Irish government survives no-confidence vote

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Dublin | Published: February 16, 2017 8:05:18 AM

Ireland's fragile minority government has survived a no-confidence vote over a scandal involving the police, the state's child protection agency and the political establishment.

Enda Kenny, European Union, Ireland, Institute of International and European Affairs in Dublin, TaoiseachLawmakers voted by 57 to 52 in support of the government, with 44 abstentions, after the motion was yesterday tabled by opposition party Sinn Fein as criticism mounted of Prime Minister Enda Kenny and his cabinet’s.(Reuters)

Ireland’s fragile minority government has survived a no-confidence vote over a scandal involving the police, the state’s child protection agency and the political establishment. Lawmakers voted by 57 to 52 in support of the government, with 44 abstentions, after the motion was yesterday tabled by opposition party Sinn Fein as criticism mounted of Prime Minister Enda Kenny and his cabinet’s handling of a case involving a police whistleblower.

The high-profile officer faced false allegations of child sexual abuse, which may have been a criminal conspiracy by senior members of the force. The vilification of police sergeant Maurice McCabe has engulfed the coalition government since the story emerged in national media last week, with ministers telling conflicting stories about what they knew about the affair and when. In a special parliamentary session on Tuesday, Kenny admitted he gave “wrong information” regarding a meeting with a senior cabinet minister on the matter as recently as last weekend.

Despite the scandal the main opposition party Fianna Fail said it would not back the no confidence vote even though it has described the government management as “incoherent and shambolic”. “I don’t think the Irish people want a general election every few months but people are very, very angry about the way in which a good and decent person was treated,” its leader Micheal Martin told a Cork radio station.

The Independent Alliance, a junior coalition partner, said ahead of the vote it had secured Kenny’s commitment to an external audit of the police force to be carried out by an international expert. The scandal has roots going back to 2006 when McCabe made a complaint against a colleague over misconduct.

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Another officer then made a complaint against McCabe of sexual abuse involving a six-year-old girl. This was investigated and he was completely exonerated. In 2013, the child protection agency opened another file on McCabe after receiving further allegations of sexual abuse but the following year it acknowledged this was an error.

The agency did not inform McCabe of the allegations until December 2015. Given McCabe’s high-profile campaign against police corruption, many people suspect the false accusations were made intentionally to discredit him. The government has agreed to set up a public inquiry to investigate whether it was an honest mistake or something more sinister.

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