Sgt Maurice McCabe and, clockwise from top left: Rhona Murphy, of Tusla; Mary O’Reilly, of Tusla; Fiona Ward, of Rian counselling; Keara McGlone, of Tusla; Laura Connolly, of Tusla; and Laura Brophy, of Rian counselling, at the Disclosures Tribunal
At the Disclosures Tribunal in Dublin Castle.
The tribunal is currently examining how a 2006 allegation of inappropriate touching by a Ms D against Sgt Maurice McCabe became conflated with a 2013 allegation of rape concerning a Ms Y against somebody else entirely, and how this false allegation of rape against Sgt McCabe came to be circulated between the counselling service Rian, Tusla and An Garda Siochana.
This module is part of a wider examination of claims by the former head of the Garda Press Office Supt Dave Taylor that former Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan, with the knowledge of the current commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan, orchestrated a smear campaign to discredit whistleblower Sgt McCabe’s character.
Since last week, the tribunal has heard from several witnesses.
A common refrain from most, if not all, witnesses has been that they have little recollection of certain matters; that they don’t pay close attention to the news; and that while some protocols were followed, others were not.
In relation to the widespread lack of knowledge regarding the position of Sgt McCabe within An Garda Siochana – given the stories about him in the press in relation to Garda whistleblowing – yesterday Supreme Court judge Peter Charleton even asked one witness, Laura Connolly, if she knew Leo Varadkar was Taoiseach and if Enda Kenny was the previous taoiseach.
She said she did.
The tribunal has heard from child protection social worker Rhona Murphy.
Ms Murphy told the tribunal she was phoned by Ms D’s mother, Mrs D, in December 2006, and that Mrs D said Ms D had alleged that, in 1998, during a game of hide and seek in a man’s house, the man held Ms D over a sofa – while they were fully clothed – and touched her inappropriately. The word ‘humping’ was used to describe the motion.
Ms Murphy subsequently visited the D family home, on December 12, 2006 – the same day a meeting of the Child Protection Strategy Risk Management Committee in Monaghan, attended by Ms Murphy, discussed Ms D’s allegation – and she was informed, she believes by Mr D, that Ms D’s allegation pertained to Sgt Maurice McCabe.
Ms Murphy recorded the name of Sgt McCabe, his wife, details pertaining to their children, including their ages, and the McCabes’ address.
It was agreed at a meeting of social workers – including Eileen Argue – that, on April 24, 2007, Sgt McCabe would be met by social workers. However this never occurred.
Ms Murphy later closed the case pertaining to Ms D and her allegation against Sgt Maurice McCabe in October 2007. This was after the DPP had ordered that no charges be made against Sgt McCabe.
The tribunal heard a credibility assessment was never carried out on Ms D. Ms Murphy said it would have been unfair on Ms D, an adolescent, “to go through the allegation time and time again”.
After Ms Murphy closed the case, she wrote a letter to her superior, acting principal social work manager Mary O’Reilly, concerning Sgt McCabe, noting that Sgt McCabe had not yet been met by a social work team member.
She told the tribunal Sgt McCabe was supposed to have been met by a social worker from Meath as, it was her understanding, Sgt McCabe was the garda liaison officer for the HSE in Cavan/Monaghan and the go-to person for matters concerning child protection in the area.
The tribunal also heard from Mary O’Reilly.
Ms O’Reilly told the tribunal she had “no memory of receiving” the October 2007 letter from Ms Murphy, in relation to Ms Murphy’s concerns that Sgt McCabe hadn’t been seen by a social worker.
The tribunal also heard from Rian counsellor Laura Brophy.
Ms Brophy was the counsellor whom Ms D had a counselling session with in July 2013 and who made the original mistake of reporting the two unrelated allegations pertaining to Ms D and Ms Y in a retrospective abuse form against Sgt McCabe to Briege Tinnelly, of Tusla, on Friday, August 9, 2013.
