Clockwise from top left: Gerard Lowry, of Tusla; Sgt Maurice McCabe; Kay McLoughlin, of Tusla, at the Disclosures Tribunal this week
At the Disclosures Tribunal.
In Dublin Castle.
The tribunal – into allegations of a smear campaign orchestrated by former Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan with the knowledge of Garda Commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan against Sgt Maurice McCabe – heard from Tusla area manager Gerard Lowry and social work team leader Kay McLoughlin over the past few days.
The current section of the tribunal is seeking to understand 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.
Readers will recall a previous post outlining a timeline of some of the evidence given at the tribunal up to when Mr Lowry started to give evidence earlier this week.
This can be read here.
The questioning of Mr Lowry and Ms McLoughlin centred on events at Tusla which led to a so-called Barr letter being sent to Sgt McCabe on December 29, 2015 informing him that he was being investigated by Tusla for rape.
A Barr letter gives an alleged abuser notice of an allegation made against them invites them to respond, while child protection services have a duty to inform An Garda Siochana of allegations of abuse against named individuals and vice versa.
Coincidentally, Mr Lowry was the social worker who wrote an acknowledgement letter to the then superintendent in Baileboro Garda Station on January 2, 2007 – after a Garda notification was made to the child services in respect of Ms D’s initial complaint from December 2006.
In any event, the Barr letter sent on December 29, 2015, was sent despite Tusla having already been informed – in May 2014 – that the allegation of rape was mistakenly added to a retrospective abuse referral from Rian counsellor Laura Brophy in August 2013.
Readers will recall Sgt McCabe’s file sat in a filing cabinet from August 2013 until April 2014 when Tusla’s duty social worker Laura Connolly randomly plucked Sgt McCabe’s file and, without realising it, repeated the false allegation of rape to gardai by sending them a Garda notification with wholly wrong information.
This was because she combined a report of Ms D’s 2006 allegation, which was found to have no foundation by the DPP in 2007, and Ms Brophy’s written referral to Tusla which contained Ms Y’s 2013 allegation of rape against a man who wasn’t Sgt McCabe.
Ms Brophy’s inaccurate written report wasn’t returned to Rian until July 2014, the tribunal has already heard.
Ms Connolly’s report had the effect that it looked as if Sgt McCabe was being accused of raping a girl during a game of hide and seek.
Following Ms Connolly’s Garda notification, a garda 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.
The tribunal has already heard that Ms Bophy immediately amended Ms D’s report and wrote and hand-delivered a letter to social services in Cavan.
It also heard that, in an incident report, dated May 14, 2014, Ms Brophy wrote about how she was having trouble trying to contact Eileen Argue.
Specifically, the tribunal heard, the incident report stated:
I hand-delivered the letter and the accompanying amended report to social work service in Cavan, care of Ms. Eileen Argue, team leader. As Ms. Argue was not present when I delivered the letter I did not get this opportunity to enquire about their communication with Gardaí regarding the original report.
…I agreed to contact Ms. Argue to request that they send us back the original report to be destroyed and to get an update on their contact with gardaí so that I could contact the correct person in the gardaí dealing with the report to request that they also send back their copy of the original report to be destroyed. I tried to contact Ms. Argue by phone in her office in Monaghan but did not get to speak with her. However, I left my number for her to contact me.
The tribunal heard of a separate letter Ms Brophy sent to her superior Fiona Ward the following day, May 15, 2014, at 3.02pm, in which she said:
“I just want to update you of my contact with Eileen Argue, team leader in the Cavan Social Work Service. I had some difficulty in getting hold of Ms. Argue so it was just minutes ago I was able to speak with her directly.
“Ms Argue informed me that she contacted the chief superintendent in charge of this investigation and he informed her that the alleged has not been contacted in relation to this case as they were just beginning to look into the report from social services yesterday.
“Ms. Argue informed him of the error on the report and has told him that she will issue him with a new amended report and a copy of my letter to social work explaining the administrative error. I requested that we get the original report with the errors on it back to be destroyed and she said that they were going to do that on their end but could not guarantee that the chief superintendent will return it but she will request this. Ms. Argue informed me that he mentioned something about keeping the original along with the updated report…”
And yet, on the same day that Ms Brophy learned of her error and attempted to contact Ms Argue, to no avail – on May 14, 2014 – Ms Argue sent an email to Mr Lowry at 11.13 [unclear if it’s am or pm], which was copied to Louise Carolan, stating:
I hope this finds you well. Please see information below. This information is in relation to MMcC, who allegations were made against him by an adult who alleged that she was sexually abused as a child by him. A garda notification was forwarded by our department based on the information received from Laura Brophy, Rian services.
