seamus dubhghaill

Promoting Irish Culture and History from Little Rock, Arkansas, USA


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Resignation of Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald

Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald resigns from Government in the “national interest” on November 28, 2017, hours ahead of a no-confidence motion in the Dáil threatens to bring down the Government.

Fitzgerald tells a Cabinet meeting she will be “vindicated” by the Disclosures Tribunal led by Justice Peter Charleton, which is examining allegations of the smear campaign against Garda whistleblower Sgt. Maurice McCabe.

The Tánaiste tells her colleagues she believes she has done nothing wrong but is resigning to avoid “an unwelcome and potentially destabilising general election.” In a statement, she says, “It has been the greatest honour of my life to serve in Government, but I believe it is necessary to take this decision to avoid an unwelcome and potentially destabilising general election at this historically critical time.”

The Tánaiste says she has always sought to act with integrity and responsibility, and is now seeking to place “the national interest ahead of my own personal reputation.” She adds, “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 unnecessary 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.”

Earlier in the day, Attorney General Séamus Woulfe gives a presentation to the Cabinet insisting it would be “inappropriate and improper” for Fitzgerald to have intervened when she received the emails in 2015.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar accepts Fitzgerald’s resignation at the end of the Cabinet meeting and telephones Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin to advise him of the development. In a statement in the Dáil, Varadkar says she is leaving office without getting a full and fair hearing but the work of Government must not be interrupted. It is my strong view that a good woman is leaving office without getting a full and fair hearing. Frances has been an exemplary member of Government and a loyal colleague.”

Varadkar announces that he is launching an external inquiry into how the “dysfunctional” Department of Justice responded to the emails about Sgt. McCabe. He also has to appoint a new Tánaiste and a new Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation.

Varadkar also announces that Minister for Justice Charles Flanagan is to make a Dáil statement on the controversies surrounding his department. He tells the Dáil that Flanagan will apologise for his department’s failure to answer questions fully in recent weeks and will offer further assurance that questions not answered yet would be answered.

In the evening, Secretary General of the Department of Justice Noel Waters confirms his departure from his position. He is due to resign in February 2018 but confirms he will leave the role immediately. This is a decision he has made on his own, he adds.

Meanwhile, Fine Gael sources say the resignation of Fitzgerald has handed the Fianna Fáil leader a “significant win” and has damaged the Taoiseach. Speaking at his frontbench meeting after the resignation is confirmed, Martin thanks his party for their patience over a difficult few days. He says the focus now needs to be on Brexit and supporting the Government’s stance during the talks scheduled for mid-December.

Fitzgerald had been under intense political pressure in recent days over the handling of the case of Garda whistleblower Sgt McCabe. However, even if the immediate threat of an election has been removed, the crisis has significantly weakened the Government and damaged trust between Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil, which supports the minority Government with a confidence-and-supply arrangement.

Fitzgerald has insisted she was unaware of a legal strategy by former Garda commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan in 2015 to question the integrity and credibility of Sgt. McCabe at the O’Higgins commission, which was examining allegations of Garda malpractice.

Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin have been seeking the Tánaiste’s resignation, and both table motions of no confidence in her, the first of which is due to have been heard at 8:00 PM that evening.

During the crisis Varadkar stands by Fitzgerald and offers her his full support. However, Fine Gael Teachtaí Dála (TD) and Ministers question Varadkar’s confidence in Fitzgerald in recent days as more details emerge. Fine Gael Ministers react with fury on November 27 when it emerges that Fitzgerald had received three emails on two separate dates notifying her of the legal strategy pursued by O’Sullivan against Sgt. McCabe.

The Department of Justice emails show Fitzgerald was repeatedly told in 2015 about an “aggressive” approach to undermine Sgt. McCabe at the O’Higgins commission. In two separate emails on July 4, 2015, she is advised of media queries about the “aggressive” approach being adopted by former Garda commissioner O’Sullivan and advises how to respond if the media asks her about the matter. It is a senior Department of Justice official who describes the approach as “aggressive.”

The emails reveal that a senior official suggested to Fitzgerald that she should say that it would be “very unfair to Sgt. McCabe” if she was to respond to queries about the commission. This release of emails about the controversy undermines efforts to defuse the row between Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil over Fitzgerald’s position.

Earlier in the day, Independent Alliance members of Cabinet say they will seek “political accountability” from Fitzgerald. There had been no appetite from within Fine Gael for a general election on the matter, as they fear they will face an intense backlash from voters.

