Tag Archives: Frances Fitzgerald

From top: yesterday’s Irish Mail on Sunday; Former justice minister Frances Fitzgerald (left); Terry Prone

Yesterday.

In the Irish Mail on Sunday and The Sunday Times.

Dublin Institute of Technology lecturer, journalist and FOI sleuth Ken Foxe reported on the cache of correspondence he received from the Department of Justice – between Terry Prone, of the Communications Clinic, and the former Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald and/or her officials, during her time as minister.

Mr Foxe sought the correspondence between Ms Prone, who signed off as ‘Tess’ in correspondence, and Ms Fitzgerald between May 8, 2014 and March 11, 2017.

During this period of time, Ms Prone was also advising the then Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan.

Mr Foxe had initially been told there were no such records.

After appealing the matter to the Office of the Information Commissioner, the OIC discovered there were 68 such records.

And then the Department of Justice informed Mr Foxe there were more than 190 such records.

In a thread last night, Mr Foxe tweeted…

‘Wag finger here’: how PR guru Terry Prone guided Frances Fitzgerald (Ken Foxe, Sunday Times)

Last Thursday, Ken Foxe was a special guest Broadsheet on the Telly and shared his knowledge of the Freedom of Information process in Ireland. Watch back here.

Previously: Francis, Nóirín and Tess

From 0 To 68 To 190-Plus

Former Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald; Terry Prone, of the Communications Clinic

Last night.

Journalist, director with Right To Know and Dublin Institute of Technology lecturer Ken Foxe tweeted that he had received word back from the Department of Justice yesterday.

This follows his attempts to obtain records of correspondence between the former Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald and PR advisor Terry Prone between May 8, 2014 and March 11, 2017 – a time when Ms Prone was also advising the then Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan.

Mr Foxe had initially been told there were no such records.

After appealing the matter to the Office of the Information Commissioner, the OIC discovered 68 such records of correspondence.

Last night, Mr Foxe said the Department of Justice informed him there were more than 190 such records.

He has yet to receive the documents.

But last night, Mr Foxe explained:

Previously: Frances, Nóirín and Tess

From top (Clockwise) Terry Prone, former Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald, former Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan; a reply from the Department of Justice to journalist Ken Foxe

Under the Freedom of Information Act, journalist Ken Foxe has been attempting to obtain emails between the former Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald and Terry Prone, of the Communications Clinic, while Ms Fitzgerald was minister between May 8, 2014 and March 11, 2017.

From 2014 to 2017, Ms Prone wasn’t only advising Ms Fitzgerald. She was also advising the then Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan.

As Ms Fitzgerald was the Justice Minister at the time, Ms O’Sullivan was, on paper, answerable to Ms Fitzgerald.

Mr Foxe was originally told there were no records of correspondence between Ms Prone and Ms Fitzgerald but, after appealing that decision, he was informed by the Office of the Information Commissioner last month that there were 68 such records.

Further to the OIC’s decision, Mr Foxe has since been sent an update from the Department of Justice (above).

Yesterday evening, Mr Foxe tweeted:

Those notorious ‘non-existent’ emails between former justice minister Frances Fitzgerald and PR guru Terry Prone will be released (or perhaps not depending on the decision) next Monday.

Previously: Frances, Nóirín and Tess

Journalist Ken Foxe, former Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald and PR advisor Terry Prone, of the Communications Clinic

The Information Commissioner Peter Tyndall yesterday quashed a previous decision by the Department of Justice to refuse to release correspondence sent between the former Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald and her officials and Terry Prone and her PR company the Communications Clinic.

The department made this decision on the basis that there was no such correspondence.

However, Mr Tyndall’s office, in reviewing the department’s decision, found there is such correspondence.

He concluded the department did not take “all reasonable steps to ascertain the whereabouts of further records”; and he has requested that the department ask Ms Fitzgerald to check her personal email accounts for any other records.

On March 11, 2017, journalist, Dublin Institute of Technology lecturer and director at Right To Know Ken Foxe made a request for “copies of all correspondence, both written and electronic” between Fine Gael TD Frances Fitzgerald and/or her private office and Terry Prone and her PR company the Communications Clinic – from the time Ms Fitzgerald was made Minister for Justice to the date of his request.

This meant Mr Foxe’s request covered correspondence between May 8, 2014 and March 11, 2017.

[Ms Fitzgerald stepped down as Minister for Justice on June 14, 2017]

The department wrote back to Mr Foxe two days after receiving his request, saying it was seeking four more weeks (on top of the initial four weeks provided for) to make a decision on the matter, without any explanation for why they needed the extra time.

