Tusla involvement in McCabe allegations ’very worrying’

Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire

Sinn Féin has expressed concern following last night’s revelations on Prime Time that Tusla sent a file containing false allegations about Sgt Maurice McCabe to local gardaí in 2013.

No attempt was made to contact Sergeant McCabe and put the allegations to him. The agency has promised to conduct an internal review, and intends to apologise to Sgt McCabe.

Speaking before Tusla announced its intention to apologise, Sinn Féin spokesperson on Children Youth and Affairs Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire said: “The fact that such a file concerning very serious but unfounded allegations was held by Túsla is very worrying.

“It also emerged that Sgt McCabe had no knowledge of this file although it was known amongst other high ranking Gardaí in the force. This raises some serious questions 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 in the force due to ‘a clerical error’ is questionable at best and quite sinister at worst.”

He added: "I am calling on the CEO of Túsla to come before the Oireachtas Committee on Children to explain this worrying episode.

“I am also calling for a full apology from Túsla as a matter of priority so to allow Sgt McCabe to move on from such traumatic and damaging slander.”

The Social Democrats have called for an immediate response from the Minister for Children, Katherine Zappone, to the revelations.

Speaking this morning, Social Democrat co-leader Róisín Shortall said: “The extraordinary sequence of events regarding these vile allegations made against Sergeant McCabe require a full and early explanation from Minister Zappone, who has political responsibility for the operation of Tusla.

“At a minimum, these events amount to serious maladministration and incompetence.

"The public has a right to know if this is the case and if so, heads must roll.

“We must also have the right to know if there were more sinister forces at play in Tusla and if that is the case, those circumstances must be rigorously and fully investigated.”

The party urged the Government to conduct a commission of inquiry into “the wider serious issues surrounding the McCabe affair”.

The party also called for the establishment of an Independent Anti-Corruption Agency to be established which would have the power to prosecute as well as investigate.

Deputy Shortall added: "The commission of investigation model provides a means of examining serious matters of public concern.

“However, the fact that it is precluded from making adverse findings against individuals means that we do not get accountability from those who engaged in wrongdoing.

“Yet another report from yet another commission of inquiry will do little to address concerns about the existence of a culture of corruption, nor will it do anything to reassure the public that the Government is taking these allegations seriously.

“It simply serves to further erode the trust that people have in our public institutions."

Fine Gael TD Jim Daly, who is Chair of the Oireachtas Committee on Children and Youth Affairs and represents the Cork South West constituency, said what has emerged on Thursday evening in relation to false allegations against Sgt Maurice McCabe is staggering and of the utmost concern.

“This is incredible and quite hard to comprehend what has occurred here against a serving garda member.

“Tusla is the State body responsible for the protection and wellbeing of children across this country. That is their purpose – to protect children and their interests – and not to send files of false allegations to gardaí for further investigation,” Deputy Daly said.

“The explanation that it was a copy and pasting error or an administrative error is incompetence of the highest degree. Is this credible? It needs to be outlined fully.

“A man’s reputation has been left tarnished here and we need to have a full account of how this exactly came about. How did this error of false child sex abuse allegations end up in the file of a garda whistleblower and then be forwarded to An Garda Síochána?

“There needs to be a full account here by Tusla of their role in this matter before the Oireachtas Committee on Children and Youth Affairs,” Deputy Daly said.

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