Taoiseach warned against ‘undesirable’ leaks from Cabinet

Garret FitzGerald’s letter found on 1986 attorney general file

A letter from then taoiseach Garret FitzGerald, found on the 1986 attorney general file, warned all ministers of the “undesirable” nature of Cabinet leaks.

He said such leaks tended to commit the government to a particular policy, before there was time to consider the issue and could “create a damaging impression in the public mind of tensions and indecisiveness”. It could also “lead to the question of breach of parliamentary privilege being raised”.

“I am sure you will agree that none of these consequences are in our best interests,” he said, in the letter dated June 1983.

“I am sure you will not mind my asking that all concerned should bear the considerations I mention in mind in interviews, meeting delegations, replies to representations etc.”

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Then tánaiste, Labour leader Dick Spring, had responded, saying he shared the taoiseach's concern.

“It is understandable that various ministers, and particular ministers of state, will want to sound conciliatory in certain matters, which may prove both embarrassing and put ministers in very awkward situations in relation to government policy and in relation to their own departments,” he said.

The file, now held by the National Archives, also included a copy of a news article, dated August 28th 1983, which flagged upcoming legislation, the Land Commission Bill, and quoted then minister for agriculture, Fine Gael's Austin Deasy.

In the margin of the photocopy, an official had written that Mr Deasy's private secretary would not confirm the minister made the remarks quoted. The Irish Times and the Cork Examiner, as well as radio and television reports, had given no source for the quotes, the handwritten note said.

In another hand, an official had written “secretary to the government to see please”.

The Fine Gael and Labour coalition lasted until February 1986, after which Fine Gael continued as a minority government until January 1987.

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