The Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin has disputed a claim by the Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald that she had no knowledge of a file by Tusla containing false allegations of child sex abuse against the whistleblower Sergeant Maurice McCabe until she watched revelations about the file on RTÉ's Prime Time programme.
Speaking on RTÉ's The Week in Politics today, Ms Fitzgerald said "I had no knowledge of all of the things that have emerged on Prime Time in relation to referrals to Tusla and how inadequately they were dealt with; the problems with the counsellor, those issues were absolutely ... I was stunned watching those on Thursday night as the public were and as concerned and that's the truth."
Ms Fitzgerald also said she was not aware that a formal apology was going to be issued to Sgt McCabe by the Child and Family Agency, Tusla.
She said she had a conversation with Minister for Children Katherine Zappone on the morning of 25 January before her meeting with the McCabes.
"That was the only conversation I had with her," she said.
However speaking this afternoon in Cork, Mr Martin said his party's justice spokesman Jim O’Callaghan had met Ms Fitzgerald on Wednesday evening to broaden the terms of reference of the Charleton Commission of Investigation to include the Tusla file.
Mr Martin said at that stage Fianna Fáil had been alerted to the existence of the Tusla file and he had spoken to Sgt McCabe on Wednesday in relation to it.
He said he was anxious that the terms of reference would cover the Tusla file, and Mr O'Callaghan had met Ms Fitzgerald and alerted her to its existence and the need to cover it in the terms of reference.
Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin calls on Frances Fitzgerald to clarify what knowledge she had of the Tusla file in the whistleblower case pic.twitter.com/sm33jEPdKP— RTÉ News (@rtenews) February 12, 2017
Mr Martin called on Ms Fitzgerald to clarify what knowledge she had of the Tusla file prior to the terms of reference for the Charleton Inquiry being drafted.
However, a spokesperson for the Tánaiste has insisted this evening that the Tusla file was not mentioned at the meeting between Ms Fitzgerald and Mr O'Callaghan on Wednesday evening.
"Deputy O'Callaghan spoke to me about the terms of reference the day before the Dáil debate (Wednesday)," said Ms Fitzgerald in a statement.
"He suggested the terms of reference should be broadened to bring absolute clarity that the allegation of criminal misconduct against Sgt McCabe and the alleged smear campaign would be investigated.
"He said he was of the opinion that the limiting the Terms of Reference to Superintendent Taylor could be too narrow and could limit the investigation.
At no point did he mention Tusla or any of the details that emerged in the programme.
The Charleton Commission of Investigation is to examine whether there was a smear campaign against Sgt McCabe orchestrated by senior gardaí.
Ms Fitzgerald said Judge Peter Charleton will include all of the matters discussed during the Prime Time programme as part of his inquiry, adding that she would be happy to broaden the terms of reference.
But she said there would have to be evidence of criminality before a criminal investigation could be considered.
Sinn Féin said yesterday that it will table a motion of no confidence in the Government over its handling of the controversy.
Sinn Féin said it will publish its motion of no confidence tomorrow morning.
Speaking on The Week in Politics today, Independents 4 Change TD Clare Daly said: "I think Nóirín O’Sullivan’s situation in largely untenable. I think that’ll have to be addressed.
"I think the terms of reference [of the Charleton Commission of Investigation] must be expanded to include the allegation of the other garda whistleblowers who want their cases heard and we’ve met ten at this stage and many of what they’ve experienced is very, very similar to what Maurice McCabe has experienced. That must be done," she said.
"Both [The Taoiseach and the Minister for Justice] 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," said Sinn Féin’s deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald.
"The Taoiseach went so far as to claim that the meeting was in a 'private capacity'.
"These positions are not credible. It appears that the Government are making it up as they go along. This is farcical, chaotic and unacceptable," said Ms McDonald.
Labour’s Alan Kelly said that there are still serious questions outstanding following the breakdown in collective Cabinet responsibility this week.
Garda whistleblower Sgt McCabe rejects HSE apology
Garda whistleblower Sgt Maurice McCabe has rejected the statement of apology released by the HSE yesterday.
It is understood the McCabes contacted one of Minister for Health Simon Harris's officials after watching a news item setting out the details of the apology on the RTÉ News last night.
The HSE has not yet made contact with the McCabes in relation to this apology.
The McCabes sent a text to the official stating: "We reject both the statement and apology. The HSE statement is wrong and this is not good enough."
"The file we have contradicts the statement and it is shocking that we have to again listen and deal with false information."
They did not receive a response.
The HSE statement stated that once the alleged error was discovered all proper procedures were taken by the HSE.
However, documents released by Tusla to the McCabes highlights that there are serious questions to be answered.
"A blanket statement from the HSE without contacting us was unprofessional and more annoyance to us," Lorraine McCabe said today.
The couple told RTÉ this evening that they have decided to have no further direct engagement with the HSE or Tusla in the wake of the apology.
A spokesperson for Minister for Health Simon Harris said he believes that Sgt McCabe has done the State some service and deserves truth and justice.
He understands that the HSE is endeavouring to make contact with Sgt McCabe to meet with him.
The Minister is eager that interactions with all other agencies are encompassed in the work of the Commission of Investigation and that the work of the Commission gets underway as quickly as possible so that it can investigate all the relevant matters.