As stated below, Laura Brophy contacted our department today in relation to her referral and the content of same. She advised that there was information provided which did not relate to Ms. D and was in relation to another person, against another man and not the man MMcC. This notification needs to be amended as soon as possible and the relevant superintendent needs to be updated with regard to same.”
Mr Lowry told the tribunal he knew Ms Argue was referring to Sgt McCabe when she wrote the initials ‘MMcC’ as he said he had heard that there had been, what he called, a re-referral from the Rian counselling service to child protection services concerning Sgt McCabe.
It’s understood this is referring to Ms Brophy’s wrongful referral of August 2013.
Asked how he knew this about Sgt McCabe, Mr Lowry said he couldn’t recall exactly but he suspected it was from conversations with principle social worker Louise Carolan.
Specifically, Mr Lowry said:
“Between August 2013 and May 2014 I was certainly informed that this case had come back in.”
Ms Carolan, the tribunal heard, has not said this in her statement to the tribunal.
Mr Lowry acknowledged that he knew of the media attention Sgt McCabe was getting at the time in relation to reports about Garda whistleblowing.
He said he “didn’t link the ongoing issues within Garda Síochána with this allegation. I didn’t see that there would be, it would be interpreted that there would be a link.”
And he said he instructed that the case be dealt with “in the normal way”.
Patrick Marrinan SC, for the tribunal, thanked Mr Lowry for saying he knew of the media references regarding Sgt McCabe.
Mr Marrinan explained that the tribunal’s legal team had written to Tusla asking it to provide statements from everyone in Tusla who dealt with the files pertaining to Ms D and Sgt McCabe and it proved very difficult.
“By and large, the statements that we received were of perhaps, like your own, one page in length, and didn’t really deal with the issues and just simply said — referred to an email and I passed the file from A to B. But we received no information and our investigators then went out and investigated and took statements and asked questions of almost all the witnesses from Tusla…
“And despite that, and sometimes spending upwards of 17 hours with witnesses, it wasn’t until late in the day that Mary Tiernan indicated that she knew Maurice McCabe.
“And up until she introduced that, the Tribunal were unaware that anybody in Tusla knew of Maurice McCabe, knew anything about him being in the media, knew anything about the earlier investigation of him, and she said that she knew him because of attending — he was the garda liaison officer, which apparently is incorrect, but nevertheless, had attended meetings. And that is the first that the Tribunal heard of it, after some two months of investigations.”
Mr Marrinan further suggested that other workers in Tusla must have been aware of Sgt McCabe’s media profile given Mr Lowry was told about him from someone else, possibly Louise Carolan – who was on sick leave from May 2014 until she left the service in May 2015 – and that Eileen Argue must have also been aware of Sgt McCabe’s profile given her use of the initials ‘MMcC’ in her email to Mr Lowry.
Readers should note the tribunal heard Ms Kay McLoughlin – who worked in the Cavan social work department from July 2006 to May 2007 and reported to Mary O’Reilly and Carmel McCauley and was made principal social worker for Cavan-Monaghan in January 2016 – also knew of Sgt McCabe’s profile in the media.
In any event, further to Ms Argue’s letter informing Mr Lowry of the Ms Brophy’s error, Mr Lowry replied by way of principle social worker – and Ms McLoughlin’s direct supervisor – Seamus Deeney some two months later – in August 2014 – with a one-line reply:
This should not have been sent to me.”
Mr Lowry – who was asked if he discussed the matter with either Seamus Deeney, a principle social worker, or Ms Argue and said no – explained his reasons for sending this email to the tribunal, stating:
“That email from me is to highlight to Seamus and to Louise Carolan at that time or I think it’s — that that matter should have gone through the principal social worker, not sent directly to me. That was the point I was trying to make; that these issues needed to be dealt with through the appropriate line management process at that time in August.
“So that is following on — and I know I was on annual leave for the month of month of June. I think Louise Carolan, who was Eileen Argue’s principal at that point in time in May, also went on long-term sick leave in June and I know another team leader also went on sick leave in June. There was a lot happening. I think, my memory is when I came back, I saw that e-mail and I was making my point to Seamus about the appropriate line management process.”
Mr Lowry admitted his response was wholly inadequate, saying:
“The matter was brought to my attention, I should have paid more attention to the issue and I should have asked for a file review, etcetera, and I didn’t do that.”
