Fitzgerald resigns

Embattled Tánaiste steps down amid email revelations, averting a pre-Christmas election

Irish Times writers Tue, Nov 28
LIVE: Fitzgerald resigns

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  • This event has now ended
  • 07:11
    Good morning,
    The prospect of a snap, pre-Christmas election looms very large today with Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil still at loggerheads over the future of Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald. The parties are due to meet again today in a bid to find a resolution ahead of a no-confidence motion in the Tánaiste this evening. Join us for all the news as it happens.
  • 07:42

  • 07:52
    Tanaiste Frances Fitzgerald was under intense pressure from her Fine Gael colleagues to resign in the wake of fresh revelations about the treatment of Garda whistleblower Sgt Maurice McCabe. Here's today's lead story
  • 07:55

    Speaking on RTE's Morning Ireland, Sinn Fein's deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald said that the Tanaiste is "dancing on the head of a pin” in her claims that she could not interfere in the O’Higgins Commission when informed of the legal strategy to discredit Sgt Maurice McCabe.

    "It is time for  Frances Fitzgerald to go. If she won't then the Taoiseach needs to relieve her of her duty," she added

  • 07:56

  • 08:06
    Labour TD Alan Kelly has said Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan needs to answer questions about the Department of Justice and its failure to co-operate fully with the Disclosures Tribunal.
    He told RTE's Morning Ireland the Department and the Minister had refused to answer questions in the Dail and when he submitted written questions "the Department shut me down, they refused to answer any questions".  
    Mr Kelly said he had to adopt a drip, drip method of questioning and kept probing.
  • 08:09

  • 08:17
    RTE's Morning Ireland reporting that the Independent Alliance are to meet the Taoiseach before the Cabinet meeting this morning.
    If they seek the Tánaiste's resignation, as RTE's  Martina Fitzgerald puts it  "we are at the end".
  • 08:29

    Fiach Kelly in today's political digest:


    The Tanaiste has so far been a hostage to a contest of political pride between the Taoiseach and the Fianna Fail leader.  


    Fianna Fail still wants her resignation and will press ahead with its motion of no confidence tonight if she does not step down. Varadkar says that will break the confidence-and-supply deal and cause an election.


    Varadkar and Martin will meet again, and the Fine Gael Minsters will also hold their weekly meeting in advance of the Cabinet meeting.  


    It's going to be another rollercoaster today.



  • 08:40

    Minister of State Damien English has said Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald should go into the Dáil today and explain what she knew and  when.  
    "We have to give her an opportunity to do that," he told Newstalk Breakfast.    
    "Let's hear her out."
    He said the Disclosures Tribunal can investigate all the details in depth in January.
    "I'm sure the Tánaiste will be happy to come before the Dáil today to explain all this."

  • 08:42
    Former Justice Minister Alan Shatter has tweeted that he believes "a general election is total madness" at a time when Ireland's interests are under major threat from the growing Brexit issues.
  • 08:43

  • 08:53


  • 09:00

    What's on the schedule  today:

    The Cabinet meets this morning. RTE have reported the Independent Alliance are due to meet Taoiseach Leo Varadkar before this. They have consistently stated they do not want a general election.

    Leaders’ Questions are at 2pm followed by the Order of Business

    Minister for Children Katherine Zappone is up on ministerial questions

    The Public Service Pay and Pensions Bill is at second stage. The Social Welfare Bill is also at second stage, as is the Health Insurance Amendment Bill.

    Fianna Fail’s motion of no confidence is due to be heard around 8pm. If passed, it signals the end of the confidence and supply agreement.

  • 09:04
    Fianna Fáil's communication spokesperson Timmy Dooley said Fine Gael people "behind the scenes" are "troubled and concerned" about the recent revelations of emails to the Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald.
    "What we need is the wise heads in Fine Gael to get together and avoid an election," he told RTE's Morning Ireland.
    "It's very clear to me that the Tánaiste's position is not tenable."
    He said he did not think the Tánaisste could sustain her position, to say that she did not remember.
    "It is clear that she was aware and was being briefed at every step."
    Mr Dooley added that if the Tánaiste does not "do the honourable thing" then the Taoiseach "will have to act."
  • 09:07
    RTE reporting that the Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald arrived at the Cabinet meeting  before 9am  and did  not speak  to media.
  • 09:08

  • 09:13
    There are reports that the Independent Alliance will not demand Tánaiste  Frances Fitzgerald's resignation during a meeting with the Taoiseach this morning.
  • 09:21
    Fine Gael TD Hildegarde Naughton told Raidió na Gaektachta this morning that it will be difficult for Frances Fitzgerald to remain in Cabinet.
  • 09:27

    Former Justice Minister Alan Shatter says the  full transcipt of the O'Higgins Commission hearings  should be published.
    "The Dáil is not being told the full facts," he told Newstalk's Pat Kenny Show.

  • 09:30
    Mr Shatter adds he's not going to call for the resignation of a former colleague.
    He says it would be "complete insanity" if the country  ends up  in the middle of a general election later today.
  • 09:36
    Irish Times journalist Fintan O'Toole writes "the political immune system is breaking down and the strongest antibiotics have all been used".

    Here's Fintan's opinion piece.
  • 09:41
    Irish Times Political Editor Pat Leahy says "the longer this goes on the more damage to the Taoiseach, not just in terms if his authority as head of government, but within his own party".

    Here's Pat's profile of Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald who he describes as "canny as well as dogged".
  • 09:44

  • 10:03

  • 10:07
    Taoiseach Leo Varadkar cancelled his weekly meeting with Fine Gael ministers this morning and went straight to Cabinet meeting.
  • 10:10

    Greencore chief executive Patrick Coveney, brother of Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney, says he does not think a general election before Christmas would be good for business.
    An election now risked weakening the Governent's ability to represent Ireland's interests in relation to Brexit, at what is likely to be a crucial EU summit meeting in December, he told RTE Radio 1 earlier this morning.