On May 15, 2017, Mr Foxe sought an internal review as, by then, Mr Foxe deemed his request was refused.

On June 8, 2017, the department decided to refuse the request because, it said, there were no such records.

But it’s on public record Ms Fitzgerald paid the Communications Clinic, via a special secretarial allowance, more than €11,000 between the date she became minister and the end of 2016.

Those present at Disclosures Tribunal earlier this year also saw written/email communications between Ms Prone and Ms Fitzgerald during the relevant time of Mr Foxe’s request.

In the same month, June 2017, Mr Foxe appealed the department’s decision to the Information Commissioner Peter Tyndall – believing that there had not been a thorough search of Ms Fitzgerald’s professional and personal emails and messages.

In turn, an investigator with the Information Commissioner’s office asked the Department of Justice about the steps it took to search for records relevant to Mr Foxe’s request.

The department then discovered 74 records which had not been considered relevant previously.

In his decision regarding Mr Foxe’s appeal, Mr Tyndall wrote:

“It seems that in late January 2018, following concerns expressed by my investigative staff that further records could be held, the Department searched archived email accounts.

My Office identified 68 records that fall within the scope of the applicant’s request and advised the Department of this. The remaining six records were created after the FOI request was made and are not therefore within the scope of the review.”

Mr Tyndall also wrote that some of the records finally located by the department were related to speeches given by Ms Fitzgerald.

He also wrote:

“in response to the query about whether it [the department] had considered
records held in personal email accounts, the department stated that it ‘has no access to or control over such accounts, particularly in respect of persons no longer working in the Department’.”

Mr Tyndall, in his decision, explained that the Department of Justice said it wouldn’t be appropriate for it to ask Ms Fitzgerald whether she has records of correspondence with Ms Prone or the Communications Clinic in her personal email accounts “that might fall within the scope of the request”, and that the department “does not feel it is in a position to go outside of the scope of the FOI Act and seek such information from [Ms Fitzgerald] in an attempt to respond to an FOI request”.

However, Mr Tyndall said he couldn’t accept this position.

Specifically, Mr Tyndall said:

It appears from the records retrieved by the Department and dealt with above that the former Minister and some of her staff used gmail addresses in correspondence with the company [the Communications Clinic] about official functions and activities of the Department.

“To the extent that a gmail or other account may have been used in this way, I do not accept that such content could reasonably be characterised as “private”. I do not believe that it is particularly relevant that the former Minister is no longer working in the Department.”

Yesterday Mr Tyndall made the following decision:

“I hereby annul the department’s decision to effectively refuse access to records identified during the course of this review and I direct it to undertake a fresh decision making process on those records.

“I direct the department to ask the former minister whether she holds additional records within the scope of the applicant’s FOI request and if she does, to retrieve them and furnish them to the department so that it can make a decision on them in accordance with the provisions of the FOI Act.

“The fresh decision making process should be carried out and decisions on both elements above notified to the applicant in accordance with section 8 of the FOI Act.

“For clarity, I specify that subject to sections 24 and 26 of the Act, the statutory time limit for making a decision begins within five working days of the expiration of the four week period for the bringing of a High Court appeal.”

There you go now.

Previously: ‘Records Do In Fact Exist’

Norin’s Prone Position

Thanks Ken

UPDATE:

From left: former Minister, Francis Fitzgerald, Minister Mary Mitchell O Connor and Senator Catherine Noone at the Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby at the Curragh Racecourse, County Kildare yesterday.

No. really.

…Speaking at a private Fine Gael fundraising event in Tipperary, Ms [Frances] Fitzgerald said it was essential that the next Cabinet had 50pc female ministers and insisted women should not accept anything less.

…The former justice minister said that, unlike Mr Varadkar, she “didn’t wake up at 15 and decide to become the Taoiseach”, before adding that women get involved in politics because they have an interest in causes not power.

…Ms Fitzgerald also told the audience that she forced the Government to increase the general election gender quota from 20pc to 30pc.

Pressure on Leo as Fitzgerald calls for gender-balanced Cabinet (Philip Ryan, Sunday Independent)

Leon Farrell/Rollingnews

Clockwise from top left: Lorraine and Maurice McCabe; Frances Fitzgerald, Noirin O’Sullivan, Ken O’Leary, Michael Flahive, Noel Waters

Yesterday.

At the tail-end of former Tanaiste and Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald’s appearance at the Disclosures Tribunal.

Ms Fitzgerald said on two occasions that she made a “conscious decision” in respect of an email she received on May 15, 2015, about Sgt Maurice McCabe and the O’Higgins Commission of Investigation.