In addition, he said:
“I think part of the misinterpretation at the time is that it was a Rian data breach and that, therefore, it was their responsibility to address it. But obviously we had our own Tusla issues that we should also have addressed at the time.”
Asked if he had made inquiries or asked for a report, perhaps from Ms Argue, as to what had happened, he said: “I regret that I didn’t.”
Asked if he had taken any steps to make sure that this didn’t happen again, he said: “I did not.”
Incredibly, the tribunal also heard from Mr Lowry that he was not aware of the MsD/MsY error at that point and did not become aware until the tribunal process this summer.
However, a day later, under cross-examination by Paul McGarry SC, for Sgt McCabe, Mr McGarry said that in the aforementioned email from Ms Argue to Mr Lowry, on May 14, 2014, it included an email from Pamela Armitage.
Ms Armitage’s email is what Ms Argue was referring to when she wrote ‘please see information below’. It stated:
“Dear Eileen Laura Brophy, Rian, just called to say she made an error in her report re Ms. D. The line that “this abuse involved digital penetration, both vaginal and anal” is an error and should not be in the referral. It is in fact a line from another referral on another adult that has been pasted in, in error. Laura has apologised and is sending us an amended report asap.”
Asked if he read this email, Mr Lowry said he thought he did.
As per the claim that he didn’t know of the Ms D/Ms Y mix-up until this summer, Judge Peter Charleton asked Mr Lowry how was he to know what he had to sort out, if he didn’t know what was wrong.
Mr Lowry said:
“In May I was aware that Rian had sent inaccurate information, the rape offence, and that that information had to be returned. And I said to Eileen Argue, return the inaccurate information. My error was not checking what records we had created based on the Rian inaccurate information.”
“I did realise how serious the error was. I think by me saying destroy or get rid of the inaccurate information, I thought at that point in time that that was an adequate response.”
Mr Marriman asked Mr Lowry:
“So you were happy just to leave it and apparently Sergeant McCabe’s file goes back into the filing cabinet and lies dormant there, is that what happened?”
Mr Lowry replied:
“That is what happened.”
A year later, on May 7, 2015, social workers Kay McLoughlin and Gail Penders were reviewing files when Ms McLoughlin sent Mr Lowry and Mr Deeny the following email pertaining to Sgt McCabe.
“Dear Gerry and Seamus,
I, along with Gail, have been reviewing files on the MTP today. One relates to Maurice McCabe and I would like to discuss this case with you both before taking any action as it appears that this concern was referred to us in 2007 and Mr. McCabe was never met. It has come back in again due to media coverage of Mr. McCabe.”
“The outstanding actions are that Mr. McCabe be written to outlining the allegations and then be met and afforded an opportunity to respond.”
” We would have to advise him that we would need to tell his wife about this information so as she can be protected. It is likely she is aware of the allegations as a file was sent to the DPP.”
“However, no prosecution was directed. Mr. McCabe has female children and the victim was a seven-year-old child when the alleged incident occurred. My issues are that we are proposing to tell this woman that we have concerns after not doing it for possibly up to eight years, and also I am not confident about sending the Barr letter –“”– that may be out of date.” [referring to address].
Attached to this email was a draft Barr letter, composed by Ms McLoughlin, which stated that Tusla was investigating Sgt McCabe in relation to an allegation of rape.
“Dear Mr McCabe,
I am a child protection social worker employed by the Child and Family Agency, and I am investigating allegations made by Ms. D. The CFA has responsibility for the protection of children under the Childcare Act of 1991. The CFA is obliged to investigate allegations of abuse and to reach a determination as to whether there are sufficient grounds for believing that you may potentially pose a risk to children.
The allegations made by Ms. D are as follows:
That on one occasion between 1998 and 1999 at the home of Maurice McCabe, Ms. D alleged that Maurice McCabe sexually abused her. The abuse allegedly involved digital penetration, and the victim was aged six to seven years old. It is reported that this allegation was investigated by An Garda Síochána some years later. A file was sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions, who directed that no prosecution take place. I would like to meet with you to discuss the allegations and allow you an opportunity to respond. A decision has not yet been reached with regard to the allegations and the purpose of this proposed meeting is to give you an opportunity to respond. On this basis, I would like to meet with you on –”
“– in the CFA office [named venue]. If you intend to be accompanied by a supporting person for the meeting, please notify me. If you do not wish to attend or provide a response in writing, a determination will have to be made as to whether you may pose a risk to children without the benefit of your views. It may be necessary to carry out further investigations in light of information you provide. I will inform you of any proposed further investigations.
