Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan still has important questions to answer in relation to his department’s handling of the McCabe email affair, the co-leader of the Social Democrats, Róisín Shortall TD, said tonight.
Deputy Shortall accused the Minister of evasion in how he handled a series of questions which she raised with him in the Dáil this evening. She said:
“We know that Minister Charlie Flanagan was told about the original email on Monday 13th November last. He claims that he didn’t actually read it for a full week and that he had ‘missed the significance’ of its contents.
“Yet I discovered today that on that same day when the Minister claimed to be too busy to read the email he issued a press statement defending the department’s line in respect of the legal approach adopted by gardaí at the O’Higgins Commission. The language of that press release was highly defensive in tone, similar to all the communications from the department since. That the timing of this was a coincidence simply doesn’t add up.
Deputy Shortall continued:
“Minister Flanagan also failed to address how important emails were missed in the first trawl of emails on foot of a discovery order by the Charleton Tribunal. Surely all that was needed was an electronic search for the words ‘McCabe’ and ‘O’Higgins’ in the email accounts of the former Minister Frances Fitzgerald and her two political advisers?
“Nor did the Minister address the highly relevant question of whether the public officials copied into the email cache released last night now have to be interviewed or re-interviewed by the Charleton Tribunal. We have been told by the department that the Tribunal is writing to relevant officials seeking statements in relation to the 15th May 2015 email, which was sent to them on 21st November 2017.
“Presumably this also means that the recipients of the emails circulated on 4th July 2015, including the former Tánaiste and Minister for Justice herself, must now make fresh statements to the Tribunal.
“These are not idle questions – they must be answered by the Minister if we are to see any political accountability on his part. We have seen enough evasion and half-truths delivered in the Dáil about this issue and it must end here and now. The Minister wasn’t in possession of the information to respond to those questions tonight and he needs to do so at an early date.”