Ms Brophy would also have sent this to her superior Fiona Ward on the same date.
Ms Brophy told the tribunal she sent this form without realising the form contained the unrelated allegation of rape and without spotting that Ms Y’s surname was in the report.
She said she made what she thought was a referral solely relating to the 2006 allegation on the basis of a phone call she had had with Ms Tinnelly, of Tusla, who, Ms Brophy claims, told her the matter had not been previously referred.
In light of this, Ms Brophy submitted a retrospective disclosure of abuse report to Ms Tinnelly. However, Ms Brophy knew the matter had already been referred to the DPP back in 2006. In 2006, gardai were duty bound to notify the HSE of such matters.
Yesterday, the tribunal heard that, in regards to their surnames, Ms D and Ms Y shared the first, fifth and sixth letters in their names, while the second, third and fourth letters were different.
The tribunal also heard from Tusla social work team leader Keara McGlone.
Ms McGlone – who married a garda based in Monaghan Garda Station in 2015 and who told the tribunal she was liaising with members of An Garda Síochána from 2010 – wrote a letter to Superintendent Noel Cunningham on August 15, 2013, after Tusla received the referral from Ms Brophy.
The letter stated:
“Dear Superintendent Cunningham, Health Service Executive Child and Family Services have recently received a referral from Rian, a therapeutic counselling service for adult survivors of child sexual abuse. The referral states that Ms. D, now aged 21, has discussed during counselling sessions that she was sexually abused during her childhood by an adult male, M. McC.”
“I note from the social work file that you conducted a criminal investigation into these allegations in 2007. However, it appears the alleged perpetrator was not met with by Health Service Executive at that time.”
“I would like to meet with you to discuss the case prior to making any contact with the alleged perpetrator.”
The tribunal heard Supt Cunningham never responded to this letter – though he did open it in September, 2013 after returning from leave – while Ms McGlone didn’t make any follow-up inquiries with Supt Cunningham.
At this time, Sgt McCabe was still not informed of the entirely false allegation of rape levelled against him.
In addition, on August 13, 2013, the tribunal heard Ms McGlone opened Tusla’s first file on Sgt McCabe.
In her statement to the tribunal, Ms McGlone said:
“As I had identified that there was an outstanding assessment to be completed in relation to Mr McCabe’s response to the allegations and an assessment of any future risk, if any, that he may pose, a file was opened in his name and the case was placed on the Measuring the Pressure [MPS] system, a list of cases on a database awaiting allocation to a social worker for assessment.”
Ms McGlone said this file she created was based on the verbal report given by Ms Brophy to Ms Tinnelly over the phone which referred solely to Ms D’s 2006 allegation – not the rape allegation pertaining to Ms Y.
Ms McGlone also told the tribunal she never saw Ms Brophy’s written report which contained the false allegation of rape and which was sent to Tusla on August 9, 2013.
Yet, on Friday, August 9, 2013, Ms McGlone wrote the comment ‘Duty to guard notify and await assessment or allocation’ on a form added to Sgt McCabe’s file. She was asked by Sgt McCabe’s legal counsel Michael McDowell why she wrote this.
She told the tribunal:
“I can’t be a hundred percent certain on this, I don’t recall even completing that form…”
However, Ms McGlone said she likely wrote it as a means to clarify the allegation relayed by Ms Brophy over the phone to Ms Tinnelly was the same from 2006.
The tribunal also heard she made the decision to write the handwritten comment “Duty to guard notify” without speaking to Briege Tinnelly.
The following Monday, the tribunal heard that Ms McGlone learned that, on January 2, 2007, the gardaí had already notified Tusla of Ms D’s 2006 allegation.
Despite this, Ms McGlone still sought to seek clarification from the gardaí and went on to request a meeting with Supt Noel Cunningham in a “private and confidential” email. Ms McGlone agreed that sending a “private and confidential” email to Supt Cunningham wasn’t the standard form notification procedure.
Ms McGlone never amended the file to take out the comment “Duty to guard notify”.