“I will provide you with the outcome of the Social Work Department’s assessment and give you an opportunity to respond to it, either by way of a further meeting or in writing. If the assessment outcome is that you may pose a risk to children, I will have to bring this view to the attention of any relevant third party. This may include your employer or your family. You will be notified prior to this being done. Please note that for the purpose of confidentiality the details of any allegations will not be discussed over the phone, should you choose to phone prior to your appointment.”
Mr Lowry replied to Ms McLoughlin on very same day.
Thanks for the update and bringing this matter to my attention. I have a memory of this matter, that this matter was reported to An Garda Síochána at some stage. So you would need to coordinate with them before taking the steps outlined below. I will discuss with you.”
This would seem to indicate that Mr Lowry had no qualms with the allegations that Ms McLoughlin was suggesting would be put to Sgt McCabe.
The tribunal heard Mr Lowry never even opened the attachment in May, nevermind read the draft Barr letter, and so never informed Ms McLoughlin that she – like Laura Connolly and Laura Brophy before her – had repeated the monumental error of putting into an official or legal document an allegation of rape that was never made against Sgt McCabe.
Mr Lowry would later admit to Paul McGarry SC, for Sgt McCabe, that if he had read the Barr letter:
“Well, it may have prompted my memory in terms of the inaccuracy of the situation. But I think I saw the immediate e-mail. I know there was further detail in the attachment. In the rush of work, I didn’t go into it in that level of analysis.”
The draft letter was eventually sent to Sgt McCabe some seven months later, on December 29, 2015.
Mr Lowry told the tribunal:
“I didn’t [read the draft letter]. Seamus was Kay’s direct manager at that point in time and she provided a detailed response. I replied suggesting that she certainly liaise with An Garda Síochána before doing anything.”
Mr Lowry’s evidence prompted Mr Charleton to say:
“People attach things to emails to be read, otherwise they don’t attach them at all. ‘Here is a picture of my dog,’ they expect you to open the picture before you comment ‘Isn’t that a nice dog’.”
The tribunal heard that Mr Deeney responded to Ms McLoughlin on May 8, 2015, and outlined to her that, following a conversation they had about the matter on May 7, the following five steps needed to be taken.
– “We would contact the alleged victim as there is some discrepancy in the allegations forwarded to us.”
– “Determine we need to interview anyone else who may be of relevance, e.g. the counsellor”
– Inform Sgt McCabe
– “inform the alleged abuser of the allegations. 4. Plan the action to be taken to inform third parties in relation to the allegations, e.g. his wife.”
– “Determine protective action and plan for the case.”
Mr Lowry told the tribunal he did not discuss the matter with Mr Deeney.
In addition, at the tribunal, Mr Lowry was asked five questions, to which he replied: “I did not.”
Did you follow up at all with Kay McLoughlin?
Did you follow up with Séamus Deeney?
Did you make sure that there couldn’t be any misunderstanding by Séamus Deeney as to the discrepancy?
Did you try and make sure that there couldn’t be any misunderstanding with Kay McLoughlin about the discrepancy?
Did you advise Kay McLoughlin that, look, the contents of your letter are clearly wrong, this relates to a wrong allegation that was made in 2014 and notified to the Gardaí, did you advise her of that?
After Ms McLoughlin sent the letter on December 29, 2015, solicitors for Sgt McCabe, Sean Costello wrote two letters to Ms McLoughlin.
The first was a short response, dated January 20, 2016, in which it stated that Sgt McCabe would not be meeting with Tusla.
The second, on January 28, 2016, outlined the serious errors as outlined by Ms McLoughlin.
Both letters can be read here.
Despite Mr Lowry knowing Ms D’s case file was closed in 2007; knowing of the 2013 referral from Laura Brophy and knowing that this included an incorrect allegation which was notified to the gardaí; and knowing that in May 2014, the gardai were notified of this error; and knowing that Ms Brophy’s incorrect report had been sent back to Rian from Tusla in July, 2014, Mr Lowry instructed Ms McLoughlin to review the Garda file in relation to Sgt McCabe.
On Febuary 8, 2016, he sent the following letter to Ms McLoughlin. Readers will note that Emer O’Neill worked on the original 2006 allegation.
As discussed, please review Emer O’Neill’s and the Garda file, update the attached and revert to me.”
Mr Lowry told the tribunal:
Kay had obviously made a mistake in her letter. So I was asking her, as her supervisor at that point, to say go and check that information with the key sources of the information.
…There was uncertainty still at that point, unfortunately still, in Ms. McLoughlin’s perspective about the case. Therefore, I was saying to her as her supervisor, go check that information as part of our preparation for the apology.
