On RTÉ One’s Prime Time.
Reporter Katie Hannon (top) outlined the sequence of events that lead to Garda whistleblower Sgt Maurice McCabe being falsely accused of sexually abusing a child – a false allegation that was circulated by Tusla.
Ms Hannon explained:
January 2006: Sgt Maurice McCabe made a serious complaint against a colleague which resulted in a sanction being imposed on that colleague – according to a document prepared for the O’Higgins’ Commission of Investigation in 2016 by the chief state solicitor’s office.
December 2006: This colleague made a complaint about Sgt McCabe on behalf of his daughter. The daughter subsequently made a statement in which she alleged that about ten years previously, when she was around six years old, she had been playing hide and seek with Maurice McCabe and his two eldest children at their home. She said when Sgt McCabe found her, he tickled her and pressed up against her in an inappropriate manner. The allegation was investigated and a file was sent to the DPP with the recommendation that there was no grounds for a prosecution. The DPP directed that no prosecution should be taken – with the observation that it was doubtful the allegations should constitute a crime at all.
August, 2013: A counsellor notified Tusla that a client she was counselling had disclosed that she had experienced one incident of sexual abuse during childhood by Sgt McCabe. This client was supposedly the same girl who made the statement in 2006. But details of the alleged abuse had changed. According to the counsellor’s report, it was said to have involved digital penetration – vaginal and anal. Within days of being told about the allegation, a social worker contacted the original investigating garda to request a meeting about the case. It’s not known if the meeting took place. But a formal Garda notification form, setting out the detail of the allegation, was not sent to the superintendent in charge in the relevant district until May 2 – eight months later. Sgt McCabe was not told that the Tusla files containing an allegation that he had abused a child.
Supt Dave Taylor, former head of the Garda Press Office, would later (in May/June 2016) tell Sgt McCabe that he was told to spread this allegations through texts, etc., to gardai, journalists and others. In a protected disclosure, he said he was told to do this by senior Garda management and that the then deputy Garda Commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan was kept fully briefed of the campaign at all times – a claim she has rejected.
January, 2014: The then Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan, accompanied by the then deputy Garda Commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan, appeared before the Public Accounts Committee, during which Mr Callinan made the infamous ‘disgusting’ comment about Garda whistleblowers Maurice McCabe and John Wilson.
Shortly after this, Fianna Fail TD John McGuinness, who was then chair of the Public Accounts Committee, claims he was privately contacted by Mr Callinan and met him in a car park on the Naas Road. During their conversation, Mr Callinan told Mr McGuinness that Sgt McCabe could not be trusted.
March 25, 2014: Mr Callinan resigned from his position as Garda Commissioner.
April 2014: Tusla opened separate files on Sgt McCabe’s four children – all of which included the allegation that Sgt McCabe was alleged to have abused a six-year-old girl and that the abuse involved both vaginal and anal penetration.
May 14, 2014: The counsellor contacted Tusla to say she had made an administrative error in her report to Tusla. In turn, a Tusla email states: ‘The line that ‘this abuse involves 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 error. The counsellor has apologised and is sending us an amended report asap’.
Within minutes of receiving this report, the social worker released an instruction that the garda notification be amended immediately and the relevant superintendent be notified of the same. The amended garda notification was sent to the relevant superintendent in charge, saying that an earlier report from this counsellor contained an administrative error. The notification said there had been an allegation of a single incident of sexual abuse, stating: ‘At the time of the incident, both the girl and the alleged were fully clothed and the incident involved inappropriate contact’.
An email indicates that, within days of the ‘error’ being discovered, the counsellor believed that the local superintendent of the relevant district had been asked to meet the Garda Commissioner in relation to this case. And there was some anxiety that this superintendent hadn’t been brought up to date about the error in the file and it had to be sent to him immediately. In a statement from the Garda Press Office to Prime Time about this, saying, “Commissioner O’Sullivan had no meeting with the superintendent in question in May, 2014 and did not request such a meeting. No such meeting has ever taken place between Commissioner O’Sullivan and that superintendent.”
December 29, 2015: A child protection social worker wrote to Sgt McCabe saying Tusla was investigating an allegation of abuse against him from the 1990s and that the abuse included digital penetration. He was invited to a meeting to discuss the allegations. It was the first time Sgt McCabe had heard of the allegation. He responded, via his solicitor, stating the allegation was ‘wholly untrue’ and set out the circumstances behind the original, entirely different, allegation and the DPP’s finding that it was doubtful the allegations constituted a crime at all.
June 20, 2016: The same social worker from Tusla responded, stating the agency was obliged to assess the allegations but conceded ‘I apologise that a mistake was made in my previous correspondence. I can confirm to you that no allegation of digital penetration had been made in relation to your client.’
January 10, 2017: After requesting copies of every Tusla records about him and his family, Sgt McCabe received a thick file of the various, incorrect notifications to the gardai.
The files also show that the girl who made the statement in 2006 had told Tusla that she did not wish to – last August – to pursue the matter any further.
January 27, 2017: The chief operations officer of Tusla wrote to the Secretary General of the Department of Children and Youth Affairs acknowledging that ‘mistakes were made in the management of this matter’ and saying that he had ‘instituted a case review internal to Tusla’. It also stated: ‘I regret that the management of this case did not reach the high standard we have set for the service and it is out intention to issue a full formal apology to Mr McCabe for the failings’. The McCabe family are still awaiting this apology.
Watch back in full here
Previously: Unspeakable Allegations
Meanwhile, readers will recall how on Wednesday, the terms of reference for the commission of investigation into claims of an orchestrated smear campaign against Sgt McCabe within the gardai and with the knowledge of Garda Commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan, were published.
These terms of reference state that the commission of investigation must look at the circulation of an allegation of criminal misconduct made against Sgt McCabe by Supt Dave Taylor and to find out what former Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan and the Garda Commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan knew about it and when they knew about it.
However, there is no mention of the allegation itself being investigated.
It’s also emerged that the terms of reference were published after Sgt Maurice McCabe met with the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Katherine Zappone two weeks ago. Tusla is under Ms Zappone’s remit.
This morning, Sean Costello, solicitor for Sgt Maurice McCabe, spoke to Sean O’Rourke on RTE One and they had the following exchange:
Sean O’Rourke: “Has sergeant McCabe met Minister Zappone?”
Sean Costello: “I believe that he has.”
O’Rourke: “Well I suppose the answer suggests you were not at that meeting.”
O’Rourke: “Right. Do you know anything about it or how he got on?”
Costello: “I’m afraid I don’t.”
O’Rourke: “Or when it took place?”
Costello: “It would have been close to two weeks ago.”
O’Rourke: “Was he in anyway assured or reassured by her?”
Costello: “Well I think that, after the meeting, he was happy that he had been met by the minister but yes, it was a case of the minister receiving the information that was being given by Maurice and Lorraine McCabe in relation to the matters that transpired once they received the Tusla file [in January 2017].”
Listen back here