How Tusla’s ‘clerical error’ led to this week’s scandal

The woman at the centre of the allegations against Maurice McCabe was the subject of some media interest in 2013 and 2014, leading to texts on the matter circulating around Garda HQ, writes Michael Clifford.

THE allegations that have emerged over the last couple of days received a wide airing across sectors in policing, politics, and media. The person who was originally supposed to have made the allegations of sexual abuse against Maurice McCabe in 2013 drew major interest in some quarters.

Dave Taylor, the former head of the Garda press office, made reference to her in his protected disclosure, which has led to the establishment of the Charleton commission.

According to Taylor’s disclosure, at one point in early 2014, a text was circulating around Garda HQ to the effect that the journalist Paul Williams was in the house of the woman in question, getting ready to interview her. Taylor also stated in the disclosure that no article emerged from that interview.

Nóirín O’Sullivan, who was then deputy commissioner, denies any knowledge of any form of campaign against McCabe. Yet, if Taylor is to be believed, there was major interest in HQ in a media interview with the woman.

Williams did write a number of articles for the Irish Independent about the woman in question in the first half of 2014, including direct quotes from an interview. He didn’t identify her in print, nor did he identify McCabe, but they were both recognisable to anybody who had some knowledge of the history involved.

That history went back to 2006. That year, this woman who was then a teenager, alleged that, when she was six, Maurice McCabe had rubbed up against her inappropriately at a birthday party. The woman comes from a Garda family.

Once McCabe heard about the girl’s claim, he insisted it be investigated fully. That was done by a garda inspector from another station. A file was sent to the DPP, which concluded that not only was there insufficient evidence for a prosecution but in all likelihood the allegation did not even constitute a criminal offence.

That was the end of the matter until August 2013, when a file was created by Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, which stated the woman was now alleging she had been subjected to digital penetration by McCabe.

Six months later, according to Taylor, Garda HQ was rife with the news that a journalist was about to interview this now young woman.

In the published articles written by Williams, the unnamed woman spoke of being sexually assaulted by a garda, how it had traumatised her, and how she felt it was covered up. She also said that her complaint had not been put on the Pulse Garda computer system.

She stated in the articles that she wanted to meet Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin, as he had been responsible for bringing McCabe’s complaints to the floor of the Dáil.

The inference was that she had complaints about Garda malpractice, just as McCabe did.

Martin agreed to meet her in spring 2014. She reportedly told him she wanted her complaint included in the Guerin report, which had been set up to examine McCabe’s claims.

Shortly after the meeting, Martin passed her complaint on to Taoiseach Enda Kenny and he is understood to have also informed McCabe of the development at the time.

The woman’s complaint was passed on to the Department of Justice, which ultimately referred it to the panel of lawyers which, as a result of the Garda controversies at the time, was set up to examine 200 allegations of Garda malpractice.

The panel ruled that her complaint didn’t merit further inquiry, and that the original investigation was conducted properly.

The woman’s willingness to be interviewed by a journalist and her wish to bring her concerns to the leader of Fianna Fáil was in stark contrast to her attitude to Tusla.

Following the creation of the file with the grievous allegation in 2013, Tusla made a number of attempts to contact her. She did not respond.

In May 2014, the “clerical error” about the allegation against McCabe eight months previously was discovered. It turned out that the woman did not make any such allegation about the sergeant, and there had apparently been a mix-up, or “clerical error”, with another file.

In September last year, the woman did respond to the agency, saying she wanted nothing more to do with the case.

There was a postscript to this woman’s engagement with the media and politics in the first half of 2014.

On June 19, 2014, a month after resigning as justice minister, Alan Shatter made reference to the articles in the Irish Independent. He was speaking in the context of the establishment of the O’Higgins commission which was to examine McCabe’s allegations of malpractice.

“If the statutory inquiry is to be comprehensive, it should include all cases dealt with in Bailieborough Garda Station which have given rise to complaint,” said Shatter.

“There is a matter which has been the subject of articles in the Irish Independent, which included a report of Deputy Micheál Martin meeting an individual who alleges she was the victim of a sexual assault and her complaint was not recorded on the Pulse system and did not result in a prosecution. I understand from the newspaper report that Deputy Martin was to provide information on this matter to the Taoiseach and I presume he has done so. This case should clearly form part of any statutory inquiry.”

Despite Shatter’s suggestion, the case was not included in earlier inquiries. There the matter rested, and it may well have been the end of it had Maurice McCabe not learned about what had gone on back in 2013 and 2014 in Tusla and everything that flowed from it.

How the ‘Irish Examiner’ broke the story online on Thursday afternoon

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