Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald has resigned ahead of a Fianna Fáil motion of no confidence that was tabled this evening.

Over the weekend and early yesterday, it seemed a more conciliatory mood emerged as the main parties sought to avert a pre-Christmas general election.

However, tension rose again last night following the revelation of more documents from the Department of Justice, one of which was a letter sent to her by one of her officials in July 2015, which discussed the "aggressive stance towards Sergeant Maurice McCabe at the O’Higgins Commission".

The documents were found during a trawl of records at the department requested by the Taoiseach following the controversy over a separate email sent to Ms Fitzgerald while she was Minister for Justice.

The July 2015 letter was to inform Ms Fitzgerald of a request which had come into the Garda Press Office from RTÉ journalist John Burke, who had asked the press office to confirm that "at a recent session of the Justice Kevin O’Higgins Inquiry, counsel for the Garda Commissioner (Nóirín O'Sullivan) raised questions over the motivation of Sgt McCabe for bringing certain matters regarding alleged garda misconduct to attention".

The letter also discussed how best she could respond to the questions raised in the press query and is the first indication that the line of aggressive questioning on Sgt McCabe at the O'Higgins Commission was personally notified to her, and as far back as July 2015.


Documents released by Department of Justice
Email chain regarding stance at O’Higgins Commission
Final report to Secretary General Noel Waters
Report to the Taoiseach 24 November 2017
Recommendations of the Toland Report
Letter from Disclosures Tribunal


It was almost a year later before the full details of the challenge to Sgt McCabe's motivation at the commission became public.

But at that time, Ms Fitzgerald told the Dáil that she knew nothing about it, or anything about the proceedings of the commission, which was held in private session.

The current controversy began when it emerged that an email, written by Michael Flahive, an assistant secretary in the Department of Justice, became public.

Mr Flahive explained in the email that he had taken a call from Richard Barrett, Deputy Secretary General in the Office of the Attorney General.

He wrote that Mr Barrett had told him that Ms O’Sullivan’s team had raised a very serious criminal allegation that had been made against Sgt McCabe.

That email was then sent to the secretary general, the assistant secretary in charge of crime and security and a senior official in the Policing Section as well as the minister’s private secretary before being forwarded to the minister and her political advisers.

The department has said that while Ms Fitzgerald is recorded as having "noted" the contents of the email "there was no oral discussion or briefing with her about it".

When details of the email were revealed 12 months later, the Tánaiste gave no indication that she had been aware of the garda commissioner’s strategy regarding Sgt McCabe.

She also insisted that she was advised by the Attorney General that she could not interfere with the O’Higgins Commission and that she had no hand, act or part in the legal strategy against Sgt McCabe.

She told the Dáil last week that when the department told her about the email she did not remember it.