Latest: SF brand Tánaiste's statement 'not credible' as Zappone gives reason for not telling Cabinet

Update 8.52pm: Sinn Féin Deputy Leader Mary Lou McDonald has said that this evening's statement from Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald in relation to her knowledge of Tusla's role in the scandal impacting Sgt Maurice McCabe is not credible.

Ms McDonald said: "It is alarming that the Tánaiste, having misled the Dáil yesterday, should continue her cycle of evasion this evening. Her version of events is not credible.

"I repeat my call for the Tánaiste to correct the record of the Dáil. She should resign if she is not prepared to do so.

"This scandal goes to the very heart of the integrity of government in this state. Nothing but the full truth and the disclosure of an accurate version of events will suffice. It is the very least that Sgt McCabe and his family deserve after everything they have been put through."

It comes as the Minister for Children Katherine Zappone released a second statement on the affair today saying it would have been inappropriate for her to brief the Cabinet on her reasons for meeting Garda whistleblower Maurice McCabe.

It is after it emerged that both the Taoiseach and Tánaiste had been told Katherine Zappone was meeting Sergeant McCabe, but not the reasons why.

The statement from a spoksperson from her department read: "Minister believed Tusla would be subject to investigations by the Commission of Inquiry.

"It would have been highly inappropriate for the Minister to brief the Cabinet on confidential, highly sensitive and personal information which one could reasonably assume was the subject of a protected disclosure, which was leading to the establishment of the Commission."

Update 6.30pm: The Tánaiste and Minister for Justice has broken her silence around the allegations against Garda whistleblower Maurice McCabe.

Frances Fitzgerald says she learned about "an issue affecting Sgt McCabe in January" from Minister for Children Katherine Zappone, but was unaware of the details to do with Tusla.

"As was confirmed in a statement by the Department of Children and Youth Affairs this afternoon, Minister Zappone became aware in mid-January of an issue affecting Sgt McCabe which related to her Department," the Tánaiste said.

"As the statement points out Minister Zappone has taken and is taking a number of steps to deal with this matter.

"She informed me in January that she intended to meet with Sgt McCabe. She of course did not inform me about any details in relation to confidential Tusla records."

She adds that she had avoided commenting on the matter in the Dáil, as she "would be rightly open to criticism."

"The Terms of Reference of the proposed Commission put before the Oireachtas by me refer specifically to a complaint of criminal misconduct against Sgt McCabe and whether this allegation was used against him.

"I have always been scrupulous to avoid any comment in the Dáil on what was at issue in the criminal complaint against Sgt. McCabe, referred to in the terms of reference. Had I put into the public domain anything which indicated or implied the nature of the complaint against Sgt McCabe I would be rightly open to criticism.

"At the heart of the issues to be examined by the Commission is whether senior Gardaí were involved in a campaign to use information to damage Sgt McCabe.

"I agreed to take on board amendments designed to put beyond doubt that the examination of any smear campaign would not be confined.

"Just as my colleague Minister Zappone is dealing with the serious matters relating to her area of responsibility, I am proceeding to finalise the terms of reference of the Commission of Investigation arising from Mr Justice O'Neill's report."

Update (4.30pm): Labour's children's spokeswoman Jan O'Sullivan has said: "The Tánaiste and Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald claimed she was not aware of any contact between An Garda Síochána and Tusla about Sergeant Maurice McCabe.

"If Minister Zappone briefed her Cabinet colleagues on the details, then the Tánaiste must now account for why she misled the Dáil on this matter."

Fianna Fáil's children's spokeswoman Anne Rabbitte added: "Did the Minister for Children contact the Minister for Justice when she became aware of this grave error?"

"We now know that Minister Zappone met with Sergeant McCabe two weeks ago - why was this meeting not included in the terms of reference of the Commission of Investigation that was announced this week?"

Update (3.20pm): Minister for Children Katherine Zappone has said that she had informed "relevant government colleagues" of the allegations made against Garda whistleblower Maurice McCabe.