  • 10:13

  • 10:18
    Minister of State Jim Daly pulled out of RTE's Today with Sean O'Rourke show minutes before he was due to go on air this morning.

  • 10:30

    Irish Times political reporter Sarah Bardon says "Independent Alliance sources say they will be seeking political accountability  from Frances Fitzgerald. That can only mean one thing really."    

    Here's Sarah's report today about the emails at the centre of the controversy.

  • 10:32

  • 10:52
    Fianna Fail's spokesperson on Public Expenditure and Reform Dara Calleary has said "the situation can be resolved without having a general election".
    "Our position all along is that she has to go, that hasn't changed," he told RTE's Today with Sean O'Rourke show.
    "We're not after heads here. Frances Fitzgerald is a fine politician with a good record, but her handling of this situation leaves a damaged legacy."
    Mr Calleary said that Fianna Fáil needs confidence for there to be a confidence and supply agreement and they don't have confidence in Frances Fitzgerald.
    "Our job is to hold the Government to political accountability."
    He said the Charleton Tribunal will hold her to account for her action within the Department of Justice, but she has to be held to account for giving "false" information to the Dáil and the Taoiseach.
  • 10:57
    Speaking on his way into Cabinet this morning, Minister for Transport Shane Ross said the situation was "very grave" while his colleague Minister of State Finian McGrath said they would make their views known to Mr Varadkar.
  • 11:03

  • 11:10

  • 11:14
    Irish Times courts correspondent Mary Carolan reports: "High Court is told by lawyers for Labour's Joe Costello the next Dáil will be unconstitutional if the Dáil is dissolved today. Mr Justice Kelly said it is not possibe to hear Mr Costello's case before any possible dissolution today but it will be heard soon."
  • 11:23

    Social Democrats TD Roisin Shortall has said Taoiseach Leo Varadkar "has no choice but to sack Frances Fitzgerald".  
    She told RTE's Sean O'Rourke show it is the "only thing that will save the country from a general election".
    She said Mr Varadkar should "listen to his own party who are very aggrieved" and that "the country can't afford to have a general election at this stage".  

  • 11:24

    Ms Shortall adds a general election would do "huge damage to the country".  She said the Taoiseach either  "takes decisive action and sacks Frances Fitzgerald" or he "plunges us into another general election".  

  • 11:26

  • 11:37
    Irish Times political correspondent Harry McGee says:
    "Politicians from all parties are arriving in Leinster House this morning after the weekend. And whatever their opinions as they departed last Friday, they are all speaking with one voice. And that is that Frances Fitzgerald has to go.
    A senior Fianna Fail TD said that his party was not wholly certain of its ground last Thursday ahead of demanding the Tánaiste's resignation.
    "We had a hunch that Alan Kelly had a very good 'mole' and that more would come out." But there was no certainty about that.
    There was a view that Leo Varadkar performed well on the Six One News on Friday night and set out a plausible event. However, the outcome of the full trawl of documents was a game-changer, according to everybody.
    With the news of a phone call, plus three emails dating from 2015 related to queries submitted by RTE reporter John Burke, the writing was on the wall.
    Fitzgerald herself tweeted last night that the emails bolstered her argument that she could not have interfered. But judged on the face of it, the political charge is that she was aware of the public pronouncements praising Maurice McCabe, yet there was proof that an altogether different strategy was being pursued.
    On the basis of the culmulative evidence, it is going to be very hard for Varadkar to step back from the brink. The only way to avoid an election is for either Varadkar or Martin to climb down. There are consequences, not least considerable short-term political consequences as well as questions over political judgement.
    Until Sunday, it seemed that Michael Martin might have to take the step-back. But in the last 24 hours, it has all changed and that onus will fall on Varadkar.
    It's not going to be a pretty sight, one way or the other. But there's a growing belief among the TDs and Senators I have spoken to this morning that Fitzgerald will have resigned by lunchtime."
  • 11:42
    Former Justice Minister Dermot Ahern says the Tánaiste "has to go". See Simon Carswell's report here.
  • 11:43
    BREAKING: Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald is to announce she is to resign from Government.

    See Sarah Bardon's report here.
  • 11:45

  • 11:46

  • 11:52
    Irish Times parliamentary correspondent Michael O'Regan says: "Frances Fitzgerald has bowed to the inevitable and resigned. She is another victim of a dysfunctional Department of Justice."
  • 11:54
    Labour TD Alan Kelly says Ms Fitzgerald's resignation "was inevitable but doesn't give me any pleasure".
    "She's a fine woman but given the revelations she should have acted when this information first came out in 2015 and 2016," he told RTE's Sean O'Rourke show.
    "This opens up other questions about the Taoiseach's judgement and huge questions about Charlie Flanagan and why his department tried to shut down my questions."
  • 12:03
    Fianna Fail's finance spokesperson Michael McGrath has said the confidence and supply agreement between Fianna Fáil and Fine  Gael remains in place even though it has  been stretched "to the boundaries".
    He said the Tánaiste's resignation has not been confirmed to him, but it looks like her departure is immient and therefore  the motion of no confidence will not proceed.
    "This crisis was created by the Government not Fianna Fáil," he told RTE's Sean O'Rourke show.
    There is still need for the  Department of Justice to be held to account for its behaviour,  he said.  
  • 12:03