Readers will recall how the email – originally sent by the then assistant secretary at the Department of Justice Michael Flahive to Ms Fitzgerald’s private secretary Chris Quattrociocchi on May 15, 2015 and then forwarded on to Ms Fitzgerald and others – only emerged last November and largely led to her eventual resignation.

It was only disclosed to the tribunal after it emerged in November.

At the time, when calls were being made for her to resign, Ms Fitzgerald said, ad nauseam, that she couldn’t recall reading the email.

The Dail repeatedly heard from her, and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, that she and/or the Department of Justice had “no hand, act or part” in forming the former Garda Commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan’s legal strategy at the O’Higgins Commission of Investigation.

Yet yesterday, in response to the suggestion from Diarmaid McGuinness SC, for the tribunal, that, once she got this email, she basically did nothing and consulted nobody – a suggestion repeatedly put to her last November – she responded to the claim somewhat differently.

She told the tribunal that she wouldn’t frame what happened in the manner Mr McGuinness suggested.

Instead, she said: “I made a conscious decision to obviously not interfere with the Commission of Investigation in anyway because I would have seen it as inappropriate.”

She also said: “I made a conscious decision that Judge O’Higgins would deal with whatever issues, as I expected he would, at the Commission.”

As mentioned above, Mr Flahive sent the email to Ms Fitzgerald’s private secretary Chris Quattrociocchi on May 15, 2015, at 4.57pm.

It was sent following a flurry of messages sent from solicitor Annemarie Ryan, of the Chief State Solicitor’s office to Michael Dreelan, of the Attorney General’s office, who in turned contacted his superior at the AG office, Richard Barrett, who in turn went on to contact Mr Flahive – who then wrote to Mr Quattrociocchi.

[Readers will recall how the tribunal has already heard that Ms Ryan wrote down “political dynamite” in a note about what she saw occurring at the O’Higgins Commission on May 15, 2015, and her knowledge of the situation].

But, going back to Mr Flahive’s email to Ms Fitzgerald’s private secretary.

It was sent after the following sequence of events…

From 3.10pm to 3.36pm: The O’Higgins Commission of Investigation adjourned to allow Colm Smyth SC, for Noirin O’Sullivan and other gardai, get instructions after a row broke out over a line of questioning being taken in relation to Sgt Maurice McCabe when evidence was being given by Chief Supt Colm Rooney.

From 3.26pm to 3.40pm: Noirin O’Sullivan spoke on the phone with the then Secretary General of the Department of Justice Noel Waters for around 14 minutes.

Neither Ms O’Sullivan nor Mr Waters kept notes of this call and neither have any real recollection of what was specifically discussed.

At 3.29pm: Noirin O’Sullivan’s counsel sent her a short “letter of comfort” or written advices to her, via her liaison officer at the commission Chief Supt Fergus Healy, saying: “In particular, we consider it necessary and in the interests of a fair and balanced examination of the subject matter of the investigation, that specific issues be put to Sgt. McCabe regarding his conduct and interactions with senior management following the completion of a formal garda investigation into a complaint against Sgt. McCabe which resulted in a direction by the DPP that no further action was to be taken against Sgt. McCabe.”

At 4.10pm: The O’Higgins Commission adjourned for a second time to allow Mr Smyth get his instructions reconfirmed.

At 4.16pm: The then Assistant Secretary to the Department of Justice Ken O’Leary spoke to Noirin O’Sullivan on the phone for around three minutes.

Mr O’Leary has given evidence that there were two “hurried phone calls” that afternoon but Ms O’Sullivan has told the tribunal that doesn’t accord with her memory or record of events.

There are no notes of these calls.

But Mr O’Leary’s evidence has been that during the first call Ms O’Sullivan told him an issue had arisen at the commission and asked him if there was anything that he believed she should be mindful of.

The tribunal has also heard that in his statement to the tribunal, Mr O’Leary said Ms O’Sullivan called him.

But this week, when he gave evidence, he said he was changing that stance.

He said: “I’m changing it to the extent that I think it may have been that I had been on the telephone to the Commissioner or the Commissioner had another phone, that isn’t included in the records.”

At 4.34pm: The O’Higgins Commission of Investigation resumed and Colm Smyth SC, for Ms O’Sullivan and other gardai, told Judge O’Higgins that his instructions were reconfirmed – which were to challenge the credibility and motivation of Sgt Maurice McCabe.

Mr Smyth also told the commission that afternoon that Ms O’Sullivan was challenging Sgt McCabe’s “integrity” but later, in late June 2015, Mr Smyth told the commission this was an error on his part.

