A senior Tusla manager has accepted that the buck stops with him in relation to errors made in handling false allegations of child abuse against garda whistleblower Sgt Maurice McCabe.
Gerard Lowry, the Tusla manager for Cavan-Monaghan, denied he was trying to blame others for “catastrophic errors” made by the child protection service.
“The buck has to stop with you with regard to this,” Paul McGarry told the witness on behalf of Sgt McCabe. “I accept that,” said Mr Lowry.
The Charleton tribunal is examining claims that allegations of sexual abuse were used as part of a campaign to smear and undermine the reputation of Sgt McCabe. The DPP decided against pressing charges in the case due to lack of evidence in 2007.
Mr Lowry said a reference to a “no-blame culture” in a Tusla report was to encourage others to come forward when things went wrong so he would be aware of what was happening.
Mr McGarry said a letter sent to Mr McCabe’s solicitors was “replete with self-justification before you even get to the apology”.
The tribunal had previously heard a “copy-and-paste error” led to Sgt McCabe being wrongly accused of sexual assault.
The barrister asked Mr Lowry if he could imagine anything more serious than being accused of raping a seven-year-old child.
“I agree dealing with these situations is hugely emotional and difficult, particularly for the adult who receives this letter,” said Mr Lowry.
He said he did not accept there was an attempt to conceal all the errors that had been made in handling the sergeant’s file. He also denied there was “any co-ordination, liaison, or collusion” with gardaí in creating files.
In January 2016, solicitors for Sgt McCabe wrote to Tusla after he received a letter written by social work team leader Kay McLoughlin which contained false allegations of serious sexual abuse.
The letter contained an allegation that Sgt McCabe “digitally penetrated” a girl, Ms D, and threatened her father. These allegations were made in an unrelated case involving Ms Y.
It was five months later, in June 2016, before Tusla wrote back to the solicitors, stating this false allegation was being withdrawn, and outlining an allegation that Sgt McCabe had “humped” Ms D during a game of hide and seek.
Replying to this second letter, Sgt McCabe’s solicitors said that, some months before the original complaint was made by Ms D in 2006, the sergeant had reported Ms D’s father, a garda, for serious misbehaviour, as a result of which the garda was reverted to other duties.
The solicitors challenged the statutory basis for any investigation by Tusla of allegations which had already been fully investigated by gardaí, and said any suggestion the sergeant was a risk to children was “legally unfounded”.
The letter said that the lack of any action on the case for 10 years since the allegations were first made until 2016 was “unexplained and inexplicable”, and that a delay of five months in replying to their previous letter was “astonishing”.
After the solicitor’s letter was received in June, the Sgt McCabe files were passed to a newly formed Sexual Abuse Regional Team.
Mr Lowry denied the charge that this “could be regarded as shovelling a legal problem to another unit”.
“I think at that point we felt a bit overwhelmed by it,” said Mr Lowry.
The tribunal continues.
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