The Minister revealed in a statement today that her department was contacted by Garda McCabe's wife, via the office of the Minister for Health, on January 18.

Minister Zappone said that she later met with Mrs and Sgt McCabe on Wednesday, January 25, and her office has been "in regular contact" with the pair, and Tusla, since.

Spokesperson for the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Dr Katherine Zappone stated: "Minister Zappone has met with Mrs Lorraine McCabe and Sgt Maurice McCabe. She has heard first hand of the devastation caused to them by the false allegations against Sgt Maurice McCabe.

"The Minister became aware of the circumstances when Mrs McCabe contacted the office of the Minister for Health on January 18, 2017.

"As the matter related to the Department of Children and Youth Affairs, the Private Secretary of DCYA was requested to call Mrs McCabe.

"The private secretary did this on January 18.

"Minister Zappone met Mrs and Sgt McCabe on Wednesday, January 25.

"Since then her office has been in regular contact with Mrs and Sgt McCabe and Tusla - which has led to the offer of a public apology.

"The Secretary General of the Department of Children and Youth Affairs held a meeting with Senior Tusla Personnel on Friday, January 27.

"Tusla provided DCYA with a chronology and analysis of the case - which my Department gave to Mrs and Sgt McCabe on Saturday, January 28.

"Tusla informed the Secretary General that they have instituted a case review to extrapolate all relevant information in order to provide a more detailed analysis.

"Minister Zappone informed relevant Government colleagues during the course of this period.

Minister Zappone was always of the view that Tusla would form part of the investigation by the Commission of Inquiry.”

Update 1.30pm: The Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL) has today expressed its concerns at the ongoing controversy surrounding the treatment of Garda whistle-blower Sergeant Maurice McCabe.

The ICCL notes that issues arising may be so profound as to require a broader response engaging institutions beyond the proposed Commission of Investigation.

They said that the potential involvement of a range of state agencies in the alleged smear campaign against Sergeant McCabe run to the very heart of the Ireland’s justice system and its political system, even raising issues of public confidence in the State's child protection systems.

Speaking today, ICCL Executive Director Mr Liam Herrick said: “Information which has been placed into the public domain in the last 48 hours including very serious allegations of misconduct in the treatment of Sgt Maurice McCabe raise very serious questions for accountability and oversight across a range state agencies which must be addressed if the public is to retain full confidence in the administration of justice and policing in Ireland.

"The Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality must ensure that the proposed Commission of Inquiry is constituted to ‘stop the rot’ and that measures to ensure meaningful reform of policing and justice are implemented without delay.”

Drawing attention to the time frame in which the Commission of Investigation will conduct its work, Mr Herrick noted: “It is imperative that Judge Charelton is empowered to reach full conclusions within a specified timeframe and can do so while respecting and vindicating the rights of all parties to the Investigation.

"However, it is equally important that the Government and the relevant oversight bodies now accelerate the wider process of Garda reform. From the seriousness of the issues that arise in this case, it is clear that Garda reform to date has been partial, and that systemic and cultural resistance to reform remains.”

Update 11.45am: The Child and Family Agency Tusla says it has begun an internal review into the circumstances surrounding recent revelations concerning Garda whistleblower Maurice McCabe.

It emerged yesterday that Tusla opened an investigation into the welfare of Sergeant McCabe's children, around the same time he made allegations of mismanagement in the Garda force.

However, no attempt was made to contact Sergeant McCabe and put the allegations to him.

Sergeant McCabe now says he's going to sue over the false child abuse claims.

“Due to Data Protection and Constitutional rights, Tusla is prohibited from commenting on the detail of individual cases,” Tusla said in a statement.

“We also have a responsibility to protect the privacy and wellbeing of the children and families with whom we work.

“Taking an overall view of this situation, however, it is clear to us that mistakes have been made. On this basis, we have commenced an internal review and will cooperate fully with any Commission of Inquiry if requested.

“Although we cannot comment on the details of this individual case, we can confirm that we are in the process of apologising fully to the individual involved.