  • 12:11
    Irish Times politicial reporter Sarah Bardon says "Government sources have confirmed the Taoiseach has accepted her resignation". Mr Varadkar has phoned Fianna Fáil leader Michael Martin to inform him of the news. Mr Martin has a frontbench meeting this morning.
  • 12:20
    Irish Times politicial correspondent Harry McGee says there is "zero appetite" within Fianna Fáil to back Labour TD Alan Kelly to pursue Minister for Justice  Charlie Flanagan on his role.  
  • 12:32
    Sarah Bardon reports it is understood that the Taoiseach asked Ms Fitzgerald to consider her position on Monday night. Fine Gael sources say this has handed Fianna Fáil leader Michael Martin "a significant win" and has damaged the Taoiseach.
  • 12:40
    Sinn Fein TD David Cullinane says Frances Fitzgerald's resignation "is the first step in political accountability".
    "The chaos of the last few days exposes [a] truly dysfunctional government."
  • 12:45
    Solidarity TD Paul Murphy says "with Fitzgerald gone, we need answers from Charlie Flanagan in the Dáil  today".  
  • 12:47

  • 12:55

    Irish Times political reporter Sarah Bardon says: "Speaking at his frontbench meeting, the Fianna Fáil leader Michael Martin thanked his pary for their patience on this issue.
    "He said it had been a difficult few days but the focus now needed to be on Brexit and supporting the Government's stance during the talks. Mr Martin also told his frontbench meeting a number of changes to the Department of Justice would be introduced.
    "Ms Fitzgerald told the Cabinet she would be "vindicated" by the Disclosures Tribunal, which is examing allegations of the smear campaign against Sgt McCabe.
    "The Tánaiste said she was resigning in the national interest to avoid a general election.
    "The Attorney General gave a presentation to the Cabinet insisting it would be "inappropriate and improper" for Ms Fitzgerald to have intervened when she received the emails in 2015."

  • 13:06
    Fianna Fáil leader Michael Martin tells his frontbench it is time to focus on Brexit and to support the Government at the EU summit on December 15th.
  • 13:08
    Fintan O'Toole writes - did the Department of Justice engage in a deliberate act of subversion?
  • 13:18

    Fianna Fáil spokesperson on public expenditure Dara Calleary says it is "a sad day  for Frances Fitzgerald and her family but it had to come to this".
    He  told RTE News at One it is not about  "looking for heads", "this is about looking for accountability".
    He said the confidence and supply agreement was "tested to its absolute limit".
    He said Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan has questions to answer.  
    "He will come into the Dáil and answer those."

  • 13:20
    Independent TD Clare Daly  predicts  there will be an election  in January or February 2018.  
  • 13:25

  • 13:29

    BREAKING: Frances Fitzgerald has issued a statement confirming her resignation stating "I believe it is necessary to take this decision to avoid an unwelcome and potentially destabilising general election at this historically critical time".

  • 13:31
    Ms Fitzgerald says: "Throughout my career I have always sought to act with integrity and responsibility and that is why I have decided on this occasion to put the national interest ahead of my own personal repulation."
    She adds: "I would like to thank the Taoiseach for showing the same courage and determination to protect my good name that he displayed three years aho when he stood-up and defended the reputation of Maurice McCabe."
  • 13:33

  • 13:40

    Minister for Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform Paschal Donohoe said he hopes people will see the Taoiseach as a politician who "formed a view on a matter on the basis of his principles not for political expediency".  
    He told RTE's News at One that Leo Varadkar did not ask Frances Fitzgerald to consider her position on Monday.
    "I do not believe that he did,"  Mr Donohoe  said.
    "She made this decision on her own and recognised the support the Taoiseach offered her."

  • 13:51
    Irish Times political correspondent Harry McGee says:
    "Frances Fitzgerald has just issued a statement saying of her resignation: "I believed it was necessary to take this decision to avoid an unwelcome and potentially destabilising general election at this historically critical time."
    The statement suggests that she made the decision on her own.
    Paschal Donohoe on the News at One has said he "does not believe that he [the Taoiseach] asked her to consider her position".
    It has been widely reported that he did, and he will be asked about this, I'm sure, during Leaders Questions.
    The crucial paragraph reads: "However, I decided that my continuation in office risks destabilising that good work, and so I have decided to step-down so that this work may continue and the country can be  spared an unncessary election.
    "It will also allow me to vindicate my good name at the Charleton Tribunal, without causing any further distraction to the work  of the Government. I have always believed in due process and I believe that in the current situation that is becoming increasingly difficult for me.
    "I acted correctly in difficult circumstances and, in fact, did everything that I could to support the search for truth and protect whistleblowers."
    Leader's Questions is going to be a very bracing experience for the Taoiseach and his closest  allies."
  • 14:01

  • 14:08
    Here's the link to the full statement by Frances Fitzgerald on her resignation.
  • 14:10
    Taoiseach Leo Varadkar is taking Leaders' Questions in the Dáil at the moment. You can watch it live on The Irish Times facebook page here.
  • 14:15

    Micheál Martin is now speaking in the Dáil....

  • 14:15

    "It is crucial that correct and honest answers are givien," says the Fianna Fáil Leader.  

  • 14:16

    Mr Martin has asked Minister for Justice Charlie flanagan to give a statement to the house. Taoiseach says statement is being prepared and that answers not answered yet "will be answered in full".

  • 14:17
    Varadkar: "Had all the questions been answered and emails been found and put into the public domain I don't think it would have been necessary for the Tanasite to tender her resignation."
  • 14:18
    Varadkar: "At the heart of all of this is the human cost, not just to Frances Fitzgerald, her family and friends and colleagues but also the human cost to Maurice McCabe and his family."
  • 14:19
    Micheál Martin speaking says changes needed in Department of Justice rapidly.  
  • 14:21

    Micheál Martin: "We agreed on Friday when we met that both of us did not want a general election. Both of us worked to avoid that reality from occurring. Our positions on Brexit have always been aligned in terms of the national interest. That will continue. We will continue to facilitate the workings in government in line with the Confidence and Supply Agreement.”

