Sinn Féin to table motion of no confidence in Govt after HSE 'apologises unreservedly' to McCabe

Update 7.50pm: Sinn Féin have said they are to table a motion of no confidence in the Government "without delay".

Announcing the motion of no confidence, Sinn Féin Deputy Leader Mary Lou McDonald branded the Government a "kick for touch, cover up" government.

Deputy McDonald said: "People the length and breadth of Ireland are rightly outraged by what has transpired over the course of the last week. The Government is clearly unable to deal with the major issues facing our people.

"The hospital waiting list scandal has exposed the government's complete failure to deal with the crisis in our health service.

"The manner in which they have handled the scandalous campaign of character assassination against Sergeant Maurice McCabe renders this government unfit for public office.

"The behaviour of government, particularly over the last week, has eroded public confidence in this coalition in the most fundamental and profound ways."

She said that the Government's "chaotic behaviour and blatant disregard" for transparency necessitates a General Election.

She said: "Sinn Féin will table a motion of no confidence in this kick for touch, cover up government without delay.

"We will be seeking support for this motion of no confidence from all opposition TDs and Fianna Fáil."

Update 3pm:Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams has called for a General Election.

Deputy Adams was speaking in Belfast this afternoon on the controversy surrounding Sergeant Maurice McCabe.

Mr Adams said: "The Fine Gael-led government is one without authority. It is stumbling from one crisis to another - in health, in housing, in homelessness.

"They have covered up on the NAMA scandal and they are now playing the public for fools on the Garda/Tusla/McCabe controversy.

"Fine Gael is in power only by dint of patronage from Fianna Fáil, and Fianna Fáil is keeping the wreck afloat.

"Citizens are scandalised by the arrogance of Enda Kenny and his Cabinet colleagues. The Taoiseach should do the right thing. So should Micheál Martin. He should withdraw his support for the government."

Mr Adams said that if his party was in government, they would not tolerate it.

He added: "People deserve an election. They deserve to have their say on all of these matters.

"The Sinn Féin Chief Whip has written to the Business Committee in the Dáil seeking a debate on the Commission of Investigation to be brought forward to Tuesday to allow the Tánaiste and the Minister for Children to clarify their positions.”

Update 1.30pm:The Health Service Executive (HSE) has apologised unreservedly to Garda whistleblower Sgt Maurice McCabe for the distress caused to him on foot of its error.

In a statement released today, the HSE said there was an administrative error in its counselling service which led to an allegation being mistakenly handled.

The error has been the subject of a major political controversy this week.

In its statement, the HSE said that in July 2013, an allegation of retrospective abuse was made against Garda Sgt Maurice McCabe.

In line with process, the HSE’s National Counselling Service referred this allegation to HSE’s Child Protection Services (now Tusla). This matter has been reported quite extensively in the media over the past 48 hours.

"The HSE wishes to confirm that there was an administrative error made by a staff member of the HSE’s National Counselling Service in the referral made at that time (August 2013)," the statement added.

This administrative error was brought to the attention of the National Counselling Service in May 2014.

The National Counselling Service responded immediately in May 2014 by bringing this error and a corrected report to the attention of Tusla and an Garda Siochana, the HSE said.

"In line with usual process, the error was brought to the attention of the HSE’s Regional Manager for Data Protection and Consumer Affairs. The National Counselling Service would have had no further involvement in this matter once the corrected report was provided to Tusla and an Garda," it continued.

The HSE is satisfied that correct procedure was followed once this error was brought to the attention of the National Counselling Service, it added.

"An immediate internal review of guidelines, practices and protocols was undertaken within the National Counselling Service to ensure that such an error would not reoccur. Appropriate training was also undertaken. Additional supervisory procedures were put in place by the National Counselling Service in relation to the staff member concerned," the HSE said.

As a result, the HSE said it is apologising unreservedly to Mr. McCabe and his family for the distress caused on foot of this error.

"The HSE is making arrangements to offer this apology formally to Mr. McCabe as soon as possible," the statement added.

In conclusion, the HSE said it will fully co-operate with any Inquiry or Investigation into this matter.

Update 12.45pm: Sinn Féin has called on the Justice Minister to come before the Dáil to tell deputies what she knew about a meeting between Minister Katherine Zappone and Garda whistleblower Sergeant Maurice McCabe.