The following day, Ms McLoughlin emailed Mr Lowry and told him that, having reviewed the file, the digital penetration allegation was a mistake by Ms Brophy.
It was put to Mr Lowry that he knew this already.
On February 26, 2016, Ms McLoughlin sent another email to Mr Lowry, which included Sean Costelloe’s second letter, saying:
“Hi Gerry, I am sending this to you again as it has gotten forgotten about. We need to discuss a response.”
The tribunal hear that, by April 8, 2016, Mr Lowry still hadn’t reviewed Sgt McCabe’s case.
It was suggested to Mr Lowry, at the tribunal, that, at this point Mr Lowry should be apologising to Sgt McCabe, that Sgt McCabe should be told the allegation relayed to him was unfounded and that the matter would be going no further.
Mr Lowry agreed.
And yet, he told the tribunal:
“…at that point the regional SART team was in the process of being set up with a view to the regional SART team taking all cases of this nature with a view to a standardised response.”
Asked if he was satisfied with how he handled the matter from January 2016 to June 2016, Mr Lowry said:
“No. I was inefficient at getting back to Kay to deal with the status of the case and the apology letter.”
So, five months on from Sean Costello’s letter, on June 20, 2016, Ms McLoughlin drafted an apology for Sean Costello and this was approved by Mr Lowry and sent to Sean Costello.
“Dear Mr Costello,
Thank you for your letter dated 28th of January of 2016. As outlined in my initial letter, my remit in relation to this matter is carried out under the Childcare Act 1991, and in particular section 3 of that act.
The Child and Family Agency is a statutory body charged with the responsibility for the protection and welfare of minors pursuant to the Childcare Act 1991.
In fulfilling this obligation, when the Child and Family Agency receives allegations of a child protection nature we are obliged to assess the allegations and to come to a conclusion whether the protection of a minor is at issue.
I acknowledge your client Maurice McCabe’s response to the allegations, which is that he deems them to be wholly untrue. I also note from your letter that his employer and family are aware of these allegations.
I acknowledge that the Garda investigated allegations made by Ms. D in 2006. This service was aware of the investigation at that time. Information provided to this service, then known as the HSE, concurs with your client’s account, in that the allegation arose in the context of a game of hide and seek.
Ms. D alleged Mr. McCabe leaned over her when she was bent over a chair and held her by the waist and, in her own words, was “humping her”. I apologise that a mistake was made in my previous correspondence.
I can confirm to you that no allegation of digital penetration has been made in
relation to your client. I am not sure of any other allegation made by the complainant, Ms. D, regarding a third party.
If further information regarding this matter comes to our attention I will bring it to your attention.”
Asked about why the letter – which was supposed to be an apology – repeated Ms D’s 2006 allegation, Mr Lowry referred to the allegation as “outstanding accurate information”.
He did tell the tribunal:
“I think in hindsight I probably would have made the apology more prominent.”
Sean Costello responded to this letter and stated: “We are shocked and taken aback by the contents of your letter and its implications.”
The suggestion that you intend to investigate and reach a determination in relation to our client as a risk to children is legally unfounded. In particular, your letter admission that you have been aware of the false allegations for ten years and have done nothing at all in relation to them is both unexplained and inexplicable.
If there had been any basis for believing that there was any ground for inquiry as to whether our client posed a risk to children, we would expect that you would have acted at that time.
… It is also astonishing that it took you five months to advert to what you now call a mistake. Even now you make no explanation for the making of that false allegation. Your apology without explanation is both wrong and bewildering.
…In particular, we now formally request that you explain in what circumstances you reopened this matter and that you furnish us with a copy of any and all allegations or statements, including notes of interviews or otherwise, medical reports upon which you have acted in reopening this matter.
We regard your letter of the 29th December 2015 and your letter of the 22nd June 2016 as evidence of a gregarious misfeasance in public office.
For your information, the allegations have already come to the knowledge of Mr. Seán Guerin, senior counsel, and the Commission of Investigation as chaired by Mr. Justice Kevin O’Higgins prior to their making a report and has been indirectly referred to in the public domain.
Mr Costello asked for an urgent and immediate reply.
Mr Lowry told the tribunal this did not happen. Asked why, he said:
I think at that point we felt a bit overwhelmed by it and I know the SART [Sexual Assault Response Team] team were starting to get involved in August of that year and the whole case was transferred to SART at that point in time.