She admitted to the tribunal:
“Perhaps I should have amended that note to ‘Await contact from Superintendent Cunningham’, but I didn’t do that.”
The tribunal was told Ms McGlone’s file on Sgt McCabe sat in a filing cabinet from August 2013 until April 30, 2014.
The tribunal also heard from director of counselling with RIAN – and Ms Brophy’s superior – Fiona Ward.
Under cross-examination by Michael McDowell SC, for Sgt McCabe, Ms Ward was asked about what action was taken in respect of Sgt McCabe once it became known that Ms Brophy had made such a catastrophic mistake in May 2014. He asked:
“Can I ask you, at any stage within your service was there any discussion about informing Sergeant McCabe about all of this?
“From what I can recall, I think I would have maybe discussed it with the counsellor at the time in relation to that, but my memory is that because we had had no contact with Mr McCabe that we would have felt that if that information — if that was to be done, that that might be more appropriate within the Social Work Department. That is my vague recollection. I have no specific record.“
He then asked:
“Did you discuss it with the Social Work Department that, between the pair of you, the pair of institutions, somebody owed Sergeant McCabe the small civility of telling him that his reputation was being shredded in private as a result of gross incompetence?”
“No, unfortunately not.”
Further to this.
The tribunal heard evidence from Tusla duty social worker in Cavan town Laura Connolly last Friday and yesterday.
It also heard from Tusla’s area duty manager Gerard Lowry yesterday.
Laura Connolly was the next person to deal with the file on Sgt McCabe after Ms McGlone – some eight months later – on April 30, 2014.
And she was the person who sent a notification of Sgt McCabe’s file to the gardaí, containing a combination of both the 2006 allegation, that was found to have no foundation by the DPP, and the 2013 allegation of rape pertaining to Ms Y which had nothing to do with Ms D but was wrongly recorded by counsellor Laura Brophy.
The Garda notification therefore appeared to say that Ms D was accusing Sgt McCabe of raping Ms D during a game of hide and seek.
Interestingly, Ms Connolly consistently used Ms D’s name and not Ms Y’s name, even though Ms Brophy’s report contained Ms Y’s name twice and Ms D’s name twice.
Ms Connolly’s Garda notification stated:
“Ms. D is attending counselling with Rian. During the course of counselling she alleged that she experienced sexual abuse in childhood. This abuse involved digital penetration, both vaginal and anal. This abuse is alleged to have occurred on one occasion in 1998 to 1999. Ms. D reports being aged six or seven years old at the time of this alleged abuse. Ms. D alleges that the alleged perpetrator of this abuse threatened her father if she said anything. Ms. D alleges that this incident of alleged abuse occurred while she and her parents were visiting the home of the alleged perpetrator. Ms. D alleges that her parents and the alleged perpetrator’s wife were in another part of the house and she was playing hide and seek with the alleged perpetrator and his two daughters, who were then aged approximately three years and five years of age.”
In addition, it stated:
“Ms. D informed her parents of this alleged abuse when she was aged 11 or 12 years of age. Ms. D made a statement to An Garda Síochána at the time. A file was sent to the DPP. However, no prosecution was directed.”
The tribunal has heard that this Garda notification set in train the following sequence of events: the notification was sent to the Gardaí; someone in the Gardaí notified Ms D’s father of the false allegation; Mr D told Ms D and, in May 2014, Ms D told counsellor Laura Brophy that there was an allegation of rape against Sgt McCabe attributed to her but that she had never made such an allegation.
Though the tribunal heard Ms Connolly had “very little actual memory” of plucking the file from a four-drawered cabinet in the “duty room”, it also heard she was working as duty social worker on that day, April 30, 2014, when she pulled what “happened to be” Sgt McCabe’s file.
Being a duty social worker meant she had to complete outstanding tasks on cases awaiting allocation.