  • 14:24
    Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald. Speaking to the Taoiseach, Ms McDonald says: "We’ve had a week of you dithering and scrambling for cover. We’ve had a week of you and the leader of Fianna Fáil conniving to sidestep accountability. Today we have the right outcome but it shouldn’t have taken this long."
  • 14:24
    "You supported a minister who clearly failed in her duties... you put the interests of Fine Gael above all else..."
  • 14:25
    McDonald: "Instead as acting as a Taoiseach you played a game of bluff and political poker with your partner Micheal Martin."
  • 14:26

    Leo Varadkar responding to Mary Lou McDonald: “Every time I come into this house I tell the truth as I believe it to be.”

  • 14:27
    Varadkar to McDonald: "Even though on Thursday you did not know all the facts, that did not stop you from putting down a motion of confidence in the Tánaiste. For you and the Sinn Féin party this was never about getting to the truth. This was about getting ahead and scoring points."
  • 14:32

    Here's a recap of what we've heard so far in Leaders' Questions from Marie O'Halloran...

    Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has formally announced the resignation of Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald as Minister for Enterprise, and Innovation.

    Leo Varadkar will take up her responsibilities temporarily as well as his own.

    He said “it is my strong view that a good woman is leaving office without getting a full and   fair hearing”.

    She been an exemplary member of Government, he told the Dail.

    Mr Varadkar said the events of the past few days have shown once again the dysfunction in the Department of Justice, and he had ordered an external inquiry into the failure to find emails and send them to the Charleton inquiry, by Christmas.

    The Taoiseach said he would ensure that all questions asked in relation to Garda whistleblower Sgt Maurice McCabe would be answered as fully as possible.

    He described Ms Fitzgerald as one of the most reforming Ministers they had ever had in Justice and said she always supported whistleblowers.

    In the past few days, he said, a drip drip of information made things seem more serious than they were.

    “There was a feeding frenzy and it became impossible for her to get a fair hearing.”

    She had no hand, act or part in the Garda legal strategy and had no knowledge of the approach that was being taken until the O’Higgins inquiry was underway.

    “A calm reading of evidence will show that the Tánaiste acted appropriately.

    He said he was determined to “shine the brightest of lights into the darkest of places”

    He expected Ms Fitzgerald I expect her to play a full role at the highest level in the future.  

  • 14:35

    People Before Profit's Richard Boyd Barrett now speaking:

    "There is relief among ordinary people across this country that you did not inflict an election on them in the run up to Christmas to gain some cynical political advantage, which I think was part of your calculations.... how else can you explain that right up until the last minute you protected the minister for justice even though you knew over the weekend that the Tánaiste had mislead the Dáil about the extent of her knowledge about a foul smear campaign about Maurice McCabe."

  • 14:36
    "Are there other memos relating to this matter that haven’t been handed over to Charleton?", asks Boyd Barrett
  • 14:37
    Boyd Barrett: “How can anybody have confidence in your Government given your handling of this and people certainly need an election to get rid of this Government as soon as possible in the new year.”
  • 14:46

     Varadkar: “I was the one who ordered the trawl which allowed the documents to be found and I was the one who put them in the public domain... that’s why I waited until I had the full report on Monday and when I had the full report I put it in the public domain within hours. Had the department of justice done that months ago we would not be in the sorry situation we are in today.”

  • 14:54

    Mick Wallace reminds Taoiseach not to forget the housing crisis amid ongoing political crisis. “The housing crisis is going to get worse before it gets better... you are not dealing with it in a way that is going to solve the problem...”

  • 14:56

    That's all from Leaders' Questions

  • 14:56

    A look back at Fintan O’Toole’s article published earlier today which asks whether the Department of Justice engaged in a deliberate act of subversion...

    “If a single word were to sum up the self-image of the Department of Justice, it would be “subversion”.

    Its institutional culture has been formed around a sense of a historic mission to combat conspiracies to subvert the State. And yet we are now faced with reasonable suspicions that the department itself has engaged as a collective institution in an extraordinary act of subversion. (There is no evidence of culpability on the part of any individual.)

    The withholding from the Charleton tribunal of the three crucial emails  that were eventually made public on Monday night is, on the face of it, an attempt to undermine a tribunal of inquiry charged with the investigation of extremely serious and urgent matters. It is a defiance of the will of the people as expressed by the Oireachtas when it established that tribunal. Who is going to account for this?

    Fine Gael ministers have repeatedly claimed in recent days that Frances Fitzgerald, when she was minister for justice, established the Charleton tribunal. This is true only in the most narrow technical sense that she made the formal order to get it going.

    It was actually established on February 16th by the Dáil and Seanad, which, for all their faults, are the people’s parliament. In the past, the Oireachtas has given tribunals fuzzy or excessively broad terms of reference. But not this time. As Judge Peter Charleton put it in his opening remarks on February 27th, “the terms of reference make it crystal clear as to what is at issue”.

    Read more from Fintan O’Toole here...

  • 14:57
  • 15:01
    Varadkar: 'It is my strong view that a good woman is leaving office without getting a full and  fair hearing”
    Varadkar: "It is my strong view that a good woman is leaving office without getting a full and fair hearing”
  • 15:02
  • 15:03
  • 15:05
    And another one....
  • 15:11

    And now we've avoided that crisis, here's what they've moved onto in the Dáil from Marie O'Halloran...

    After the drama of an election avoided and the statement on the Tanaiste’s resignation, the Dail will move back to “Bills” business.

     TDs will debate legislation to restore pay and pension entitlements, imposed during the recession, to public servants including teachers, gardai and nurses in the Public Service Pay and Pensions Bill.

    It is part of the phased unravelling of the Fempi (Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest)  legislation which imposed charges on public sector workers. It will deal with the legislation to give weekly social welfare recipients that extra €5 promised in the budget for pensions and carers’ allowances and other benefits in the Social Welfare Bill.