Frances Fitzgerald says she was aware of the meeting - but the Tánaiste has indicated she wasn't aware the Garda whistleblower was the subject of baseless sexual offences allegations that were on the files of the child protection agency Tusla.

Sinn Féin is claiming her version of events doesn't stand up to scrutiny.

The party's Justice spokesperson Jonathan O'Brien believes Minister Fitzgerald misled the Dáil, and needs to set the record straight.

"Now it is unconceivable and it's just not credible that Minister Fitzgerald did not pose the question to Minister Zappone 'why are you meeting the most high-profile Garda whistleblower in the history of the State."

Sinn Féin Children's spokesperson Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire TD has expressed deep alarm that the file was held, and widely circulated, and has called on Túsla to come before the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Children and Youth Affairs to outline the situation and clarify whether there are any other similar cases.

Deputy Ó Laoghaire said: “The fact that such a file, concerning very serious, but unfounded allegations, was held by Túsla, unbeknown to Sgt McCabe, but appears to have been widely known amongst other high ranking Gardaí in the force raises some questions and many concerns in relation to Túsla's practices.

“These allegations, which have since been found to be untrue, are damaging to the character of Sgt Maurice McCabe, and he is at the very minimum deserving of a public apology on behalf of Túsla.

“Túsla receives allegations of this nature regularly, and has to treat all information with care, but the manner in which this information was made widely available to others in senior roles within an Garda Síochána due to “a clerical error” is questionable at best, and quite sinister at worst.”

Earlier: The Children's Minister says it would have been inappropriate for her to brief the cabinet on what was discussed during her meeting with Garda whistleblower Maurice McCabe.

It has emerged that both the Taoiseach and Tánaiste had been told that 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."

An earlier statement said she had informed 'relevant government colleagues' about the meeting - but as yet she has not revealed who she was referring to.

The Cabinet is expected to discuss the matter further when it meets again next Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan has repeatedly denied knowledge of issues at the heart of the whistleblower scandal, writes Caroline O'Doherty.

Here’s what she said:

February 2017:

Brendan Howlin told the Dáil on Wednesday he had been informed by a journalist that other reporters had been contacted by the commissioner and told about sex crime allegations against Maurice McCabe.

The Garda press office said: “This is the first occasion on which the commissioner has been made aware of the allegations made by Deputy Howlin.”

January 2017:

The commissioner gave a wide-ranging radio interview to RTÉ’s Sean O’Rourke.

On the treatment of whistleblowers, she said: “I’m not aware nor was I aware of any campaign to discredit any individual.”

October 12, 2016:

The commissioner was questioned by the Oireachtas justice committee on the treatment of whistleblowers.

She stated: “I am not privy to, nor did I approve, nor would I condone, any campaign of harassment or any campaign to malign any individual employee.”

October 7, 2016:

Judge Iarfhlaith O’Neil was appointed to examine claims by former Garda press officer Supt David Taylor that senior officers ran a smear campaign against Sgt McCabe.

The Garda press office said: “Commissioner O’Sullivan would like to make it clear that she was not privy to, nor approved of, any action designed to target any Garda employee who may have made a protected disclosure.”

May 30, 2016:

John McGuinness told the Dáil that former commissioner Martin Callinan arranged to meet him in a hotel car park days before McGuinness was to chair a Public Accounts Committee hearing on the whistleblower affair, and told him Sgt McCabe was not to be trusted.

The press office said: “Commissioner O’Sullivan was not aware of any private meeting between former Commissioner Callinan and Deputy McGuinness as outlined by Deputy McGuinness in the Dáil.”

May 2016:

Unpublished transcripts from the O’Higgins Commission revealed by the Irish Examiner show the commissioner’s legal representative briefed the judge that he had been instructed to attack Sgt McCabe’s credibility and motivation throughout the hearings.

The tactic was not subsequently employed.

O’Sullivan’s initial response on May 16 was: “I want to make it clear that I do not — and have never — regarded Sergeant McCabe as malicious.”

She further stated on May 25: “An Garda Síochána’s legal team was not at any stage instructed to impugn the integrity of Sergeant Maurice McCabe or to make a case that he was acting maliciously.”

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