in the Fianna Fáil/Fine Gael confidence and supply agreement that was specifically drafted to address emerging crises like this:
Should an event arise that has potential to undermine this arrangement, efforts will be made to have it resolved by the two Party Leaders.
This was then followed by another major misstep by wrongly supposing that Micheál Martin and Jim O’Callaghan were bluffing when Deputy O’Callaghan went on to Thursday’s RTÉ News to set out Fianna Fáil’s absolute lack of confidence in the Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald.
Rather than acting to calm things down, Varadkar chose to act like an arrogant Young Fine Gael branch secretary, not a Taoiseach, and ramped things up.
This catalogue of Varadkar’s missteps, his bad judgement calls and clear political naivete come on top of the rolling revelations from Katie Hannon, Alan Kelly TD and others.
The bottom line is not whether there will be a general election, it is when will it be. Will it be between now and Christmas or will it be in early 2018.
As for the next steps… it is just possible that some sanity and calmness will reassert itself within Fine Gael today and tomorrow and that someone, though almost certainly not the Taoiseach, will see that the Tánaiste’s position is untenable and that it is in everyone’s interests in the short and medium term for her to gracefully resign, recognising that it was never her intention to do anything that undermined Sgt McCabe.
If that happens, then maybe Varadkar will think back to what The Cope said to him on Tuesday and exercise some common-sense and approach Micheál Martin and other leaders to agree an orderly pathway to an early 2018 election that will see the Social Welfare, Finance and other key legislation passed and allow Ireland’s interests to be protected at the December EU Council meeting on Brexit.
The Taoiseach has taken the wrong step at almost every juncture this week. The step to take us back from the brink in now in his rear-view mirror – but he still has one last opportunity to somewhat redeem his reputation by taking some right steps now.
Derek Mooney is a communications and public affairs consultant. He previously served as a Ministerial Adviser to the Fianna Fáil-led government 2004 – 2010. Follow Derek on Twitter: @dsmooney
The full unabridged email that may bring down the current government.
Michael Flahive, of the Department of Justice, sent this to Tanaiste and former Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald’s private secretary Christopher Quattrociocchi on May 15, 2015, which was subsequently sent to her.
Ms Fitzgerald has said she can’t recall receiving the email.
In it, Mr Flahive says he received a call from Richard Barrett, of the Attorney General’s office, and that, according to Mr Barrett, a row had taken place at the O’Higgins Commission of Investigation between the legal counsel for Sgt Maurice McCabe and the former Garda Commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan.
Mr Flahive claims Mr Barrett told him the row occurred because the counsel for Ms O’Sullivan wanted to introduce a complaint that the 2006 investigation into Ms D’s ‘dry humping’ allegation against Sgt McCabe wasn’t investigated properly.
Mr Flahive outlined that Michael McDowell, SC for Sgt McCabe, objected to this being raised and asked if Ms O’Sullivan had authorised the argument that this claim was relevant to Sgt McCabe’s motivation.
Mr Flahive explained that Mr Barrett said Ms O’Sullivan had authorised this approach.
On Tuesday night, Sgt McCabe told Taoiseach Leo Varadkar the alleged events outlined in this email never happened.
Readers should recall Ms Fitzgerald, in May 2015, received a lengthy report from GSOC in which it stated the 2006 investigation was carried out correctly.
That GSOC investigation followed a complaint made by Ms D, which was discussed at the Disclosures Tribunal when Irish Independent journalist Paul Williams gave evidence.
When Ms D gave a statement to GSOC, on July 3, 2014, Ms D told GSOC Mr Williams told her senior members of An Garda Siochana and Government were aware of her allegations.
When asked about this, Mr Williams said it was a “throwaway remark” that the then head of the Garda Press Office Supt Dave Taylor said to him and that he later relayed it to Ms D.
Previously: Absence Of Malice
Fancy a night in The Talbot Gallery, 51 Talbot Street, Dublin 1?
Gráinne Tynan writes:
Add some colour to Black Friday and come along to the Talbot Gallery and Studios this evening, where the resident artists are hosting a group exhibition called In Situ.
As the title suggests, the artists’ work will be displayed in the same spaces in which it was made. The artists will be delighted to answer questions, chat about their practice, and show you around their working studios.
And if you do feel like bagging a Christmas present or two, why not pick up something unique and handmade from our affordable art wall (€20-100)? You’ll be able to shake the hand in question and all!
Tonight 5-9pm in Talbot Studios (opposite Connolly Station), in connection with Dublin Gallery Weekend 2017. Free entry, all welcome, refreshments provided.
— Paul Cunningham (@RTENewsPaulC) November 24, 2017
— Paul Cunningham (@RTENewsPaulC) November 24, 2017
Fianna Fail TDs Timmy Dooley and Stephen Donnelly speak to press on their way into the Fianna Fail front bench meeting at 9.30am.
More as they get it.
On Today with Sean O’Rourke…
“All I’ve heard since yesterday, and I’ll say it again, is nobody wants an election. So can we come back from the brink please of whatever this particular row is over and I’m still scratching my head trying to figure out what the charge is against Frances Fitzgerald…”
Fine Gael’s Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection Regina Doherty speaking to Mr O’Rourke now…
Watch live here
Listen live here
Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin tells frontbench meeting motion will go ahead. But says if Tanaiste resigns, this will be pulled back.
— Sarah Bardon (@SarahBardon) November 24, 2017
Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin said he is open to talks with Leo Varadkar over weekend to resolve this issue.
— Sarah Bardon (@SarahBardon) November 24, 2017
— Martina Fitzgerald (@MartinaFitzg) November 24, 2017