  • 15:12
  • 15:15
  • 15:22

    For those of you that missed it, here is the text from Taoiseach Leo Varadkar’s speech following the resignation of Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald.

    “This morning, Frances Fitzgerald came to me to offer her resignation as tánaiste and minister for business, enterprise and innovation. She is doing so to avoid an unnecessary and early general election that could have left the country without a functioning government and Oireachtas  for several months at a crucial time for Ireland.

    “Over the next few weeks and months, the Government will need to focus on the Brexit negotiations, both phase one and phase two. We have a Finance Bill and Appropriations Bill to enact. Legislation to pass for public sector pay restoration and pension and social welfare increases. We also have the important work of the committee on the Eighth Amendment to complete, paving the way for a referendum next year. All of these would fall in the event of a general election.

    “The work of the Government and the parliament must not be interrupted during this important period. So, it is with deep regret that I have accepted her resignation.

    “It is my strong view that a good woman is leaving office without getting a full and fair hearing..."

    Read the rest of the Taoiseach’s speech here.



  • 15:23

    What happens next?

    The Secretary General of the Department of the Taoiseach will carry out the review of the trawl of emails and belated submission of emails to the Charlteton Tribunal, writes Marie O'Halloran.  

    Taoiseach Leo Varadkar told Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald that there was precedent for the Secretary General to carry out a review of other departments.

    Mr Varadkar had earlier said an external review would be carried out.

    Social Democrats co-leader Roisin Shortall said it would be a serious mistake to carry the investigation out “internally” within any Government department.

    The Taoiseach said he was open to suggestions about an alternative.

  • 15:23
  • 15:24
  • 15:26
  • 15:38

    Irish Times political editor Pat Leahy has taken a look back at Frances Fitzgerald’s political career and her rise from the National Women’s Council to the second-highest Government office in Ireland...

    Fitzgerald entered politics in the early 1990s after serving as the chairwoman of the National Women’s Council and won the seat in Dublin South East that had been previously held by the former party leader and taoiseach Garret FitzGerald.

    Holding a safe Fine Gael  seat and with a high public profile, she seemed destined for high office, and soon. But in the hothouse atmosphere of internal party politics, she twice backed the wrong horse, and lost out.

    In 1994, with Fine Gael languishing in opposition, Fitzgerald backed an internal challenge to John Bruton  – which he defeated – and missed out on ministerial office when Fine Gael unexpectedly found itself in government a few months later.

    She then backed Bruton in a later heave in 2001, which he lost to Michael Noonan. A year later, in the 2002 general election, Fitzgerald lost her seat. She failed to be elected to the Seanad a few weeks later.

    She sought a nomination for the European Parliament  and failed and was even overlooked for a council nomination in 2004. Lucinda Creighton took over the Fine Gael mantle in the constituency, and Fitzgerald was out. It looked like her political career was over.

    Read on here...

  • 15:59

    It’s been a frantic few days for Leo Varadkar, Frances Fitzgerald and all others caught up in the political crisis which nearly brought the Government to its knees. But how did this whole debacle begin and why has the McCabe affair continued for so long?

    Irish Times political correspondent Harry McGee walks us through the saga involving Garda whistleblower Sgt Maurice McCabe which began over a decade ago....

    January 2006:  Maurice McCabe makes a complaint about two Garda colleagues who arrived at the scene of a suicide from a pub where they had been drinking. One of them is subsequently disciplined.

    December 2006:  A daughter of the disciplined garda, Ms D, makes a complaint of child sexual abuse against McCabe. The allegation dates from 1998, and it was claimed he touched her inappropriately when playing hide-and-seek. The DPP concludes there are no grounds for prosecution, stating there is no evidence the incident ever happened and, even if it did, it could not have been characterised as anything more than horseplay.

    2008:  McCabe raises concerns about penalty points being quashed by senior gardaí for reasons of nepotism or favouritism. At this stage, McCabe was stationed in Mullingar but had spent most of his career in the Cavan-Monaghan division, where he himself was brought up.

    McCabe’s concerns are not acted upon. He continues his research into the abuse of penalty points, discovering a large number of quashed points in his trawls through the Garda’s Pulse system. Eventually, his superiors restricted his access to Pulse.

    2008-2010:  McCabe builds up a dossier of 42 cases of alleged malpractice, harassment and corruption in Bailieborough, Co Cavan. There is an internal investigation, headed by senior gardaí, but McCabe believes it has not taken his most serious allegations seriously.

    January 2012: McCabe makes further complaints to the Garda’s then confidential recipient Oliver Connolly, whose job it was to hear complaints and pass them on for investigation. By this time, McCabe and another Cavan garda, John Wilson, have amassed a large file on penalty points.

    Read on into the more recent years of the McCabe saga here...

  • 16:01

    Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan will make a statement to the Dail at about 4.45 pm and will answer questions about the emails saga in the Department of Justice.

  • 16:18

    The Government’s political crisis has attracted a lot of international attention in recent days given the direct implications on Brexit talks.

    Arthur Beesley, Ireland correspondent with the Financial Times, writes that Leo Varadkar’s “resolute backing has led some in his own party to question his political judgment, after the first big crisis to confront him since taking office in June.”

    “Ms Fitzgerald is the second minister to resign as a result of the affair, which has also claimed the heads of two successive chiefs of police and exposed systemic weakness in Ireland’s justice and policing bodies,” writes Beesley.  

  • 16:21
  • 16:21
  • 16:23
  • 16:29
  • 16:43

    International reaction

    The Guardian writes that Fitzgerald’s resignation has averted “a parliamentary vote that would have collapsed the minority government and triggered a snap election at a crunch time for  Brexit negotiations”.

