The Taoiseach has confirmed that the decision for the State to provide legal assistance to former garda commissioner Martin Callinan is being reviewed and the Government has asked for advice from the Attorney General.

Speaking during Leaders' Questions in the Dáil, Leo Varadkar said the fact that the State is providing legal representation to the former garda commissioner does not mean that the State will pay for the defence or that there will be a defence, as he would like to see the case settled "sooner rather than later".

Mr Varadkar has also asked the Attorney General to advise the Government on whether it would be in a position to pursue the former commissioner and the former garda press officer David Taylor for a contribution to any damages that may be paid.

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald said the programme "Whistleblower" broadcast on RTÉ last night illustrated the horrific treatment of Sgt Maurice McCabe.

She said: "He and his wife Lorraine and their family deserve not only our support and solidarity but also our gratitude."

Ms McDonald said that he was the subject of the "most despicable type of character assassination imaginable".

She recalled how the Charleton Tribunal found that Mr McCabe was "repulsively denigrated for being no more than a good citizen and police officer".

She said he is "justifiably" pursuing legal action against the State and Mr Callinan, but it has emerged in recent days that it is the State who will pay Mr Callinan's legal fees with taxpayers' money. She said this was "outrageous".

Ms McDonald said that Mr Callinan "should not get one red cent" of State money to pay his legal fees, as "setting out to destroy Maurice McCabe was his doing and he should suffer the consequences".

The Taoiseach said that the decision to assist Mr Callinan was made in July before the Disclosures Tribunal report.

He said that now that the Charleton Tribunal report had been published, that position was being reviewed.

Mr Varadkar said: "The fact that the State is providing legal representation to the former garda commissioner that does not mean that the State will pay for the defence or even necessarily that there will be a defence.

"I would like to see this case settled. I would like to see it settled to the satisfaction of Maurice McCabe and Lorraine sooner rather than later."

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Earlier, Fianna Fail's Justice Spokesperson Jim O’Callaghan said the State should reach a settlement with Sgt McCabe and seek a contribution from Mr Callinan for any exposure the State may have.

Mr O'Callaghan warned the State would end up paying for everything, including damages to Sgt McCabe, costs for the State's legal team and legal costs for Mr Callinan.

However, Mr O'Callaghan said that the Charleton Report found that Mr Callinan had engaged in "a campaign of calumny".

This, he said, was not in the course of his employment and therefore Mr Callinan had a separate liability.