The files in the cabinet were not in any chronological order, with regard to month or year of acceptance, but were maintained on a so-called Measuring the Pressure (MTP) system which, the tribunal was told, was to assist team leaders in recording cases that were open and awaiting allocation.
Ms Connolly told the tribunal:
“I am categorical in my position that my working on Mr McCabe’s file on the 30th April 2014 is nothing more than a coincidence with everything else that I am now aware of was going on in the media surrounding Mr. McCabe and An Garda Síochána.”
It was put to Ms Connolly that, in February 2014, the Government had appointed a senior counsel to review claims made by Sgt McCabe.
It was also put to her that, on April 12 and 15, 2014, there had been articles written by Irish Independent journalist Paul Williams and that, while nobody was named in the articles, they pertained to Ms D.
The April 12 article reported that Ms D felt “the investigation into her complaint was flawed” .
The tribunal also heard that the day before Ms Connolly picked out Sgt McCabe’s file, Ms D had made a complaint to GSOC in relate to the Garda investigation into her 2006 allegation.
Ms Connolly told the tribunal:
“Mr McCabe was of no significance to me, nor An Garda Síochána and all of the events that were surrounding that.”
“Why I am certain that Mr McCabe had no significance or interest to me, was that I was taken by surprise when my area manager, Mr Gerry Lowry, contacted me in February of this year to advise me that, potentially, I may have a role in the Tribunal, and it was only at that point I became aware of my involvement on the particular case.”
Ms Connolly told the tribunal she notified the gardai because of the handwritten comment left by Ms McGlone on a form, containing just the 2006 allegation, which said “Duty to guard notify”.
Ms Connolly was asked about her memory of sending the Garda notification form.
“…from review of the paper I’m aware that a Garda notification form was created and an e-mail sent from my account with the Garda notification, so I have no reason to suggest that it was anyone other than me that created that Garda notification.”
Ms Connolly was repeatedly asked why she would have notified gardai given the allegations had been previously referred to the gardai and that the DPP decided no charges be brought against Sgt McCabe.
“This was now a retrospective allegation of sexual abuse which Tusla had received, and our practice has been, and continues to be, that when we receive retrospective allegations of sexual abuse, we notify An Garda Síochána.”
Asked by Kathleen Leader BL, for the tribunal:
“Is there anything else you can tell the Tribunal as to the purpose of Garda notification in 2014?”
Ms Connolly replied:
“No, I have nothing further to add.”
As mentioned above, in her Garda notification, Ms Connolly combined both the written report from Ms Brophy – which contained the wholly unrelated allegation of rape pertaining to Ms Y – and the verbal referral Ms Brophy made to Ms Timmelly, which only pertained to Ms D’s 2006 allegation.
Explaining her actions, Ms Connolly said:
“My practice where I noticed that a telephone call from a professional is followed up within a number of days with a written report from the professional, I would follow the content of the written report from the professional.”
Ms Connolly also failed to spot that Ms Y’s name was in the report – a name inconsistent with that of Ms D – and didn’t even become aware of this discrepancy until she had an interview with the tribunal’s investigators on June 23, 2017.
“The first that I became aware that Ms Y’s name was located in two places in this form was at my interview with the [tribunal] investigators on the 23rd June this year. Up until then, I had assumed that the description of the abuse — I wasn’t aware that another person’s surname was located in two places in the form.”
“I am of the belief that in the busyness of the office environment and in scanning this report to elicit the detail to put in to the Garda notification, that I overlooked that in the body of that report there was the reference to another person.”
Ms Connolly later told the tribunal that she was never informed of her mistake by anyone – neither her colleagues nor solicitors.
Supreme Court judge Peter Charleton asked if the mistake ever even came up during a tea break with her colleagues. She said it didn’t.
In addition, Ms Connolly, from the file, was aware the 2006 allegation had already been sent to the gardai and DPP had ordered for no charges to be brought. Asked if this made her question whether or not it was necessary to send a Garda notification, Ms Connolly said: No.