    Documents released on Monday, which revealed Fitzgerald had received three emails about the legal strategy being used against Sgt Maurice McCabe, prompted backbenchers “in her own Fine Gael party to call for Fitzgerald to step down from the cabinet to prevent the no-confidence vote and the government collapsing”, writes Henry McDonald.

    “The crisis comes at a crucial time for Varadkar’s five-month-old government. EU leaders will decide at a summit on 14-15 December whether there has been enough progress to start discussions over Britain’s future relations with the bloc.

    “A key barrier to progress is the Irish border. Varadkar is pressing the UK to spell out how it can keep the currently invisible Ireland-Northern Ireland frontier free of customs posts and other barriers when the UK leaves the EU while Ireland remains a member.

    “The 310-mile (500km) frontier will be the UK’s only land border with an EU country. Any hurdles to the movement of people or goods could have serious implications for the economies on both sides, and for Northern Ireland’s peace process.”

  • 16:54

    International reaction

    An article from Lisa O’Carroll published in the Guardian last Friday asks whether Leo Varadkar’s position has been weakened by the latest political turmoil.

    O’Carroll writes that Ireland’s timing in pulling the trigger on the coalition government “couldn’t be worse in terms of the nation’s post-Brexit future – and many will agree that it shows Westminster politicians do not have the monopoly on putting personal ambitions before country.”

    “Varadkar has upped the ante on this in the past three weeks and his current standing in Brussels is solid,” writes O’Carroll. “He wants a written commitment on the Irish border and has the EU full square behind Ireland’s position that Britain’s failure to come up with a workable solution on the Irish border could be roadblock to progress to the second phase.

    “His language has been confident and pugnacious and has prompted a sometimes shrill war of words with opponents in London and Belfast that shows just how destructive Brexit already is to Ireland which stands to suffer more economic damage than any other country when the UK exits the bloc.

    “The question now is whether Varadkar’s position is weakened by political turmoil at home.

    “The other question being asked in Dublin is whether a weakened taoiseach, distracted by political air traffic control at home, will have the resolve to block any decision to progress Brexit talks to the second phase and, with it, send Anglo-Irish relations spiralling.

    “It has not gone unnoticed in Ireland that the country and taxpayers were shafted by Europe during the financial crash, with taxpayers left on the hook for banks’ losses.

    “The next fortnight will be a test for Europe to show how committed it is to the Irish question without the Varadkar megaphone in play.

  • 16:55
    UPDATE:Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan is now expected to address the Dáil on Department of Justice emails saga at the later than expected time of 7 pm.

    He will make a 10 minute opening statement which will be followed by a 42 minutes question and answer session with the seven opposition parties and political groups in the House.

  • 17:35
  • 17:46

    International reaction

    The Telegraph’s Tuesday afternoon online headline reads ‘Boost for Brexit negotiations as Ireland’s deputy PM quits to prevent election’

    “Ireland’s beleaguered deputy prime minister has resigned to save her minority government and prevent  a snap election that risked derailing delicate Brexit negotiations over the Irish border,” wrote James Crisp, Brussels correspondent for the Telegraph.  

  • 17:52

    Staying with the Telegraph, William Hague, former leader of the Conservative party, wrote on Monday that Ireland was ‘miscalculating by asking the impossible of Britain’.

    “Few developments in recent years have been as unambiguously positive as the dramatic improvement in relations between the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland,” he writes. “In 2011 I was privileged to accompany the Queen on her state visit to Dublin. It was four days I will never forget, producing an enthusiasm and outpouring of friendship most people never thought they would live to see.

    “But now we have a very big problem. The British and Irish governments seem to be on a collision course ahead of the crucial EU summit on December 14, with potentially disastrous consequences for the last chance to  manage Brexit at all smoothly and for relations between the two countries.”
  • 18:00
  • 18:07

    Justice Dept Secretary General Noel Waters resigns

    Secretary General of the Department of Justice Noel Waters has confirmed his departure from his position. Mr Waters was due to resign in February but confirmed he will leave the role immediately. This was a decision he had made on his own, he said.

    In a statement released shortly before 6pm on Tuesday, Mr Waters said his department had been “subject to a barrage of unwarranted criticism in recent days and most particularly today”.

    “I want to assure you that, in so far as is humanly possible, this Department has sought at all times to act appropriately, upholding the law and the institution of the State. Many of the claims about how the Department has acted that have been made in the media and in the Dáil are not true, and I am confident that the processes that the Taoiseach has announced will show that to be the case.”    

  • 18:15

    Noel Waters continued...

    In Tuesday evening’s statement, Dept of Justice general secretary Noel Waters expressed gratitude to the people working behind the scenes in his office.

    “The Department makes an important contribution to Irish society, a contribution that more often than not goes unseen and unnoticed. It is important however, that all of you know that your dedication and hard work is valued and that your individual and team efforts in the different parts of our organisation are meaningful and important. Please do not lose sight of your contribution to public service and continue to give your best.”

    “As an organisation we are committed to making the necessary changes in the way we do our work. I firmly believe we are making significant progress on that score. We remain committed to living the values in our Culture Charter and I know you will all continue to work to further embed those values across the Department.”

  • 18:24

    Noel Waters decision to resign 'entirely of his own volition'

    “As you will recall I indicated this month that I would be retiring in February of next year. I have now decided to bring forward my department to today. I am doing this entirely of my own volition.  

  • 18:31

    Simon Harris -  'Frances Fitzgerald is an honourable person, I stand by her'

    Speaking on RTÉ's Six One news, Minister for Health Simon Harris said he "respected" Frances Fitzgerald's decision to resign.

    "What the Tánaiste did was to decide we need to move on as a nation," he said. "I respect the decision she took.  

    "She will have an opportunity to go before the tribunal, that is the appropriate place to adjudicate her. She’s accountable to the house but I think the best place to adjudicate is tribunals."