So.

In a nutshell.

The sequence of those communications shows Ms O’Sullivan spoke to officials from the Department of Justice before Mr Smyth’s instructions were reconfirmed..

Both Mr O’Leary and Mr Waters, although they have no notes and no specific recollection, say they would not have given advice to Ms O’Sullivan on how to instruct her legal counsel.

In addition, Ms O’Sullivan, despite also not having any specific recollection of these calls, also told the tribunal:

“At no time did I discuss or seek approval/advice from the Department in respect of my instructions or otherwise to counsel. In fact, instructions had already been given to counsel. An Garda Síochána was represented independently from the Department of Justice at the Commission, and as such, the Department have no involvement in any instructions given by me to counsel.”

So where does Ms Fitzgerald fit into this?

And what of the famous May 15 2015 email?

Well.

It should be noted that the two Department of Justice officials Ms O’Sullivan spoke to before her instructions were reconfirmed – namely Ken O’Leary and Noel Waters – also got the email.

And not only that, before the email was sent, Mr O’Leary had had a telephone conversation with Mr Flahive – who called Mr O’Leary after he had been contacted by Richard Barrett, of the Attorney General’s office, as previously mentioned.

During that phone call, Mr O’Leary disclosed to Mr Flahive that he had spoken to Ms O’Sullivan on the phone twice – but Mr Flahive didn’t disclose this detail in the email to the minister.

Mr O’Leary said that he himself had been thinking of drawing up an email for the minister but was happy for Mr Flahive to do so, as he felt it was more appropriate for Mr Flahive to contact Ms Fitzgerald.

Mr O’Leary told the tribunal:

“The Minister, in my view, could have had no role in relation to the Garda case at the Commission, and contacts between the Commissioner and the Minister about the Commission, once it was going on, I was a bit uneasy about. But while I was thinking of what I might say to the Minister, Michael Flahive was on to me. His information had come from the Attorney General’s office, and it seemed to me that was, for want of a better phrase, a legitimate route for the Minister to get the information. And we agreed that he’d write an email setting out the conversations that he had or conversation that he had with Richard Barrett in the Attorney’s office.”

Amid talk of inappropriate contacts, it should be noted, during Mr O’Leary’s evidence, Diarmaid McGuinness SC, for the tribunal, pointedly noted that:

“She [Ms O’Sullivan] discussed matters with you that had arisen at the O’Higgins Commission in private…On an informal basis, she [Ms O’Sullivan] was happy to discuss it with you…”

But back to the email…

In addition to sending the email to Mr Quattrociocchi, Mr Flahive also cc-ed the now famous 4.57pm email to Mr Waters, by way of a Sec Gen Office group email address, Mr O’Leary and the department’s principal officer for policing Martin Power.

After Mr Quattrociocchi got the email, he bounced it on, at 5.04pm, to, as mentioned above, Ms Fitzgerald, and also to her two special advisors Fine Gael councillor Willliam Lavelle and Marion Mannion.

The tribunal has heard that, in all, ten people received the email.

Of this ten, the following people have been asked if they could recall reading the email.

These were their responses:

Mr Waters said: “I have no recollection of that email, but my private secretary advises that he received that and that he brought it to my attention on the following Monday, the 18th, and that I — he subsequently sent back an email to the writer, to Michael Flahive, to say that I had noted it.”

Mr Quattrociocchi: “I don’t have specific recollection, no.”

Mr Waters’ private secretary Denis Griffin, who was on the Sec Gen Office email group: “No, I don’t actually receiving it” [sic].

Dale Sunderland, a former principal officer and Head of Communications and Corporate Secretariat at the Department of Justice, who also got the email as part of the Sec Gen Office email group, said: “I don’t specifically have a memory of reading it, but I’m quite sure I did read it because I always made it my business to read all my emails.”

Bernadette Phelan, assistant principal officer in the corporate secretariat office in the Department of Justice and Equality, who was also in the Sec Gen Office email group, said: “I don’t recall reading the email.”

Paula Monks, clerical officer in the Department of Justice, who was also in the Sec Gen Office group said: “I don’t, no.”

Mr Lavelle was the only person to recall reading it, saying: “I have a vague recollection of reading it, yes.”

He also said he felt it was a “unique” email and he felt it was “inappropriate” to receive it.

He said he couldn’t recall any other such email from Mr Flahive to the minister that made him feel uncomfortable.

However, he said he never raised it or discussed it with Ms Fitzgerald.

Ms Mannion hasn’t appeared before the tribunal. The tribunal has also heard that she hasn’t given a statement to the tribunal to date.

