A former private secretary to Frances Fitzgerald has told the Disclosures Tribunal that once he noticed Sergeant Maurice McCabe's name was mentioned in an email, he would forward it on to the minister as soon as possible.

Christopher Quattrociocchi was private secretary to the then minister for justice during the O'Higgins Commission hearings in 2015.

The tribunal heard that he received an email for the minister's attention on 15 May 2015 from Michael Flahive, an Assistant Secretary in the Department of Justice, outlining details of a row that had emerged at the O'Higgins Commission over the garda legal strategy.

Mr Quattrociocchi told the tribunal that it was standard procedure if something was sent for the minister's attention to forward it to her and her advisors, and also to print off a hard copy for her in tray.

He said he did not have any specific memory of this email.

Mr Quattrociocchi said that once Sgt McCabe's name was seen in an email, it would have been sent on to the minister as soon as possible.

The tribunal heard that Mr Quattrociocchi replied to the email from Mr Flahive saying he would flag it to the minister, and that he forwarded it on to the minister and her advisors.

He outlined that the minister would have noted the email, and he sent an email back to Mr Flahive on 25 May saying that the minister had noted it.

Mr Quattrociocchi said he had no recollection of speaking to the minister about the email, but said it was possible that he had talked to her about it.

The tribunal also saw a copy of a briefing note for a meeting between Ms Fitzgerald and then garda commissioner Nóirín O'Sullivan on 16 May 2016 in the aftermath of the O'Higgins Commission.

Counsel for the tribunal, Kathleen Leader, said it appeared that the information given to the minister a year earlier in the email from Mr Flahive was not set out in the note for the meeting, and had been "wiped from history".

The tribunal heard there were no minutes of the meeting on 16 May 2016.

Mr Quattrociocchi said he did not attend the meeting, but he said that personally he did not think he would ever attend a meeting with the minister without taking notes.

The tribunal heard there were minutes relating to a second meeting between Ms Fitzgerald and Ms O'Sullivan later that month.

The tribunal also heard evidence today from Bernadette Phelan, an Assistant Principal Officer in the Corporate Secretariat at the Department of Justice.

She was one of a number of department staff who received an email from Mr Flahive outlining the row that had emerged at the O’Higgins Commission on 15 May 2015.

Counsel for the tribunal, Diarmaid McGuinness, asked Ms Phelan if the email would have been kept separately on file.

She said she did not have any information as to whether this correspondence was filed.

Ms Phelan was asked whether after the Disclosures Tribunal was established, she recalled receiving the email.

She said she did not recall receiving the email or discussing it with anyone.

Inspector questioned about note between O'Sullivan and lawyers

A Garda Inspector told the tribunal that his understanding of the Garda Commissioner's instructions to counsel at the O'Higgins Commission was to challenge Sgt McCabe's motivation but not to suggest or confuse mala fides.

Inspector Michael McNamara managed the disclosure process for the garda to the private inquiry.

He was questioned about his note of a legal consultation between Ms O'Sullivan and her counsel on 3 November 2014, which he also attended.

This was the day before Ms O'Sullivan was due to give evidence at the O'Higgins Commission.

His diary note of the meeting said "his evidence in this case is bad faith".

Insp McNamara said the notes related to possible questions the commissioner may be asked the next day.

Sgt McCabe's lawyer, Michael McDowell, put it to Insp McNamara that that did not stack up.

Later, under questioning by Ms O’Sullivan’s lawyer, Insp McNamara agreed that his understanding was that Ms O'Sullivan had challenged the sergeant's motivation but not to suggest or confuse mala fides.

He added that that impression remained the position. He also agreed that his notes were bullet points but he did not have a specific recollection.

The Private Secretary to the head of the Department of Justice has said he brought any emails involving Sgt McCabe to the attention of the acting Secretary General, at the time of the O’Higgins Commission.

Denis Griffin, who was the private secretary to acting Secretary General Noel Waters, was one of a number of department staff who received an email from a senior official outlining the emergence of a row over the Garda legal strategy at the O’Higgins Commission in May 2015.

Mr Griffin told the Tribunal he forwarded the email to Mr Waters, even though there was no direct request to pass it on.

He said anything involving Sgt McCabe at that point would have been brought to Mr Waters’ attention, without even going through the contents. 

Mr Griffin said he wanted Mr Waters to be informed in case the minister contacted him about it.

The Tribunal heard that Mr Griffin responded to the email on 18 May 2015 stating that Mr Waters had noted it.

Adviser says it was inappropriate for minister to be informed

A former special advisor to Ms Fitzgerald said it was inappropriate for the then minister for justice to be told about matters happening at the O'Higgins Commission.

Fine Gael Councillor William Lavelle was asked about an internal Department email sent on 15 May 2015 which referred to a row at the Commission's private hearings that day, about the questioning of Sgt McCabe.

The email was circulated by Mr Flahive and was based on a conversation he had with Richard Barrett of the Attorney General Office.

Mr Lavelle said he felt uncomfortable when he saw the email, as it dealt with matters at a Commission of Investigation which was independent of the minister.

He said he felt it was inappropriate that the email was sent as the minister had no role.

He said he advised the minister not to intervene, and that she must let the Commission do its work.

It was very clear from the email that no follow up was required, he said.

He said he remembered reading the email but he did not recall having further discussions.  He said that to engage in discussion would have been no more than ‘tittle tattle’ or gossip.

In response to counsel for the tribunal, he said he was surprised to see a reference to "a serious criminal complaint" against Sgt McCabe and he said he had not been aware of any complaint.

Additional Reporting by Sandra Hurley