LATEST: Taoiseach confirms Zappone took 'correct course of action' in not divulging Tusla file

  • FF Justice Spokesman insists he mentioned Tusla file to Justice Minister on Wednesday evening
  • Justice Minister claims she had been unaware of the file until learning of it through the media last Thursday
  • The McCabe family has rejected the apology issued by the HSE yesterday saying it was not good enough
  • Sinn Féin have called for a general election and will table motion of no confidence in the Government this week
  • Fianna Fáil will abstain from the motion, but will not be 'pulling the plug' on the Government
  • Taoiseach Enda Kenny has not ruled out a criminal investigation into the affair
  • Garda Commissioner restates her innocence
  • FF's Jim O'Callaghan says failure to resolve dispute over false Tusla file could mean the end of Government
  • Katherine Zappone reveals she told Taoiseach of McCabe meeting before a Cabinet meeting last week
  • The Children's Minister Katherine Zappone announces inquiry into Tusla protocol around child abuse cases
  • Sinn Féin, Fianna Fáil and Labour have backed Mr McCabe's calls for a full public inquiry.
  • Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin to discuss best way of resolving Maurice McCabe affair tomorrow

Update 10.35pm: The Taoiseach Enda Kenny will speak with Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin tomorrow to discuss the best way to seek the truth over the Maurice McCabe affair.

The two leaders have been in contact tonight and agreed to meet as a matter of urgency.

Update 8.20pm: Labour Party Leader, Brendan Howlin, has backed the call by Maurice and Lorraine McCabe for a full public inquiry into the false allegations against him.

The party's spokesperson on Justice said: "I fully support the McCabe family in their calls for a full public inquiry into the damaging and false allegations made against him.

"In their pursuit of truth and justice, the McCabe family wishes for a public inquiry must be upheld.

"I believe we now need a full public tribunal of inquiry not just for the McCabe family but to restore trust in our public institutions."

Update 7.20pm: Fianna Fáil have joined Sinn Féin in backing Sergeant McCabe's call for a full public inquiry.

Update 7.10pm: A spokesperson for the Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, has said Ms Zappone took "absolutely the correct course of action" in not revealing any of the details of the Tusla file on Seargean Maurice McCabe.

The spokesperson said: "Minister Zappone, as Minister with responsibility for Tusla, engaged with Maurice McCabe about very sensitive and personal matters. She quite rightly respected his right to privacy and confidentiality in relation to these matters.

“As the Taoiseach has said previously, he was not aware of the details, or of the very serious and disturbing issues that arose at the meeting.

“As Minister Zappone confirmed today, she did not divulge any of the details of these very serious issues to the Taoiseach or to anyone else in Government. This was absolutely the correct course of action," the spokesperson told the Independent.

Update 6.45pm: Sinn Féin is supporting Sgt McCabe's demand for a public inquiry into the alleged smear campaign against him.

The party's Deputy Leader, Mary Lou McDonald, said that a private Commission of Investigation is "an absolute non-runner".

Deputy McDonald said: "Earlier today, I, along with my colleague Deputy Jonathan O'Brien, met with Sgt Maurice McCabe in Dublin. He outlined to us his strong position that a Commission of Investigation, held in private, would not hold his confidence. Sgt McCabe also outlined his very sound rationale as to why a public inquiry would be the only mechanism that would deliver the truth and justice required.

“Sinn Féin fully supports this demand and we want to make it abundantly clear that a private Commission of Investigation is an absolute non-runner.

“We also viewed the Tusla file compiled on Sgt McCabe. Nobody should be in doubt as to the horrifying and breathtaking nature of this file.

Ms McDonald called on Fianna Fáil to support their motion of no confidence on Wednesday.

She said: “The current administration cannot be trusted to establish the appropriate investigative method that is so badly needed.

“Minister Zappone’s comments today simply confirm the Government's policy of evasion and spin that has characterised their disgraceful response to the vicious campaign waged against Sgt McCabe and his family.

“There is no way that this Government can remain in power. It has completely lost both the confidence of the public and its authority.”

Update 5.15pm: The Children's Minister Katherine Zappone appears to be at odds this evening with the Taoiseach Enda Kenny on the Sergeant Maurice McCabe Tusla file.

The Minister was giving a statement on the steps of the Dáil to media where she revealed she spoke to the Taoiseach about the issue before last Tuesday's Cabinet meeting, though she did not reveal the nature of what she knew.

And she has also declared that she did not tell the Taoiseach in advance of her meeting with the McCabe's, but did inform an advisor.