Interestingly, Ms Leader BL, for the tribunal, pointed out, while Mr Quattrociocchi was giving evidence that, after the  Irish Examiner and RTE reported on the O’Higgins Commission of Investigation almost exactly a year later, on or around May 13, 2016 – Ms Fitzgerald had a meeting with Ms O’Sullivan about the O’Higgins commission of investigation.

There was a comprehensive briefing of the meeting prepared for Ms Fitzgerald but it failed to mention the May 15 email, prompting Ms Leader to suggest:

“It would appear, for one way or another, that the information which was transmitted to the Minister on the 15th May 2015 has been, if I can, wiped from history in relation to this particular briefing,”

But, again, why does this email matter?

Mr Flahive’s email was fundamentally wrong.

It claimed – and it was based on fourth-hand information – that the legal row at the O’Higgins Commission centred on counsel for An Garda Siochana raising Ms D’s IRM complaint about the 2006 investigation into her allegation against Sgt McCabe at the commission.

[The tribunal has already heard that Ms D felt the original investigation into her complaint of 2006 wasn’t investigated properly and thus, wanted it included in the IRM. Ms D also made a complaint to GSOC about the 2006/2007 investigation.]

This wasn’t the case. As mentioned above, the legal row at the commission centred on the line of questioning being taken by Mr Smyth when Chief Supt Colm Rooney was giving evidence at the commission and said Sgt McCabe wanted the DPP’s directions – which exonerated Sgt McCabe – challenged.

However.

Even though the claim made about the row in the letter was wrong, many have been wondering why Ms Fitzgerald didn’t become concerned – or why alarm bells didn’t ring out – when she saw the claim about Ms D’s IRM complaint being raised at the commission, given the IRM counsel had ruled in November 2014 that the matter was not to be included in the O’Higgins Commission of Investigation.

Yesterday, the tribunal heard that GSOC sent a nine-page report to Martin Power, a principal officer in the Department of Justice, outlining that it found nothing wrong with the investigation into Ms D’s complaint on May 21, 2015 – six days after the famous May 15, 2015 email.

GSOC specifically asked for Ms Fitzgerald to be told of this.

When Mr Power gave evidence yesterday, Michael McDowell SC, for Sgt McCabe, asked Mr Power when he gave this to the minister.

Mr Power said he couldn’t recall.

Mr McDowell also asked him he would have made a link between the May 15 email and the May 21 GSOC report in respect of the Ms D matter and Sgt McCabe.

Again, like many witnesses before him, Mr Power said he couldn’t recall and state if he made the connection at the time.

But then.

The hearing was briefly adjourned when Kathleen Leader BL, for the tribunal interrupted to say Mr Power had signed an affidavit of discovery in May 2017 and that documents discovered to the tribunal related to this GSOC report.

After the brief adjournment, Ms Leader explained that these documents discovered showed the GSOC report was sent by Frank McDermott, assistant principal officer in the policing division at the Department of Justice, to Ms Fitzgerald’s private secretary Chris Quattrociocchi on the very same day it was received – May 21, 2015.

Suddenly Mr Power remembered.

The tribunal then heard the document that was sent to Mr Quattrociocchi had also been forwarded to Noel Waters, Ken O’Leary, Michael Flahive and Martin Power.

And, furthermore, it heard that an 11-page submission – written by a Mr English, also of the garda division within the department and containing the nine-page GSOC report – was sent to Minister Fitzgerald on May 27, 2015.

The tribunal hear Mr Power wrote a covering submission for that submission which was entitled “Complaint by Ms. D, alleged cover-up by Gardaí of assault allegation against Sergeant Maurice McCabe.”

The covering submission was for Michael Flahive whom, it appears, saw it on June 2, 2015 – based on a handwritten note on the document.

But.

In the covering submission, Mr Power wrote: “I think the alleged sexual assault was referred to in a particular context during the recent, initial hearings of the O’Higgins Commission of Investigation”.

Ms Leader asked Mr Power what he thought that referred to.

Mr Power told the tribunal: “I think certainly it’s a reference to the email of the 15th May, wherein the initial reference was made to the issue that had arisen at the O’Higgins Commission that day, and I suspect that either on foot of that then at that time or when this report came in I inquired as to whether there was a link, and clearly — well, I say I think it refers to that”

In turn, Mr McDowell asked Mr Power if it was just “forgetfulness” that caused him to say he couldn’t recall making the link.

Mr Power said: “I simply didn’t recall this submission at that time. But I am happy to say that it’s clear that at the time I sought to make the link, if it was appropriate to make the link and bring it to Michael’s attention who would have certainly been able to make the link if it was an accurate link..”