(From: “Frances Fitzgerald resigns in ‘national interest’ to avoid an election” by Sarah Bardon, The Irish Times, http://www.irishtimes.com, November 28, 2017)


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U.S. Vice President Joe Biden Arrives in Ireland

joe-biden-michael-higginsVice President of the United States Joe Biden arrives in Ireland on Tuesday, June 21, 2016 for a six-day visit. He arrives with his brother and sister, his daughter and five grandchildren and is welcomed to Ireland by Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Charles Flanagan.

Biden then travels to Government Buildings where he is formally welcomed by Taoiseach Enda Kenny. Kenny says he hopes Biden enjoyed his visit and Biden says that he himself has visited Ireland several times privately, but never as vice president. He adds that he had promised his late son Beau that he would make a family trip to Ireland, “Unfortunately Beau didn’t make it, but we decided that we would bring the whole family.”

Biden, an Irish American, speaks of his great-grandfather who emigrated from Ireland, and he also speaks of the pride his family feels in their Irish heritage.

Kenny presents Biden with a hurley and a sliotar, to which the Vice President responds, “I have witnessed one game and I have one regret, that they don’t have this in the United States. I played American football and American baseball in high school and college, but this would have been … this is a dangerous game.”

Biden holds a bilateral meeting with Kenny in the evening and meets with the President of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins, the following day at his official residence, Áras an Uachtaráin in Dublin‘s Phoenix Park. As he signs the visitors’ book, he paraphrases another famous Irish American, former U.S. President John F. Kennedy, who had visited the Republic of Ireland 53 years earlier. His written entry makes reference to a speech made to Dáil Éireann in June 1963, when Kennedy said “our two nations, divided by distance, have been united by history.”

During his visit Biden visits County Mayo and County Louth, where his ancestors originated, in addition to several engagements in Dublin and a stop at Newgrange. He also arranges to fit in a round of golf with Kenny.

Biden speaks at an event at Trinity College, Dublin on the morning of Friday, June 24 and delivers a keynote address to an American Ireland Fund event in Dublin Castle in the evening. He addresses the Irish American experience, the shared heritage of the two nations, and the values of tolerance, diversity and inclusiveness.

On Saturday, June 25, Biden visits various locations in County Louth including the Kilwirra Cemetery and Newgrange in County Meath.

Biden returns to the United States following a lunch with Kenny on Sunday, June 26.

(Pictured: U.S. Vice President Joe Biden signing the visitor’s book as Irish President Michael D. Higgins look on at his official residence, Áras an Uachtaráin)


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Prince Charles & Camilla Visit County Sligo

Charles, Prince of Wales, and his wife Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, arrive at the Model Arts Centre in Sligo town on May 20, 2015, where the Prince makes an address.

On arrival at the Model the couple delays for some time chatting to school children and local residents who line the street to greet them. The welcoming party also includes Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Charles Flanagan, and members of Sligo County Council including Sinn Féin’s Sean MacManus.

Charles speaks of his “deep anguish” following the killing of his “much loved grand uncle” Lord Louis Mountbatten by the Irish Republican Army (IRA) in Mullaghmore on August 27, 1979.

“At the time I could not imagine how we would come to terms with such anguish and such deep loss” he tells the gathering. “In August 1979, my much-loved great uncle, Lord Mountbatten, was killed alongside his young grandson and my godson, Nicholas, and his friend, Paul Maxwell, and Nicholas’s grandmother, the Dowager Lady Brabourne.”

“At the time I could not imagine how we would come to terms with the anguish of such a deep loss since, for me, Lord Mountbatten represented the grandfather I never had. So it seemed as if the foundations of all that we held dear in life had been torn apart irreparably.”

But he stresses the tragedy helped him understand the widespread suffering.

“Through this dreadful experience, though, I now understand in a profound way the agonies borne by so many others in these islands, of whatever faith, denomination or political tradition. Despite the tragedy of August 1979, the memories that Lord Mountbatten’s family have of Classiebawn Castle and Mullaghmore, going right back to 1946, are of great happiness. I look forward to seeing, at last, the place that he and they so loved and to meeting its inhabitants. Many of them showed the most extraordinary outpouring of compassion and support to both Lord Mountbatten’s and Paul Maxwell’s families in the aftermath of the bombing. Their loving kindness has done much to aid the healing process.”

Charles says he is “only too deeply aware of the long history of suffering that Ireland has endured. A history that has caused much pain and much resentment in a world of imperfect human beings, where it’s always too easy to overgeneralise and attribute blame.” Referring to his mother’s speech at Dublin Castle he says, “with the benefit of historical hindsight we can all see things which we would wish had been done differently or not at all.”

Charles and Camilla then travel to Drumcliff church for a service of peace and reconciliation before proceeding to the village of Mullaghmore.