It was the second agency to make a mess of saying sorry to the whistleblower after Tusla delivered its formal written apology to the home of one of his elderly neighbours where it was only discovered after the woman’s daughter spotted it.
The HSE issued a public statement at lunchtime on Saturday, saying it apologised unreservedly for the distress caused to Sgt McCabe and his family but it failed to notify the McCabes in advance and they only heard about it on the news hours later.
In addition, the HSE made no mention of the false sex offence allegations made against Sgt McCabe but repeatedly described the source of his distress as an “administrative error”.
The statement also said that once the “error” was discovered, correct procedure was followed but that does not tally with the fact that the erroneous file was not destroyed and resurfaced to cause more difficulties more than a year later.
When the McCabes became aware of the statement and its contents late on Saturday night, they contacted an official of Health Minister Simon Harris to say it was not being accepted.
The HSE said it was in the process of preparing a more formal apology to Sgt McCabe and his family and it only became aware that there was a problem with the public statement yesterday morning. It also implied it did not have contact details for Sgt McCabe.
In an attempt to defuse the situation, the HSE issued another statement at lunch time yesterday. It said that once it became aware of the McCabes’ upset it “immediately convened a meeting in order to discuss his concerns and to put in place a process for contacting Sgt McCabe”.
“Telephone contact was made between 11am and 1pm and a voicemail left for Sgt McCabe. The HSE wishes to talk to Sgt McCabe in order to discuss the statement that we issued and any issues that he may have in relation to the information contained therein.”
Last year the HSE came under fire for bungling another apology in the Grace case when it initially claimed to a Dáil committee that it had officially apologised to a young woman left in foster care for 13 years despite the home being the subject of abuse allegations.
HSE bosses later had to admit they had made no such apology.