Mr Lowry told the tribunal that he asked Ms McLoughlin to ask SART to take over the case from her. Asked if he was just shovelling the problem over to another unit, Mr Lowry insisted this was not the case.
But Mr Marrinan SC, for the tribunal, put it to him:
“… They wrote a letter to Ms. D, I think they may have written two letters to Ms. D. She didn’t turn up and they wrote to Sergeant McCabe, to cut a long story short in relation to it, and said the case is closed.“
The tribunal heard SART started to take over the case just hours after the letter from Sean Costello arrived.
Readers should also note that the tribunal heard from Paul McGarry SC, for Sgt McCabe, that Ms D didn’t want to have anything more to do with the case from August 2016.
At this point, Mr Justice Charleton recalled an interview Ms D gave to Conor Lally, of The Irish Times this year, the second time Mr Charleton has mentioned it.
Mr Charleton said:
“It may be a little unfair, Mr. McGarry, to say that Ms. D said she didn’t want anything more to do with it…I’m not criticising anybody for that, but people, I know, in a particular context, do go a bit hot and cold about things.”
The tribunal also heard of a statement from Lisa O’Loghlen, of SART, about the events concerning Sgt McCabe and Ms D which contained several inaccuracies and errors.
These included the sentence:
“Social Work Department received a copy of Ms. D’s Garda statement taken on 5th December 2006 and used this to write to Detective Sergeant McCabe in December 2015. However, unfortunately, inaccurate details of the disclosure were given in the letter”.
This, Mr Marrinan SC, suggested or implied Ms D’s 2006 statement was the origin of the litany of errors. Mr Marrinan said Ms D had been consistent in making her allegation.
It addition, it stated: “Social Work Department finding was inconclusive at that time on file, but no report as to how social work came to that conclusion”.
Another error is that Sgt McCabe’s rank is described as Det Sgt.
Mr Marrinan added that Ms McLoughlin never even looked at Ms D’s original statement before she sent the letter to Sgt McCabe.
Just before Mr Lowry finished giving evidence, a somewhat exasperated Judge Charleton drew the tribunal’s attention to a letter sent from chief superintendent James Sheridan to the Assistant Commissioner of the Northern Region [it’s believed he’s referring to Kieran Kenny] on July 3, 2104.
“I don’t intend to go through this letter in full, but this seems to be a letter from superintendent James Sheridan to the Assistant Commissioner of the Northern Region, who would be, I suppose, a regional commander. And if you look through it, it’s dated 3rd July 2014. Basically, he’s able to tell his commanding officer what happened. If you look in the first page he says, look, here is what the original allegation was, here’s how we actually looked into it, is the next page, why did we not put it on PULSE, and that’s said there as well, and then an error comes, how did it happen, and if you see the end of 1821, they said it was a cut-and-paste error, so they were able to say that and say that’s it. I still can’t understand why nobody could do that in Tusla.”
Mr Lowry said:
“I think we didn’t assign a worker to do that at any stage. It wasn’t assigned to a social worker. It was being dealt with by managers as an add-on to the work. The unallocated lists with lots of children at high risk dominated our thinking and our anxiety, and these kind of cases where they were retrospective adults against adults didn’t get the attention that they required.”
When giving evidence, Ms McLoughlin told the tribunal that she knew a matter pertaining to Ms D had been ‘re-referred’ but she could not recall the details. This is a reference to the verbal and written referral made by Laura Brophy to Tusla in August 2013.
Ms McLoughlin told the tribunal:
“I can’t recall but I believe I was aware that it had come in again, but I can’t recall where or who or when. It’s possibly some time in late 2013, after August.”
“It’s possible I overheard a conversation in the office… it’s possible I may have overheard conversations about it. The walls are quite thin between the offices, so it is possible to overhear conversations.”
When cross-examined by Mr McDowell SC, for Sgt McCabe, Ms McLoughlin said:
“I can’t remember how I became aware of it, but it was a small office at the time, a small department. I was aware of the case. I can’t remember how I was aware, but it was discussed possibly in my presence and I was aware of it.”
She was asked of her knowledge of Ms D and events in 2005, 2006 and 2007. She said:
“I was aware that the case was open and allocated to Rhona Murphy. I was aware that there was an allegation in relation to the daughter of one guard who made allegations in relation to another guard.”
She knew the guard’s identity. She also knew it was dealt with in 2006/2007.
Asked how she knew of it, if she didn’t work on it, she said:
“…we were a small team, we were often aware of each other’s work…”
Again, under cross-examination from Mr McDowell – who suggests she and her colleague were not Trappists – she said:
“I may have been in somebody’s presence, I could have been in the administration office when somebody was pulling the file or asking somebody to complete something on the file, or something like that. It’s possible. But these are just scenarios. You know, we do sometimes know about each other’s cases.”