She said: "I also spoke with the Taoiseach prior to the Cabinet meeting last week to let him know that I had met with the McCabe's, that we had discussed Tusla. I didn't go into the detail of any of the allegations that I was aware of but I did indicate that that was the nature of the conversation.

"My advisors were also in touch with Taoiseach's office to let them know that I was going to meet with the McCabes prior to that."

At the weekend Mr Kenny said that he knew the Minister was going to meet the McCabes and that he told her to keep a record of it.

On Sunday, Mr Kenny said the Children's Minister had spoken to him before the meeting with the McCabes.

He said: "She did tell me that she intended to meet Sergeant McCabe in a private capacity and that's all I knew.

"I said to her 'well if you do have a meeting, make sure that you have a thorough account of it'.

"So when we had our meeting on Tuesday I would not have been aware of any of the details of the discussions," the Taoiseach told the This Week programme.

Minister Zappone says the information was "so vile and wrong" against the McCabes that she did not tell her colleagues at Cabinet last Tuesday.

She also said that uppermost in her mind when she did not brief the Cabinet on the false allegations "was to protect the McCabes".

Ms Zappone said at her meeting with the McCabes on January 25, that they had asked for an apology and that all the files contained in Tusla be eradicated. The Minister has confirmed that all the electronic files on the case are gone and that the paper files on the case are available for the Commission of Investigation, as requested by the NMcCabes.

The Minister admitted that she is "deeply conscious" that the "State that had almost destroyed their family".

She said: "All I can say was that I didn't sleep at all that night. How could you?"

She also announced an independent external review of Tusla's systems and procedures which will examine how Tusla manages allegations of child abuse, adding that she has asked HIQA to undertake the investigation.

Minister Zappone said: "I intend to seek advice from the Attorney General, to ensure that its work does not interfere with the work of the Commission of Inquiry."

She added that she intends to make the terms of reference public as soon as possible, and for the investigation to be concluded as quickly as possible.

The Minister said that ahead of ther meeting with the McCabes, she told the Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald that it was going to happen.

She said that that reasons she did not brief the Cabinet on the meeting was that she did not want to have any part in putting highly sensitive confidential information into the public domain.

She said she wanted "to ensure the McCabes would be protected", adding she "hopes she has done her best for the McCabes".

Minister Zappone said that she believed that the Tusla case would be incorporated into the terms of reference of the Commission of Investigation before saying that "uppermost in my mind was my concern to protect the McCabes".

"I discerned that the Tusla case and issues related to that would be incorporated in the context of the terms of reference of the commission," she said.

"I did have what I considered to be highly sensitive, confidential information [that] was not in the public domain yet," she said.

"Extraordinary and vile allegations against Sgt McCabe... not wanting to have any part to play in putting any false allegations into the public domain [...] It was sufficient that I kept that to myself at that time in light of my absolute desire to ensure that the McCabes would be protected and not be harmed any further," she added.

Update 3.55pm: Fianna Fail's Jim O'Callaghan has said that if the dispute with the Tánaiste over the false Tusla file is not sorted out that this could potentially mean the end of government, writes Juno McEnroe of the Irish Examiner.

Speaking to reporters in Leinster House today, the TD said: "Sometimes people can have different views about what happened by forgetting things."

The party's justice spokesman reiterated that he was "absolutely clear" about his version of events about meeting Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald.

The row between the two sides revolves around whether the Fianna Fáil TD informed the minister about the existence of a Tusla file falsely claiming whistleblower Sgt Maurice McCabe was suspected of child sex abuse and an RTE programme on it.

He says he warned her on Wednesday about the the file. The minister denies this and says the first she learnt of the Tusla file was on Thursday watching the programme.

It was "inappropriate" that Fine Gael TD Martin Heydon has inadvertently suggested he was telling lies, said Mr O'Callaghan.

Asked about resolving the matter and the survival of the government, he added: "If we don't get this sorted out the Government will collapse. I think that would be crazy for the Government to collapse."

"Fianna Fáil is in a confidence and supply agreement with the Government. This essentially keeps Fine Gael in power. Any withdrawal of that would collapse the government.

"The most "important thing" though was getting the new commission examining an alleged campaign against Sgt McCabe up and running and if the Dáil collapsed there would be no inquiry," added Mr O'Callaghan.

Update 2pm: Enda Kenny refused to answer questions on the dispute between Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael surrounding the Maurice McCabe controversy, instead calling for the Charleton inquiry to begin its work.

"Every day that passes that this Commission was not able to do its work means further delay in the determination of the truth of the allegations around this," he said.

"I note the comment from the Commissioner of the Gardaí.