Also, given that the cabinet file contained Ms McGlone’s report of August 9, 2013, which had the added comment ‘Duty to garda notify’ and Ms McGlone’s letter to Supt Noel Cunningham, from of August 15, 2013, seeking a meeting to clarify matters, Ms Connolly was asked if these documents didn’t prompt her to seek more information before notifying the gardai.
“I would expect if the team leader had wanted that the Garda notification be held off on it being sent until an outcome of this was known, it would have been amended on the file.”
She added that she didn’t consider contacting Supt Cunningham.
Last Friday, the tribunal also heard about an undated post-it note, which didn’t state which file it related to, stating “Duty to notify allegations on to Garda Síochána and filing cabinet, Eileen.”
Eileen is Eileen Argue, who was the acting social work team leader at the time. She had taken over Keara McGlone’s job at this point.
Ms Connolly was asked if it was this post-it note which prompted her to choose Sgt McCabe’s file from the cabinet and carry out the garda notification. She said “it’s a possibility”, adding that the first she heard of the post-it note was when she was interviewed by the tribunal’s investigators earlier this year.
Under cross-examination from Mr McDowell yesterday, Ms Connolly’s attention was brought to an intake record for Sgt McCabe’s file in which, Mr McDowell said, there is a line through a box marked “Notified to An Garda Síochána”.
Mr McDowell asked what the tick through the box conveyed to Ms Connolly. She said:
“For any, if you want, lay person reading that, you would assume that that means it has already been notified to An Garda Síochána. Unfortunately, the action box doesn’t give us scope to indicate the task has yet to be done. So that box would be ticked to indicate that the duty social worker is to Garda notify. That does not indicate to me that the notification has already been completed.”
Mr McDowell replied:
“So it’s in the past tense and it’s ticked, but you say that it conveys to you that it was something which yet required to be done?
The tribunal heard Ms Connolly and Ms Argue’s offices are on the same corridor. Ms Connolly said she has no recollection of discussing Sgt McCabe’s file with Ms Argue on that day.
In addition to sending a Garda notification, Ms Connolly also sent a note to Ms Argue in respect of Sgt McCabe’s two children at the time of Ms D’s allegation, then aged two and three, which stated:
“Eileen, I have checked system and we have no record of file on Maurice McCabe’s two children at the time.”
Ms Connolly named the two daughters, who would have been 18 at this point, in the note.
The same note stated:
“Maurice has two other children now who weren’t born at the time of the alleged incident.”
These two children, at this point under the age of 18, were also named.
The note further stated:
“How do you want to proceed regarding the McCabe children? Case direction from Eileen: Complete intake records x4 on children.”
The tribunal was told Ms Connolly must have looked back at Rhona Murphy’s report in Ms D’s file, from December 2006 in relation to Ms Murphy’s contact with Ms D’s family, in order to obtain the names and ages of Sgt McCabe’s children. This was because Ms Murphy’s note of these details was the only time the details of Sgt McCabe’s children appeared on file.
It was put to Ms Connolly that, if she had looked at Ms Murphy’s report, she would have seen the 2006 allegation had nothing to do with any allegation of rape.
Ms Connolly was asked if she could recall reading Rhona Murphy’s report. She said: “I can’t specifically recall.”
However she did say “It’s very likely, yes” that she got the details of Sgt McCabe’s children from Ms Murphy’s report.
Asked if she could could “in any way explain” why she didn’t realise the allegation as recorded by Ms Murphy differed to Ms Brophy’s written report – which contained Ms Y’s rape allegation wholly unrelated to Sgt McCabe – Ms Connolly said:
“I can’t explain further, no.”
Asked if she could have gotten the details from elsewhere, she said:
“No, I don’t believe I did.”
Ms Connolly was also asked why, while creating intake records on Sgt McCabe’s children, she created intake records for two of his children given they were over 18 years of age at the time.
On Friday, Ms Connolly was asked what she did with Sgt McCabe’s file once she had completed the intake records.