[Incidentally, May 21, 2015 was the same day Ms O’Sullivan held a private consultation with Colm Smyth SC in her office – a meeting of which there are no notes and, despite taking place just six days after the legal row at the commission, Mr Smyth said they didn’t discuss instructions or the row. Ms O’Sullivan can’t recall any specifics about it.]

Ms Fitzgerald hasn’t been asked yet about her knowledge of the GSOC investigation’s conclusions in May 2015 – but it’s likely she’ll be asked the same question that Mr Power was asked: would she have linked the GSOC report with the May 15 email and would it not have caused her some concern or prompted her to take some action?

Yesterday, she gave about two hours of evidence.

Half of that involved counsel for the tribunal asking her about the email of May 15, 2015 and her lack of a response to it.

Mr McGuinness SC, for the tribunal, asked her, repeatedly, why it didn’t set off alarm bells for her?; why she didn’t ask herself ‘what is going on?’; why, if she didn’t feel she had precise details, did she not speak to Mr Flahive about the matter?; why, if she didn’t think it appropriate to ask questions, why she didn’t ask the Department of Justice’s counsel to speak to An Garda Siochana’s counsel?

Ms Fitzgerald responded in the same way as last November: she didn’t think it was appropriate and that she felt it was a matter for Judge O’Higgins.

She said she never consulted with Ms O’Sullivan, Mr Waters, Mr Power, Mr Flahive, any of her advisors, or anyone else copied into the email.

She said she wasn’t aware of the phonecalls between Ms O’Sullivan and Mr O’Leary and she also wasn’t aware of the solicitor Annemarie Ryan’s “political dynamite” concerns about a judicial review.

And then, at the end, she said she made a “conscious decision” not to do anything.

Anyone?

Ms Fitzgerald will resume questioning this morning at 10am.

Previously: Disclosures, Discrepancies And Noirin

Disclosures Tribunal on Broadsheet

Rollingnews

UPDATE:

Former Tanaiste and Minister for Justice, Frances Fitzgerald this morning

Today, the former Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald will give evidence to the Disclosures Tribunal.

Readers will recall how Ms Fitzgerald resigned in November 2017 following the publication of emails she was in receipt of pertaining to the O’Higgins Commission of Investigation in 2015 – which examined allegations of poor policing in the Cavan/Monaghan area made by Sgt Maurice McCabe.

It’s likely Ms Fitzgerald will be asked, among other matters, about the following…

Her exact knowledge of Ms D’s allegation made against Sgt Maurice McCabe in December 2006 which was found to have no basis by the DPP in April 2007.

– Her exact knowledge of the former Garda Commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan’s understanding of Ms D’s complaint – given Ms O’Sullivan has given evidence to say she received a false referral alleging Sgt McCabe stood accused of rape in May 2014 and was never told this was incorrect.

– Her knowledge of Ms D’s complaint about the 2007 investigation into her allegation.

Her knowledge of the Independent Review Mechanism’s counsel involvement/contacts with Ms D and/or complaint about the investigation.

– Her knowledge and understanding of who and what her predecessor Alan Shatter was talking about when he told the Dail on June 19, 2014:

“If the statutory inquiry [which eventually became the O’Higgins Commission of Investigation] is to be comprehensive, it should include all cases dealt with in Bailieboro Garda Station which had given rise to complaint.

There is a matter which has been the subject of articles in the Irish Independent, which included a report of Deputy Micheál Martin meeting an individual who alleges she was the victim of a sexual assault and her complaint was not recorded on the Pulse system and did not result in a prosecution.

I understand from the newspaper report that Deputy Martin was to provide information on this matter to the Taoiseach and I presume he has done so. This case should clearly form part of any statutory inquiry.”

– Her knowledge of GSOC’s investigation in December 2014 which eventually found there was no issue with the original investigation into Ms D’s allegation of 2006/2007.

Her knowledge of the consideration given to including Ms D’s complaint about the investigation in the O’Higgins Commission of Investigation.

– Her knowledge of members of the Department of Justice and An Garda Siochana orchestrating the Ms D investigation file being given to the IRM counsel for their examination.

Her knowledge of the IRM counsel deciding – in November 2014 – that, after examining the Ms D file, that her complaint should not be included in the O’Higgins Commission of Investigatioj

– Her reaction to the email of May 15, 2015 which sent from Michael Flahive, the then Department of Justice assistant secretary, to Christopher Quattrociocchi, Ms Fitzgerald’s then private secretary and cc-ed to the Department’s General Secretary Noel Waters, among others.