"Everybody in this country is entitled to a presumption of innocence until proven guilty, and in this case the quicker that Commission of Investigation gets underway to do its work, the better for everybody concerned."

The Taoiseach was speaking at a jobs announcement from San Francisco firm NGINX in Cork Opera House today.

Update 1.50pm A Fine Gael TD Noel Rock has also called for a "full and frank apology" to Maurice McCabe from Government, writes Elaine Loughlin, Political Reporter.

He has called on the Taoiseach to announce when he will step down as the leadership issue to be "cleared up".

Calling on Enda Kenny to give details of when he intends to step aside, Mr Rock said: "It's the appropriate time to be setting out a deadline for the future not only for himself but for the sake of Fine Gael party so we have clarity in our own minds that if there is a General Election in the next six or nine months we will know who will be leading us.

"The current opinion polls don't necessary represent the support of the party and we need to perhaps sort out the leadership issue arising from that.

"We know that Enda Kenny has said that he won’t be leading up until the next election therefore there is a bit of a vacuum when people are asked in an opinion poll who they will be voting for. They don't know who they will be voting for if they vote for Fine Gael.

“So we need to clear that up sooner rather than later."

However, he added that priority for Government should now be around addressing the false allegations made in Tusla report about Garda McCabe and Government's response to it.

"The real priority is sorting this mess out first, what need to see is leadership today and tomorrow, what we need is a full and frank apology to Garda McCabe on behalf of the government and I think that's warranted as soon as possible," Mr Rock told RTÉ's News at One.

Update: 12.10pm: Garda Commissioner Noirin O'Sullivan has released a statement, strongly protesting her innocence and reiterating her intention to remain in her position.

The Garda Commissioner said: "A campaign of false accusations, repeated and multiplied, do not make me guilty of anything."

Commissioner O'Sullivan said it would be the easiest option to step down and she is not going to do that as she is innocent of the allegations and the Garda force has made significant progress under her reign.

Update: 12pm: Sinn Fein have called for a general election and claimed government ministers to failed to protect whistleblower Sgt Maurice McCabe.

The Opposition party outlined its motion of no confidence in the minority government this morning, saying the “chaotic” administration needed to go.

Deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald told reporters that there had been a failure at the heart of government over protecting Sgt McCabe.

The party's motion will either be tabled in the Dáil tomorrow or on Wednesday.

It attacks the heart of Government rather than any one minister and says declares that the Dáil has “no confidence” in the government and calls on Taoiseach Enda Kenny and his Cabinet to resign to allow for fresh elections.

The motion also notes the recent revelations regarding how Sgt McCabe was treated by agencies, including Tusla, which has apologised to the garda over a file that mistakenly accused him of child sex abuse.

The scandal over how the whistleblower had gone on for years, noted Ms McDonald.

An election though would not delay how a criminal investigation could be carried out into how Sgt McCabe was treated by agencies, including by gardaí, said the TD.

Update 11.30am: Fianna Fáil's Justice Spokesperson Jim O'Callaghan has said that he mentioned Tusla “three or four times” when he met Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald last Wednesday evening.

Speaking to Today with Sean O'Rourke on RTÉ Radio 1, he stated: "I said it three or four times, when we sat down I said there's an issue here, Primetime are doing a programme tomorrow night about a Tusla file, [Fianna Fáil leader] Micheál Martin has just mentioned it to me and he has just spoken to Maurice McCabe."

He added that he and the Justice Minister also spoke at length about extending terms of reference for the Charleton inquiry.

Jim O'Callaghan said he met Minister Fitzgerald to forewarn her and the government about the PrimeTime programme.

"I'm a 100% certain that I did mention Tusla and I'm also 100% certain that I said to the Tánaiste, and the words I used were - 'Frances, you need to speak to Katherine Zappone because she has met Sgt McCabe and she has full knowledge about this issue'," he said.

Mr O'Callaghan said he had great time for Minister Fitzgerald and he did not find the current situation pleasant.

He also said that Garda Commissioner Noirin O'Sullivan should access where she stands, and, if she thinks the matter is interfering with her ability to do her job, then she should take that into account.

However he also said there is a principle that allows individuals to defend themselves and this should apply to Commissioner O'Sullivan.

"It's a matter that the commissioner should access where she stands,” he said.

“If she thinks that this matter is interfering with her ability to do her job, then that's a factor she should take into account. I think there is a principle that if allegations are made against individuals, and they deny them, they're entitled to defend themselves. If the allegations against her are found to have substance, we won't be calling for her just to resign. We'll be calling for her to be removed."