She said her “routine practice at that time was to leave the intake records and any relevant files in what was called a referrals tray”.
The tray would hold all new intake records created during a week and were left for the team leader. They would then be brought to a weekly referrals meeting the following Monday.
The tribunal heard these weren’t discussed the following Monday and that there was no action recorded by the team leader. They also weren’t signed off by the team leader at that time, Eileen Argue.
Asked if she could explain to the tribunal why the case wasn’t discussed, Ms Connolly said: “I can’t.”
Yesterday, under cross-examination from Mr McDowell, Ms Connolly spoke about leaving files on the referrals tray for Ms Argue.
Mr McDowell said to Ms Connolly that she must have discussed the matter with Ms Argue, given that Ms Connolly notes a response from Ms Argue in her note:
“How do you want to proceed regarding the McCabe children? Case direction from Eileen: Complete intake records x4 on children.”
Ms Connolly agreed but said she couldn’t recall that discussion.
Mr McDowell asked:
“Are you telling the Tribunal that you didn’t have a discussion with Ms Argue before you started carefully going through this file, looking for details of the McCabe children?”
“I have no recollection of any involvement in this case.”
Mr McDowell suggested to Ms Connolly that she must have spent the most of April 30, 2014 working on this case file – between reading it carefully, preparing a Garda notification form, interacting with Ms Argue and then proceeding to prepare separate children notification forms at a later stage.
Ms Connolly agreed but added:
“I can’t proportion what length of time I spent on the file.”
Mr McDowell asked Ms Connolly if she ever discussed the file and her note with Eileen Argue. She said: No.
Asked if she would have expected Ms Argue to have looked at the file before giving Ms Connolly the direction to open the files on Sgt McCabe’s children, Ms Connolly said:
“I can’t state if Ms Argue reviewed the files or not, and perhaps that is something she will be able to assist with in her evidence to the Tribunal.”
Mr McDowell went on to ask Ms Connolly:
“Are you trying to cover for her at this stage?”
Mr McDowell asked about the referral meetings and the fact that, after Ms Connolly’s serious error on April 30, 2014, and the fact that Ms Brophy subsequently notified Tusla of the error, the case was not discussed at the following week’s meeting where Ms Connolly and Ms Argue would have been present.
She said: No.
Mr McDowell put it to Ms Connolly that it seemed wholly exceptional that the file was not considered for the immediate referral meeting after Ms Brophy made Tusla aware.
He then asked who decides which files are discussed. Ms Connolly said:
“Well, all new intake records are left in the referrals tray in the duty room and they are all taken in a bundle by the duty social worker that week, and the referrals meeting is led by the social work team leader.”
Mr McDowell asked if that’s Eileen Argue and Ms Connolly agreed.
Mr McDowell then asked:
“So the files would have been taken in a bundle for consideration at the next referrals meeting the following week, but for some reason this file was never so considered, is that right?… That must have been Ms Argue’s decision, mustn’t it? It wasn’t your decision?”
Ms Connolly said:
“No, it wasn’t my decision, no.”
Yesterday, area manager Gerry Lowry also gave evidence and he will be further questioned and then cross examined this morning from 10am.
Just before the tribunal’s proceedings ended yesterday, Patrick Marrinan SC, put it to Mr Lowry the following:
“There isn’t an error in his [Sgt McCabe’s] favour. Nobody made a mistake by which he benefited, do you understand?”
Mr Lowry agreed that he did understand.
Mr Marrinan added:
“And there are those who may say that this litany of grave errors can’t just simply be coincidence after coincidence after coincidence that is being suggested, do you understand?”
Mr Lowry agreed that he did understand but told the tribunal:
“I think they are terrible errors consistently, but they were absolutely coincidences. Bad file management.”
The other witness scheduled to appear tomorrow is Kay McLoughlin.
Transcripts of each day’s proceedings can be read here
Previously: Disclosures Tribunal on Broadsheet