    "Frances Fitzgerald told the truth, she gave all the information as she had."  

    Asked to describe the mood of the party, Mr Harris said Fine Gael members undertood Ms Fitzgerald's decision."Today is a difficult day to be a member of the Fine Gael party. I think people understand her decision. I think people understand that the Taoiseach has put a process in place to get all the information out there.  

    "Frances took her own decision and we respect that."

    Asked if Leo Varadkar's position as Tasoieach had been damaged by the events of recent days, Mr Harris said "not at all" and that the party leader had "shown real political leadership"

  • 18:47

    Fine Gael - Fianna Fáil relationship 'not irrperably damaged'. says Micheál Martin  

    The Fianna Fáil leader has said his party's relationship with Fine Gael has not been "irreparably damaged" by the events of recent days. He told RTÉ Six One News that the lesson from the political crisis was the need for accountability.  

    "We must work together now because the interests of the country demand that with homelessness, Brexit," said Mr Martin.  

    Asked what type of restructuring was needed in the Department of Justice, Mr Martin said the manner in which questions were answered should be examined.

    He said Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan needed to apologise over the manner in which his department answered parliamentary questions in the past week including those posed by Alan Kelly in relation to the legal strategy against Sgt Maurice McCabe.

  • 18:53

    Department of Justice 'grossly dysfunctional', says Mary Lou McDonald  

    The Department of Justice is "grossly dysfunctional" and has "deep leadership porobems", Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald has said.

    "When a political takes on the role of leading a department you can’t be passive," she told RTÉ Six One News. "If you don’t have political leadership in those departments nothing changes."

  • 19:01

    Dept of Justice 'a basket case', says Alan Kelly

    Labour's Alan Kelly has described the Department of Justice as "a basket case" and says Charlie Flanagan should be replaced as head of the department.

    He added that security and policing needed to be dealt with in separate departments

    Mr Kelly sumitted a  series of questions in November asking whether the Department of Justice was aware of the aggressive strategy pursued by the Garda’s legal team at the O’Higgins commission.

    Mr Kelly said on Tuesday evening that he had "a huge volume of unanswered questions" and that he was going to "pursue these issues" with the minister.  

  • 19:03
    Update from the Department of Justice - Secretary general of the Department Noel Waters is retiring, says the department. He is not resigning from his position as he had already announced his departure.  
  • 19:04
  • 19:04
  • 19:15

    Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan is now speaking in the Dáil....

  • 19:20
    Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan has apologised to Labour's Alan Kelly for his comments on Novemeber 15th when he said Mr Kelly was engaged in a smear campaign against him. "I fully accept that I behaved badly, I withdraw my remarks."
  • 19:21

    Charlie Flanagan has also said parliamentary questions from Alan Kelly should have been "better handled by me"

  • 19:23
    Mr Flanagan says he has received 12,000 emails since he was appointed Minister for Justice in June. He says nearly every email that comes through "is from a senior official". The proper practice of contacting the minister is through submissions, he says. "The lesson from this is that officials should not use emails to convey important information."
  • 19:24

    Charlie Flanagan says the scale of "sensitive and important issues" that land on his desk points to "a need for further external expertise".  

  • 19:25
    Mr Flanagan paid tribute to Frances Fitzgerald, describing his predecessor as "a fundamentally  good person of the highest integrity and compassion. Her commitment was at all times to making a positive difference to the lives of the people in this country."
  • 19:33
    Mr Flanagan has said that "much  of the criticism made of the Department of Justice is warranted"
  • 19:34
  • 19:41

    Labour party leader Brendan Howlin has asked Charlie Flanagan whether he will instruct an external body to conduct the investigation into the workings of the department of justice.

    Mr Flanagan said he "would be very happy to have consultations  with any member of the house if there is a view that the appropriate examination should involve someone external of government".

  • 19:56

    What did Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan say this evening?

    • Mr Flanagan apologised to Labour’s Alan Kelly for his “intemperate comments” in the Dáil when he said that Deputy Kelly was engaged in a smear campaign against him. “I had been told by some people in my constituency that Deputy Kelly had made very negative comments about me in their presence. I fully accept that I reacted badly and I apologise to Deputy Kelly and to the House and withdraw my remarks.”
    • Regarding replies to parliamentary questions from Alan Kelly relating to the treatment of Sgt Maurice McCabe, Mr Flanagan said he was “consistently advised in my Department that to engage in issues that are under the remit of a sitting Tribunal and accommodated within its Terms of Reference would breach the Standing Orders of the Dáil”. Mr Flanagan said Mr Kelly’s questions “should have been better handled” and that he was asking the Ceann Comhairle to assist in “providing guidance in terms of how to respond to issues that fall within the terms of reference of sitting Tribunals”.
    • Mr Flanagan thanked Mr Kelly for submitting the questions which lead to the unearthing of an email that had not been sent to the Tribunal.
    • He said he was “shocked” and “horrified” that the Department of Justice was in possession of records that should have been provided to the Disclosures tribunal.
    • Mr Flanagan said it had been “a major challenge” to obtain information in a timely manner and apologised for the “inaccurate” information that had been provided recently.  
  • 19:59

    Charlie Flanagan’s comments continued...