“It is important to note that when we receive allegations from a child – or from an adult reflecting on when they were a child – that we are obliged to carry out a complete assessment.

“We also accept that because of the nature and complexity of these situations, the systems and processes involved in doing this need to be extremely robust.

“In this case, it appears there were some failures and these are the subject of our internal review, the conclusions of which will be made public.

“Tusla regrets that this situation has arisen and deeply apologises for distress caused.

“It does not reflect the high standards that we hold ourselves to and we want to assure the public that we will take whatever steps are required to ensure that nothing like this happens again.”

Maurice McCabe

Update 11.20pm: Sean Costello, solicitor for Maurice McCabe, has said his client is devastated over the allegations made against him.

Speaking on Today with Sean O'Rourke, he said: "To think a government agency charged with the protection of children and a state run body who would deal with a complaint in the manner outline."

He said that the complaint was first made in August 2013 and was referred to local gardai, but that it appears nothing happened until May 2014 when the same individual who referred the complaint to the HSE wrote to state that the initial report contained an "administrative error".

He said that error related to the description of abuse and that they need more information from Tusla and the HSE about how mistakes like the one made are possible.

"It is extraordinary that an agency like Tusla should make a mistake of that nature. The question will only be answered if this should be the subject of the inquiry."

In relation to the files opened on McCabes children, Mr Costello said it is devastating.

"As any parent, aunt, uncle, whoever sees these thing written about Maurice McCabe, that he posed a potential risk is just absolutely devastating. And how that manifests itself and became part of what are allegations at least at this stage and became part of a campaign."

Earlier: Garda whistleblower Sergeant Maurice McCabe says he's going to sue over false child abuse claims.

It emerged yesterday that Tusla opened an investigation into the welfare of Sergeant McCabe's children, around the same time he made allegations of mismanagement in the Garda force.

The abuse claims were made by a young woman in August to a counsellor, who contacted Tusla and gardaí. However, no attempt was made to contact Mr McCabe and put the allegations to him.

However the child and family agency later said the allegations were based on a 'clerical error'.

The allegation surfaced on a file in August 2013, and the “error” was detected the following May, a period during which Sergeant McCabe’s claims of malpractice were causing major political and garda related controversy.

Yesterday, Labour leader Brendan Howlin told the Dáil that he had been contacted by a journalist who told him he had direct knowledge of the garda commissioner, Noirin O’Sullivan, briefing journalists that Sergeant McCabe was responsible for “sexual crimes”.

Mrs O'Sullivan has denied spreading the allegations of sex crimes against Mr McCabe.

In a statement yesterday, she said she was surprised by claims of her involvement in a smear campaign targeting Mr McCabe and insisted it was the first time she had heard the accusation.

Sinn Féin TD Mary-Lou McDonald wants the Garda Commissioner to step aside during an inquiry.

"It seems a concerted campaign to blacken a serving officers name, to take his good character, to destroy his career, and I'm very concerned that the Taoiseach and the Minister for Justice insist on the Garda Commissioner staying in place - I think that is not an acceptable position.

"She does need to stand aside and allow the Commission of Investigation to proceed."

Fianna Fáil says Sergeant Maurice McCabe was failed by the state in the most fundamental way.

Expenditure and Reform Spokesperson, Dara Calleary, claims the Children's Minister was aware of the false sex abuse claims against him, but may not have passed on that information to the Justice Minister.

"If she did not tell why not, given in any circumstance no matter who it was, the absolute breach that Tusla had put on a family given that was such a high-profile individual."

Opposition parties such as Sinn Féin and Labour say Nóirín O'Sullivan's position as head of the force is untenable.

However Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil are still supporting her.

Fianna Fáil TD Niall Collins said: "Nóirín O'Sullivan, no more than any other person or any other citizen under the constitution of the land, is entitled to her good name.

"Because an allegation has been made against her by way of a protected disclosure in my mind doesn't mean that she should step aside."


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