Taoiseach Enda Kenny has struggled to say what he knew about the false Tusla sex abuse claims levelled against Sgt Maurice McCabe and when,.
From a flat-out denial, to a detailed account of an imaginary conversation, to three attempts to clarify the situation in 24 hours, his responses have raised more questions than answers.
After the false Tusla sex abuse claims were revealed by the Irish Examiner and RTÉ’s Prime Time programme on Thursday, and Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone’s spokesperson said she informed “relevant ministers” beforehand, a spokesperson for Mr Kenny said he only became aware of the issue when the Prime Time programme was aired.
After the Taoiseach’s Friday position is contradicted by Ms Zappone, Mr Kenny says while he did speak with her on January 24 before she met Sergeant McCabe, and on February 7 before last week’s Cabinet meeting, he was only told she was meeting Sgt McCabe in a “private capacity”.
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“She did tell me that she intended to meet with Sgt McCabe in a private capacity and that’s all I knew.
“I said to her, well if you do have a meeting make sure that you have a thorough account of it and, so when we had our [Cabinet] meeting on Tuesday I wouldn’t have been aware of any of the details of her discussions.”
After the position is contradicted again, Mr Kenny admits to the Dáil “I am guilty” of misrepresenting what happened.
He confirms the conversation with Ms Zappone which he described in detail on Sunday did not take place and that he was instead told of the impending scandal by his own officials.
“I might say mea cupla, because I am guilty here of not giving accurate information. I understood from thinking myself that she had asked me about meeting Sgt McCabe in the first place.
“It actually was her office that consulted with my officials, who told me. So I regret that.”
Hours later, Mr Kenny is again forced to U-turn.
Despite repeating the afternoon admission to the Dáil at the start of an evening debate to clarify what happened, after Ms Zappone’s statement again contradicts his version of events, Mr Kenny admits he was told the Zappone-McCabe meeting involved sex abuse allegations, but not the exact details:
(Start of debate) “She did not provide any of those details to me or anyone else in Government.”
(Minutes later) “Before the Cabinet meeting the minister, Deputy Zappone, said she had met with the McCabes and that the question of false allegations of sexual abuse had been made to Tusla and had been discussed by her with the McCabes.”
After it further emerges Mr Kenny told Ms Zappone the allegations he initially said were not discussed would be covered by the terms of a mooted investigation, he comes under further fire for failing to explain how he knew this as the terms are specifically limited to a garda-instigated smear campaign, not issues which may or may not have originated from the force.
Reading carefully from notes, Mr Kenny repeats he was told about the allegations against Sgt McCabe before last week’s Cabinet meeting, and explains he told Ms Zappone the claims would be covered by the terms of reference as the terms include an allowance for examination of potential criminal activity:
“Clearly, we were looking at the terms of reference, we had examined the terms of reference and they were produced and presented by Mr Justice O’Neill.
“Central to that was an allegation of criminal misconduct made against Sgt McCabe.
“Obviously, the discussion between the minister [Katherine Zappone] and Sgt McCabe dealt with that area. The minister did not make me aware of the existence of a Tusla file and did not comment in any detail on the conversation she had with Sergeant McCabe.”
At no stage has Mr Kenny confirmed when he was first made aware of the false sex abuse rumours against Sgt McCabe.