Ms McLoughlin was asked about 2013 and 2014 and if there was a waiting list at that stage, for unallocated cases. She said there was.
She also said that, contrary to what Laura Connolly – who plucked Sgt McCabe’s file randomly in April 2014 before sending a Garda notification and creating intake records on four of his children, two of whom were adults – said about the filing cabinet containing files not in chronological order, Ms McLoughlin said:
“The files are stored, yes, in the order. It starts with the oldest files moving through our filing system right up to the most recent 2017, for instance, and they would be at the end of the filing cabinet. So closed, opened — closed would not be in that filing cabinet…just open files.”
It was in late 2014 when Ms McLoughlin, Gail Penders and Seamus Deeney started to review files that were awaiting allocation.
Ms McLoughlin told the tribunal that a lack of resources didn’t allow her to allocate Sgt McCabe’s file to a social worker but she email Mr Lowry on May 7, 2015 – to flag Sgt McCabe’s file with him. She told the tribunal she hadn’t seen the file prior to May 2015.
“I think because of the high profile of Mr McCabe I did want to bring it to Gerry’s attention…I didn’t have the resources to allocate the case to. We had social workers dealing with high end child protection cases and it was difficult to allocate lower priority cases at that time.”
Ms McLoughlin was asked about what she could recall from Sgt McCabe’s file at the time. She was able to recall seeing some documents and not others. It was put to her that the false allegation of rape was on six documents of the 30 pages of material in the file at that time. She agreed.
Some of the pages included details for the correction of the error – which was discovered in May 2014.
Ms McLoughlin was asked if she opened the file before she emailed Mr Lowry and Mr Deeny in May 2015 – and attached the draft Barr letter. She said she did.
And yet, despite the documents in the file outlining the error, Ms McLoughlin still repeated the allegation of digital penetration in her draft Barr letter. She was asked if she got her information from the file prior to writing the draft Barr letter.
“I don’t have a specific memory of it but I believe I did take information from the file. I possibly had access to the Ms. D file also. But I have no specific memory.”
Asked if she accepted she “missed a crucial part of what was on the file relating to Sergeant McCabe”, she said: “Absolutely, I accept that.”
“I have to say that I did not review the file in its entirety at that time. I had no cause to know that an error had been made in it, so I — that is possibly a reason why I didn’t, you know, review the file in its entirety. I suppose I looked for the concerns on the file, I found some documents that highlighted the allegation of digital penetration and I used those to include in the letter.”
“I failed to appreciate that there was a significant error on the file and I failed to review the file thoroughly.“
Ms McLoughlin told the tribunal that it wasn’t usual for her to send an email, such as the one she sent to Mr Lowry about Sgt McCabe, saying:
“I wouldn’t send such an email as this about other cases.”
Ms McLoughlin was also asked about the line “ It has come back in again due to media coverage of Mr. McCabe” that she made in her email to Mr Lowry and Mr Deeney.
“It was speculation on my part. I would suggest that I put that in there because if somebody, as in this case Ms. D has made an allegation about Maurice McCabe in 2006 and if it comes back up again in the media, for somebody in that situation it may raise issues for them. I was aware she had gone to a counsellor and, therefore, I felt that Mr. McCabe’s name being in the public domain may have triggered issues for her, and that was my assumption. I didn’t know that.”
Ms McLoughlin was asked if she had bypassed procedure – by writing up a draft Barr letter without being officially allocated the case per se or without any initial or further assessment.
She told the tribunal:
“I had not intended to issue that letter at that time, it was just to bring the concerns to Séamus and Gerry’s attention in terms of how we proceed.”
Asked if she could recall having a discussion with either Mr Deeny or Mr Lowry about her email, she said she had no recollection.
In regards to this part of Mr Lowry’s reply to Ms McLoughlin: “I have a memory that this matter was reported to An Garda Síochána at some stage, so we would need to coordinate with them before taking the steps outlined below. I will discuss with you” [as mentioned above], Ms McLoughlin was asked if she did coordinate with any members of the gardai after this reply.
She said: “Not at that point, no.”
But, she said:
“I believe that I raised the matter with Sergeant Byrne at a garda liaison meeting in October 2015.”
Sgt Bryne was one of the liaison gardai from the Bailieboro district and, yesterday, the tribunal heard that Sgt Byrne had given the tribunal a letter he had sent to Ms McLaughlin in November 2014, seeking a meeting with her.