He added that he did not mention reference to Tulsa in the Dáil debate on the terms of reference because he had a limited amount of information.

Update 11am: The Independent Alliance are set to speak to Minister for Children Katherine Zappone later today over how she handled false Tusla allegations of child sex abuse against Sgt Maurice McCabe, writes Political Correspondent, Juno McEnroe.

The Irish Examiner can also reveal that one alliance member spoke with Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald over the deepening crisis last night, as more answers are sought on the Tusla file.

The Government is under huge pressure to answer questions and explain what it knew and did regarding the child and family agency file and allegations.

Ahead of a vote of no confidence being submitted to the Dáil by Sinn Féin this week, the minority government are set to have a number of meetings to attempt to close down the crisis.

The Irish Examiner understands that one senior member of the alliance will speak with Minister Zappone when she flies back into Dublin later today.

She faces questions about why she did not flag the Tusla file and controversy with her Cabinet colleagues, especially last week when it was setting up an inquiry into how Sgt McCabe has been treated by gardaí.

The development comes as Fianna Fáil continue to disagree with Fine Gael on whether the Tusla file concerns were flagged with the Justice Minister ahead of media publishing the story last week.

Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald maintains the first she heard of the concerns was on Thursday night. Fianna Fáil disagree and says justice spokesman Jim O'Callaghan told her about the file on the Wednesday night.

In a further dramatic development, Fianna Fail leader Micheál Martin has also hinted that Garda Commissioner may have to resign.

The government have agreed to a full inquiry into an alleged campaign by senior members of the force to undermine whistleblower Sgt Maurice McCabe.

Mr Martin is set to meet the whistleblower later today and view the Tusla file for himself.

Speaking to local radio in Cork this morning, Mr Martin said that the garda chief should assess her own position.

"The Commissioner herself should assess where she stands," he told Cork's 96fm.

Update 9.18am: Fianna Fáil's Justice Spokesman says he is 100% certain he told Frances Fitzgerald about Tusla's role in the whistleblower saga last Wednesday.

Jim O'Callaghan insists he told the Justice Minister about the involvement of the child and family agency a day before she claims to have found out.

He says that he also urged her at the meeting to expand the terms of reference of the Commission of investigation.

“I’m 100% certain I did,” he said.

“I also said to her, and I remember saying it distinctly, I said: Frances, you need to speak to Katherine Zappone, as she met Sergeant McCabe, and she has this information about the Tusla file, about which I don’t have all the information’.”

Update 7.29am: Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin is to meet Sergeant Maurice McCabe today, as a row continues between his party and Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald.

Deputy Martin has asked to see a copy of the Tusla file, and is set to meet Maurice McCabe later, according to the Irish Examiner newspaper.

Fianna Fáil Justice spokesman Jim O'Callaghan is insisting Tusla's role in the whistleblower controversy was flagged with Minister Fitzgerald in a meeting on Wednesday, but she maintains she found out on Thursday.

Irish Examiner special correspondent Michael Clifford said that the Minister Fitzgerald is adamant her meeting with Fianna Fail's Jim O'Callaghan did not discuss the child and family agency.

Michael Clifford

“Frances Fitzgerald is saying that wasn’t the nature of the conversation at all, and that’s certainly not what she picked up and therefore she did not bring that forward to be included in the terms of reference,” he said.

“The pair won’t seem to meet on that one, it seems, so there’s definitely an issue there.”

Update 7.29am: Sinn Fein's Mary Lou McDonald hit out at the Government ahead of the publication of her party's motion of no confidence in the Government.

“Most importantly of all, I don’t believe that they have any appetite for really getting to the bottom of matters or for bringing about the kind of reform that An Garda Siochána needs,” she said.

Earlier:

The row between Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil has deepened over when the Government found out about Tusla's role in the Maurice McCabe affair.

Micheál Martin claims his party told the Tánaiste about Tusla's role on Wednesday.

Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald insists she only learned about it in media reports on Thursday.

However Fianna Fáil has confirmed it will abstain in Sinn Féin's motion of no confidence in the Government in the Dáil this week.

Read: Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil dispute timeline of McCabe/Tusla events

However, party spokesman Dara Calleary said that although there are questions to answer, "pulling the plug on the Government" will not solve anything.

"Look, Our position is - we want to get answers to this issue," he said.

"Collapsing the Government will not provide the answers that Maurice McCabe, will not provide the answers that the public need to have confidence in Tusla and have confidence in our policing system,

"Collapsing the Government at this stage also will not take anybody off a health waiting list, will not provide a house to anybody.

"Government, stable Government, and an effective Dáil and Senate will do that."


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