Whistleblower Sgt Maurice McCabe has said a false allegation of sex abuse circulated by Tusla, the child and family agency, has destroyed his family.
It has emerged that the file containing the false allegation of abuse was opened by Tusla and circulated to gardaí in 2013. However, no effort was made to substantiate the claim.
The abuse allegations were made by a young woman in August 2013 to a counsellor, who then contacted Tusla and gardaí. However, Sgt McCabe was neither contacted nor made aware of the allegations.
In 2014, Tusla admitted a mistake had been made and attributed the false accusation to a “clerical error”.
It was only last year that Sgt McCabe became aware that the highly damaging false abuse allegation had been widely circulated. He is to take a legal case against Tusla and has met with Minister for Children Katherine Zappone. She has indicated a public apology will be forthcoming.
Speaking to the Irish Examiner, Sgt McCabe said the whole affair had left his family distraught.
“They have destroyed us,” he said. “I find it hard to believe that it was an honest mistake.”
Even though the sex abuse allegation was on file in 2013 and 2014, Sgt McCabe was not contacted about either its existence or the discovery that the allegation was completely false.
“How can I and my family be on the system [in Tusla] since 2013 and not be told about it,” he said. “The first I knew about any of this was when I was contacted about that horrendous allegation last year.”
Major questions remain as to how the allegation came about, how it was processed by both the gardaí and Tusla, and why Sgt McCabe was never informed about it.
The allegation surfaced during a period when Sgt McCabe’s claims of malpractice were causing major political and Garda-related controversy.
The allegation was known among senior management within the force. According to the file on the matter, an internal memo in Tusla on June 4, 2014, recorded the following: “The retrospective report which you are aware contains a clerical error. I was informed that the superintendent in the jurisdiction referred to in the report was not yet aware of the clerical error and has been asked to a meeting with the commissioner in relation to the case.”
It is unclear the extent to which Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan was aware of the allegation or the subsequent discovery of a major error. However, as the head of the force, she should have been informed and she should have been obliged to inform Sgt McCabe of the development.
At no point in the process was Sgt McCabe informed about what had occurred, either after the initial file was created, or once it was discovered to be an error. He was not arrested or questioned about the initial allegation, and nor was he informed by the commissioner, his employer, about the error after May 2014.
It is as yet unclear whether the whole affair was as a result of gross error and incompetence or whether there were attempts to deliberately smear Sgt McCabe with the abuse allegation.
Even if incompetence was at fault, the failure to inform Sgt McCabe is inexplicable.
He only became aware of the issue when he was contacted by a social worker in Tusla in January last year about the allegation. He was told he would have to be interviewed.
“We will have to decide if you pose a risk to children,” the letter said.
The social worker who sent the letter was operating off the initial allegation and was not aware that a correction had been made.
The revelations put in context the rumours and propaganda that has been swirling around Sgt McCabe since he brought forward his claims of malpractice in the force.
On Wednesday, Labour leader Brendan Howlin told the Dáil that he had been contacted by a journalist who told him he had direct knowledge of Ms O’Sullivan briefing journalists that Sgt McCabe was responsible for “sexual crimes”.
Ms O’Sullivan has denied spreading the allegations of sex crimes against Sgt McCabe.
In a statement issued later on Wednesday, she said she was surprised by claims of her involvement in a smear campaign targeting Sgt McCabe and insisted it was the first time she had heard the accusation.
“The commissioner has no knowledge of the matters referred to by Deputy Howlin and refutes in the strongest terms the suggestion that she has engaged in the conduct alleged against a serving member of An Garda Síochána,” said Ms O’Sullivan’s statement.
Mr Justice Peter Charleton has been appointed to lead an inquiry into the allegations that senior officers attempted to blacken Sgt McCabe’s name.
Justice Minister Francis Fitzgerald has agreed to broaden the terms of reference of the inquiry following heated exchanges in the Dáil.
Opposition parties and a government backbencher repeated calls for Ms O’Sullivan to step down. However, she maintains the full support of the Government.
Speaking in Poland, Taoiseach Enda Kenny said there was no prima facie evidence or no indication of any wrongdoing of any kind by the Garda Commissioner, and she was fully entitled to the support of the Government while a commission of inquiry investigates allegations against her.
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