This email wrongly claimed that the legal row at the O’Higgins Commission centred on counsel for An Garda Siochana raising Ms D’s IRM complaint about the 2006 investigation at the commission.

Mr Flahive later said this was a coded reference to the IRM as a means to avoid explicitly describe Ms D’s complaint against Sgt McCabe.

But, as mentioned above, Ms Fitzgerald was informed in November 2014 that Ms D’s complaint would not be included in O’Higgins.

Her communications with Noirin O’Sullivan and Terry Prone, of the Communications Clinic, in May 2016 after reports about the legal row in the commission first emerged in the Irish Examiner and RTE.

– Her decision not to publish the “letter of comfort” Noirin O’Sullivan got from her legal counsel on the afternoon/evening of May 15, 2015 – after she requested it via her liaison officer Chief Supt Fergus Healy – after the legal row broke out. The tribunal has already heard that Ms O’Sullivan asked Ms Fitzgerald to publish the short letter but didn’t.

– Her appearance on Prime Time on May 17, 2016.

Her speech given to the Dáil on May 18, 2016.

Olga Cronin will be tweeting from  the tribunal today.  Follow her here.

Previously: Disclosures Tribunal on broadsheet

Rollingnews

Clockwise from top left: Former Secretary General of the Department of Justice Noel Waters; Terry Prone, of the Communications Clinic, former Garda Commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan and former Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald

Last Friday.

At the Disclosures Tribunal in Dublin Castle.

Evidence was heard from the former Secretary General at the Department of Justice Noel Waters and Head of Legal Affairs at An Garda Siochana Ken Ruane.

Mr Ruane is scheduled to continue giving evidence today and will be followed by Annemarie Ryan, of the Chief State Solicitor’s office.

On Friday, it also heard of Michael McDowell SC, for Sgt McCabe, say although nobody was suggesting that somebody was going to ask Sgt McCabe at the O’Higgins Commission of Investigation if he ever abused a child,  “there was consideration, God knows by whom, given to the question of putting Ms D’s allegation firmly in the middle of the table at the O’Higgins Commission”.

It also heard of communications between the former Garda Commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan and the former Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald and the bizarre drawing up of statements by the Department of Justice for the Garda Commissioner to make to the Department of Justice.

That particular matter prompted  Judge Charleton to recall Myles na gCopaleen and ask: “If the Garda Commissioner is writing to the Department of Justice what the Department of Justice wants to have written to it, what in heaven’s name does that mean in terms of any genuine progress in terms of attitude?”

It also heard of a draft speech Ms O’Sullivan sent to Ms Fitzgerald on May 18, 2016 –  after the Irish Examiner broke the story in May 2016 about the O’Higgins Commission of Investigation and the strategy employed against Sgt McCabe – and in which she suggested Ms Fitzgerald tell the Dail, among other things, “I have interrogated this matter in detail with the 22 Commissioner of An Garda Síochána and now present to the House the outcome…I wish to state here now that I have full confidence in the Commissioner” (more about these communications in a later post).

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From top (left): Terry Prone, of the Communications Clinic; former Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald; former Garda Commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan; a response journalist Ken Foxe received from An Garda Siochana on foot of an FOI request

You may recall a previous post about the Communications Clinic and how it was hired by both An Garda Siochana and the Department of Justice in both 2015 and 2016.

An Garda Siochana paid the the firm €10,400  and €92,955 in 2015 and 2016 respectively.

The Department of Justice paid the Communications Clinic  €756 and €24,221 in 2015 and 2016 respectively.

The post drew attention to the fact two separate attempts made earlier this year, by journalists Ali Bracken, of the Irish Daily Mail, and Ken Foxe – to obtain details of An Garda Siochana’s hiring of the Communications Clinic, under the Freedom of Information Act – were rejected.

Specifically, Mr Foxe sought “copies of any emails between the Garda Commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan and PR consultant Terry Prone or the Communications Clinic during the period in which those services were provided to AGS.”

An Garda Siocana refused Mr Foxe’s request on the basis that there were no emails that were subject to FOI (see docs above).

Further to this…

Last March, Mr Foxe also sent a similar FOI request to the Department of Justice for “copies of all correspondence – both written and electronic – between the Minister Frances Fitzgerald and/or her private office and any of the following people or companies: Terry Prone and/or the Communications Clinic. “

Mr Foxe’s request was eventually refused on the basis that there were no records.

He then appealed this decision.

Yesterday.