    • Mr Flanagan underlined the large volume of emails the Minister for Justice receives on a daily basis. He said he had received 12,000 emails since his appointment on June 14th along with 500 per week as a constituency TD. He added that almost everything that comes to a Minster internally “comes from a senior official” and that proper practice for conveying important information was through “submissions”.
    •  “A clear lesson from this episode is that officials should not use emails to convey information which should properly be transmitted to the office in a formal “submission” document,” he said.
    •  Mr Flanagan explained the sequence of events of recent days, saying he was told about an email relating to the O’Higgins commission and Sgt McCabe on November 13th. He said he responded that anything relevant to the Tribunal should be conveyed to Judge Charleton. He added that he had “missed the significance of the email” and did not see the actual email until a week later on Monday, November 20th. “That is why I did not raise it with the Taoiseach”.  
  • 20:07

    Flanagan continued:

    • Charlie Flanagan said he was “strongly of the view” that the structure of ministerial offices required “a fundamental rethink”. “I am not objecting to my workload as Minister, far from it but I believe that the scale of sensitive and important issues that land hourly on the desk of the Justice Minister, who has a single policy adviser in terms of senior staff, points to a need for further external expertise in the Minister’s office.
    • The minister commended the work of his colleagues in the department, saying he had worked with “some exceptionally diligent, civic minded, and honourable officials”.
    • “The problems in the Department are not new.   Indeed, there seems to be an inevitability about former Justice Ministers appearing before Tribunals... We need to reflect on all of these matters and ask why this is the case.”
    • Mr Flanagan described his predecessor as “a fundamentally good woman and a person of integrity and compassion” and said he believed without question that she had done her best as minister “in very difficult circumstances”. “Her resignation today is a loss for the country as many who’ve worked closely with her will attest and as I am sure will be fully realised in time.”
  • 20:13

    Charlie Flanagan speech continued:  

    • The minister highlighted that Sgt Maurice McCabe and his family must not be forgotten and that they “must have truth and justice”.
    • Mr Flanagan added that Taoiseach Leo Varadkar should not be criticised for waiting until the trawl of justice documents was complete before publishing their content. “There has been criticism of the delay – that was because personal information was referred to in some of the documentation and we wished to seek appropriate permission to published unredacted documents.
    • The minister said he planned to take further steps to protect gardaí ”who might find themselves subjected to bullying or harassment, to complement the protection for whistleblowers introduced by my predecessor".  
  • 20:14
  • 20:15
  • 20:36

    Fine Gael backbencher says he was ‘made to look like a fool’ for defending Fitzgerald

     Fine Gael backbenchers are keeping a low profile in the aftermath of the controversy leading to Frances Fitzgerald’s resignation, writes Michael O’Regan.

    Those angry with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Fitzgerald for creating a damaging controversy do not want to raise their voices at a personally traumatic time for Fitzgerald.

    More importantly, soon there will be a junior ministerial job going, as the Taoiseach fills vacancies created by Fitzgerald’s resignation.

    So a vow of omerta and a dusting down of the CV is a smart move for an ambitious backbencher.

    Privately, many are angry at what they see as a drawn-out controversy which angered the public and raised the appalling vista of a pre-Christmas election.

    One backbencher described the news that the Tánaiste had received three emails as “a bombshell. I was at a public meeting in my constituency and I got it in the neck from those there.’’

    Another TD said he had repeatedly gone on his local radio station in recent weeks to defend Fitzgerald and the Taoiseach. “I was made to look like a fool,’’ he added.

    The backbenchers know it is unlikely one of them will be appointed to the vacant senior post, so it is a question of who will get the junior job as a Minister of State is elevated.

    For more on what Fine Gael backbenchers are saying, click here.  

  • 20:38
  • 20:59
  • 21:10

    Frances Fitzgerald attends constituency selection convention in Lucan

    Former Tanaiste Frances Fitzgerald arrived at her constituency selection convention this evening, just hours after resigning her position – a clear message her political life is not yet over.

    Ms Fitzgerald made no comment on her way into the Finnstown House Hotel in Lucan, where Fine Gael’s candidates for the Dublin Mid-West constituency will be decided.

    Her party colleagues expressed disappointment at her decision on Tuesday, and unwavering support for her political future.

    Earlier, Ms Fitzgerald had tweeted: “Just to confirm Dublin Mid-West Selection Convention is still going ahead this evening in Finnstown Dublin and I will be putting my name forward to selection. Looking forward to meeting local members.”

    The tweet attracted some negative reaction with remarks including “shame on you” and “brass neck”, but was simultaneously met with messages of support, defending her political record.

    Gerry Kennedy, acting chair of the constituency committee said before the selection process got underway that the evening would not be a “trial” for Ms Fitzgerald or the events that had preceded.

    Nor, he said, was it about asking her “to justify her actions in relation to any of the issues that are well aired at this point in time”.  

    Mark Hilliard reporting from Lucan

  • 21:27

    The Irish Times View: Leo Varadkar has failed his first big test as Taoiseach

    As of last weekend, the Garda whistleblower scandal had claimed a taoiseach, a minister for justice, two Garda commissioners, a secretary general at the Department of Justice and a Garda confidential recipient.

    To that casualty list can now be added a second Justice secretary general and a tánaiste.

    Frances Fitzgerald, the safe pair of hands installed at the head of the Department of Justice in 2014 to stabilise an organisation in turmoil, finally bowed to the inevitable yesterday and tendered her resignation. In doing so, she has averted a snap election that should never have been on the cards in the first place...

    For Varadkar, just six months after his greatest triumph has come his political nadir. The past week provided the first real test of his judgment as taoiseach, and he failed it.

    He tried to call Fianna Fáil’s bluff by sticking by Fitzgerald and making a show of cranking Fine Gael into gear for an election it was clearly not ready to fight. What his strategy was is anyone’s guess.

    Even while knowing in advance of the new emails, he dug in. The writing was on the wall last Friday. By failing to see that, Varadkar has allowed his stock to diminish inside and outside his party.

    A tumultuous week leaves the confidence-and-supply agreement between the Government and Fianna Fáil  intact, just about. It may survive another few months, but make no mistake: the election countdown is now on.

    Read the full Irish Times View article here  

  • 21:32
  • 21:32
  • 21:34
    Meanwhile, on the streets of Britain...