Taoiseach Enda Kenny has refused to say if and when he found out about false child sex abuse claims regarding Garda whistleblower Sgt Maurice McCabe.
There is growing confusion among senior government figures about why a Tusla file about Sgt McCabe was not mentioned or discussed at last week’s Cabinet meeting.
Minister for Children Katherine Zappone met Sgt McCabe on January 25, at which an apology and the blunder by the child and adult agency over the false sex abuse allegations were discussed.
While a Cabinet meeting last week debated a fresh inquiry into an alleged Garda smear campaign against Sgt McCabe, Ms Zappone did not raise the Tusla file or inform her colleagues of the issue.
Mr Kenny yesterday faced questions about what he had discussed with Ms Zappone, prior to her meeting the garda.
Pressed by RTÉ’s The Week in Politics about when he first learnt in Leinster House of the sex claims against Sgt McCabe, Mr Kenny refused to say if or when he first learned of the allegations.
“You work in Leinster House for many years, it is a place of inexhaustible rumours, hearsay and allegations.”
Mr Kenny’s spokesman said on Friday the Taoiseach first learned of details of the Tusla file on Sgt McCabe last Thursday, from the media. But Mr Kenny’s refusal to say in person when he first heard any of information or details around the sex abuse allegations will lead to more questions.
Furthermore, Mr Kenny seemed to blame Ms Zappone for details not being passed to Cabinet about Sgt McCabe — despite the fact the Taoiseach did not ask her about the McCabe meeting.
“[She] did tell me she intended to meet with Sgt McCabe in a private capacity and that’s all I knew. I said to her, if you do have a meeting make sure that you have a thorough account of it. When we had our meeting on Tuesday, I wouldn’t have been aware of any of the details of the discussions with [him].”
Mr Kenny said he had not asked his minister what the meeting was about as it had been in a “private capacity”. This was despite the fact it was about Tusla’s apology over its botched file on the abuse claims.
Ms Zappone did a U-turn on Friday. After originally saying she had “informed relevant government colleagues” about the McCabe issue, she later said it would have been “highly inappropriate” for her to have briefed colleagues about “sensitive” information. This has caused even more confusion.
Meanwhile, Mr Kenny yesterday also agreed there was the potential for a criminal investigation to be held in parallel to the new inquiry about the alleged campaign against Sgt McCabe.
He said he was not ruling out such an option, but that evidence would be needed. Extending the terms of the Charleton inquiry out to deal with other whistleblower cases was also “not recommended”, he said, as it would change the timeframe of the commission of investigation.
He also suggested that he found the whole Tusla case, where the claim of sex abuse was copied and pasted from one file onto Sgt McCabe’s, “difficult to understand”.
There would likely be a review of the agency’s work, he added.
Separately, Mr Kenny also dismissed suggestions that government colleagues have advised him to step aside and let a new Fine Gael leader take over by the summer.