Mr Foxe tweeted what he wrote in his appeal and the response he got from the Department of Justice…


Via Ken Foxe

Previously: Noirin’s Prone Position

This morning.

In the Irish Examiner.

Michael Clifford and Cormac O’Keeffe reported on an answer to a parliamentary question put down by Social Democrats TD Roisin Shortall to the Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan.

The answer, published on Tuesday, revealed that the email accounts of the former Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald and her special advisers were not looked at as part of the “trawl” for documents in the Department of Justice relevant to the Disclosures Tribunal.

The tribunal, overseen by Supreme Court judge Peter Charleton, is examining allegations of a smear campaign against Garda whisteblower Sgt Maurice McCabe.

On the same day, Mr Flanagan, in an answer to a separate parliamentary question, revealed the Disclosures Tribunal issued discovery orders on the Department of Justice in February, April and September of this year.

Readers may wish to note that, in response to the question asked by Ms Shortall, the Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan said:

While the email accounts of the then Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality and her advisors were not specifically examined as part of the recent trawl for documents, I can confirm that the email accounts of officials working in relevant areas of the Department were searched and that this exercise would of course encompass emails sent from or to the then Minister and her advisors on any such matters.

“I would point out that all discovery orders issued by the Tribunal were complied with fully. The Department has also made extensive voluntary disclosure of other matters including three protected disclosures, reports from the Garda Commissioner under section 41 of the Garda Síochána Act and, most recently, the two email threads that were uncovered following a trawl of documents in the Department.

“In acknowledging receipt of the emails, the Tribunal made reference to my Department’s already extensive discovery which has allowed the Tribunal to place the current documents in context.

I am assured that in the event of further documents being located that may be of relevance to the Tribunal’s work that these will of course be furnished to the Tribunal and I would point out that, the Deputy will be aware, the Taoiseach has announced that there will be an external examination of the way in which my Department fulfilled its obligations in relation to discovering documents to the Tribunal, to conclude before Christmas. That is a step I welcome.”

“I can assure the Deputy that any further Discovery Orders to be made by the Tribunal will also be complied with in full and the Tribunal has been assured of my full and ongoing support in that regard.”

Meanwhile…

Yesterday…

After the a meeting of the joint Oireachtas committee on justice and equality, which was attended by Deputy Secretary General at the Department of Justice Oonagh McPhilips…

In the Dail…

Labour TD Alan Kelly said to Taoiseach Leo Varadkar:

“There is an element of denial about what is going on. I spent a period of time at the Joint Committee on Justice and Equality this morning and genuinely ask the Taoiseach to ask his colleagues, Deputy Colm Brophy and Senator Martin Conway, who made good contributions about what happened. It was extraordinary.

“Given everything that has gone on and the information we have received through persistent questioning and with help from the media, we still have departmental officials coming to the committee to state the Department provided the information that it had been requested to provide during discovery.

“That is it – nothing has changed. The meeting was deeply worrying. I asked a specific question. I asked if private email addresses that potentially had been used by senior officials for departmental business and mobile phone records had been provided for the tribunal. The answer was that they had not been asked for them.

I had to ask the officials to ask Mr. Justice Charleton if he wanted this information. Is that not crazy? Has anything changed? We were also told that the information provided had been provided based on the questions asked and that there might be other documentation available.

In effect, they are acting as judge and jury and as a filtering system in providing information for the Charleton tribunal. The trawl has not changed anything. The culture has not changed.

“There are three specific issues. First, the way in which parliamentary questions are answered has not changed. The Taoiseach made a commitment in the Dáil that it would. I have evidence from yesterday. I am receiving far more text, but I am not getting answers in seeking facts, not speculation.

“Second, when it comes to the information being provided for the Charleton tribunal, we need a volte-face in attitude. The Department needs to provide everything. It needs to err on the side of providing too much. Information on the specific issues I have raised has not been sent.

“Third, I note that last week the Taoiseach was provided with a summary under section 41 by the acting Garda Commissioner. What is he going to do about this? It has to be acted on immediately. It is not a case of writing back and asking more questions.

The tribunal will be live for the next couple of months and we need this unit to be dealt with. We need answers quickly because it is having a dramatic impact on the operations of the tribunal.

The Taoiseach should remember that the Department has received lots of correspondence from certain witnesses who have issues and concerns about this issue, on top of the 29 parliamentary questions from me.”

Transcripts via Oireachtas.ie

Email trawl for Charleton Tribunal omitted Frances Fitzgerald (Irish Examiner)

Yesterday: ‘The Minister Would Have Done Nothing Wrong If She Had… Expressed Her Dissatisfaction With The Approach’

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