In it, he sought to arrange this meeting, and said:
“I understand you are the new social work team leader for the area and I am writing to you with a view to organising a joint agency liaison meeting at your earliest convenience. The last meeting held was in December 2013 with Ms. Keara McGlone.”
Ms McLaughlin said she couldn’t recall the letter.
The tribunal heard Ms McLoughlin wrote to Ms D seeking to organise a meeting with her on June 2, 2015 but Ms D failed to attend. Ms D was sitting exams at the time and agreed to meet Ms McLoughlin after the exams. However no date was set.
Mr McDowell also asked Ms McLoughlin about the Barr letter she drew up in May 2015 – which was subsequently sent to Sgt McCabe in December 2015.
Mr McDowell said: “Did nobody at the water cooler or at the coffee table or in general conversation around the office or speaking through walls, ever alert you to the fact that a monumental error had taken place in respect of Sergeant McCabe in 2014?”
She said: “No, I wasn’t aware of it.”
Mr McDowell called it “a bit of a mystery that a very, very serious error had come to light in respect of this file and nobody at your level is made aware of it”.
Mr McDowell queried why Ms Argue, Mr Deeney and Mr Lowry were aware, but Ms McLoughlin wasn’t. He suggested that there might have been an effort to hush it up in the office. Ms McLoughlin disagreed that this would have been the case.
Mr McDowell reminded the tribunal that Ms Connolly wasn’t aware of the “highly erroneous Garda notification” she made when she sent a Garda notification with the false rape allegation to the gardai in April 2014 until the she was informed of her mistake by the tribunal’s investigators.
Ms McLoughlin was asked yesterday by Conor Dignam SC, for the Garda Commissioner:
“Was there any direction or influence or other agenda going on when you made your mistakes in relation to this file?”
Judge Charleton interrupted and said:
“In other words, it’s the same question again… were you the puppet of the Gardaí in relation to anything?”
Ms McLoughlin replied:
“No, no, no. I have a duty of care to all clients who come on my desk and if I felt I was in some way biased or even very acquainted with somebody I wouldn’t deal with the case. I have no agenda, and nor was I aware of any agenda.”
Readers should note that, similarly, Mr Lowry told the tribunal on Thursday:
“The errors on this are entirely to do with our local management. We weren’t talking or thinking with members of An Garda Síochána sufficiently about this. So, I don’t see any evidence, anything to suggest that there was any collusion, liaison, coordination, with An Garda Síochána about this.”
Readers may also wish to note that Mr Lowry, whose brother-in-law is a retired garda, gave the tribunal a one-page statement ahead of his appearance at the Disclosures Tribunal. In it, he didn’t outline that he knew Sgt Maurice McCabe going back to as early as 2004 or that he knew of anything in relation to Ms D’s allegations concerning Sgt McCabe in 2006/2007.
And yet the tribunal heard, as mentioned above, that Mr Lowry was the person who wrote an acknowledgement letter to the then superintendent in Baileboro Garda Station on January 2, 2007 – after a Garda notification was made to the child services in respect of Ms D’s initial complaint of December 2006.
Child protection services have a duty to inform An Garda Siochana of allegations of abuse against named individuals and vice versa.
In this letter, Mr Lowry acknowledged receipt of the Garda notification and said social worker Rhona Murphy had been assigned to the case. Mr Lowry told the tribunal he had no recollection of this letter.
Although he sent this letter, Mr Lowry told the tribunal:
“I wasn’t involved in that case management process, in regard either to the child, Ms. D, or to Maurice McCabe.”
Mr Lowry also told the tribunal he couldn’t recall having ever attended a meeting with Sgt McCabe.
And yet, the tribunal was told of several child protection conferences held between 2004 and 2009 – therefore, before and after the DPP investigated Ms D’s 2006 claim against Sgt McCabe and directed that no prosecution should be taken, with the observation that it was doubtful the allegations should constitute a crime at all – which were chaired by Mr Lowry and were attended by Sgt McCabe.
The tribunal also heard that, at some of those meetings, it was decided that Sgt McCabe, Mr Lowry and social work team leader Eileen Argue would be on the same CORE team – in other words a team of the key players involved in a case who would take care of that case.
Today, the tribunal will hear from Sergeant Tony Byrne, Orla Curran, Pamela Armitage, Clair Tobin, Briege Tinnelly, Dr. Gerard O’Neill and Ann Masterson.
Transcripts for the days’ proceedings can be read here
Previously: ‘There Isn’t An Error In His Favour’