The woman at the centre of the Maurice McCabe/Tusla/Garda controversy gave an extraordinary interview yesterday. The article in The Irish Times raised more questions than it answered, particularly in relation to the woman herself.
It also raised questions about the questions that went unasked of the woman in the interview, or at least the apparent inconsistencies in her story.
This is the woman who went for a counselling session in July 2013, out of which emerged the false allegation of serious sexual abuse against Sgt Maurice McCabe. She says she never made any such allegation. Tusla had put the false allegation down to a “clerical error”. The matter will be investigated by the Charleton Tribunal.
In yesterday’s interview, the woman said she did disclose at the counselling session an allegation she had made against Sgt McCabe in 2006. This related to a birthday party in the McCabe home in 1998 — when the woman was then aged six — in which she alleged Sgt McCabe had rubbed up against her inappropriately.
Sgt McCabe and her father were colleagues in An Garda Síochána. Some months before the allegation was made, Sgt McCabe had a role in the disciplining of the girl’s father for a transgression, although she denied this in The Irish Times interview.
The woman’s 2006 allegation had been investigated by a senior garda who sent a file to the DPP with the recommendation of no prosecution. The DPP had concurred, and added that, even if there had been any evidence to support the allegation, it most likely didn’t even constitute a criminal offence.
As of now, it appears that the minor allegation of inappropriate contact got mixed up in Tusla with a totally unconnected allegation of serious sexual assault against another individual in a different case. It was either a major mistake or a conspiracy. The Charleton Tribunal will determine that.
In yesterday’s piece, the woman said she only mentioned the 2006 incident at her 2013 counselling session when asked about it.
She said the counsellor began taking down the details, but the woman was uneasy about it. She said the counsellor told her: “I’ll have to refer this on.”
“I remember straight away it got my back up,” the woman told The Irish Times. “I was thinking: ‘Refer what on? This has been reported, this has been investigated and the DPP said insufficient evidence. That’s that, there’s nothing going to change, I have accepted that.’
"I remember coming out of the counselling session and I was more annoyed than when I went in; I remember thinking: ‘Stirring up shit for what?’ I knew by her she was going to report it whether I wanted to or not.”
She may well have had these thoughts but nowhere in the interview does she say she passed on that information to the counsellor. If she had done so, and made plain that the legal aspect of the matter had been dealt with, there would have been no more about it, and certainly less scope for the apparent mistake that subsequently occurred.
(A statement from the woman’s solicitor, issued yesterday to the Irish Examiner, claims that she did tell the counsellor that her allegation had been fully investigated.)
Also strange was her contention that she had accepted what had occurred with her case seven years previously and she didn’t want to revisit it.
If she really wanted to put all that behind her, what happened in the months that followed was highly unusual.
In early 2014, according to Supt David Taylor, a text was being circulated in Garda HQ to the effect that journalist Paul Williams was in the woman’s house at that moment interviewing her.
Within a few weeks stories began appearing in the Irish Independent under Williams’ byline based on an interview with her. In these stories, neither the woman nor Sgt McCabe were identified.
One piece published on April 16, 2014, stated that the woman claimed she was sexually assaulted by a serving garda and how the incident sent her into a “downward spiral”. She stated in the article that she was not pleased with the outcome of the investigation into her allegation.
In a follow-on article in the same paper a few weeks later, she said she was considering legal action against her alleged attacker — Sgt McCabe. No such action was ever pursued.
She also met Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin with her complaint, asking him to try and have it included in the Guerin report, which was set up to look into McCabe’s complaints. In addition, she went to GSOC to complain of how her original allegation had been dealt with.
All of this from a person who now says that, at the time, she had accepted how her case had been dealt with some seven years earlier and she wanted to move on. “We had no choice in this. I don’t want any attention,” she was quoted as saying in The Irish Times.
In relation to the 2006 allegation, she is quoted as saying she revealed this to her mother in December after she had come home one lunchtime with a friend after a period of “deep distress”. She does not directly attribute this distress to her allegation of the inappropriate contact seven years previously.
Equally, in 2013, she is quoted yesterday as saying she went to the counselling session because she was “struggling with anxiety, depression and other issues”. It is not explicitly stated whether she attributes these feeling to the alleged incident, which by then had occurred 15 years earlier.
It may well be the case that she attributes all that emotional distress to what she alleges happened, but we simply don’t know. This is a vital point in her account of the impact of what was deemed to be an allegation of an inappropriate act when she was a child.
There are other points in the interview that conflict with various accounts given by Sgt McCabe, but these will be teased out in the tribunal. The woman at the centre of this issue is understandably annoyed at being dragged into the spotlight about these issues that occurred so long ago.
She says she is eager to give her evidence to the tribunal. “I would welcome it,” she told The Irish Times of the prospect of giving evidence.
Her evidence will be another piece in the jigsaw of whether Sgt McCabe and his family came to be the victims of a monumental mistake or conspiracy in this appalling affair.
The woman herself was unavailable for interview. In response to the points raised in this article, the woman’s solicitor made the following replies:
“In relation to what happened in early 2014 she had observed Maurice McCabe being publicly identified and felt that her original case should be look at again, just as some of the cases he had highlighted were being examined.
“While the Irish Times interview didn’t state it, I can confirm that she explicitly told the counsellor in 2013 that her allegation had been full investigated and had been completed with a DPP recommendation of no prosecution.
“In relation to any emotional issues referred to there were other issues in her life at the time including family loss.”