Michael Clifford: Nobody thought to tell wronged man Maurice McCabe

Nobody thought it would be a good idea to let Sergeant Maurice McCabe know what had been done to him behind closed doors, writes Michael Clifford.

Sergeant Maurice McCabe and his wife Lorraine at the tribunal at Dublin Castle.

Nobody picked up the phone, banged out an email, even sent a text to McCabe, filling him in on how his reputation had been trashed.

Yesterday at the Charleton Tribunal, McCabe’s counsel wanted to know why not. Why, once it was discovered that a false, grievous allegation of child sexual abuse had been created, did nobody contact the wronged man?

The lawyer addressed the question to Fiona Ward, who was the director of counselling in the area where the false allegation arose.

“Did you discuss with the social work department that somebody owed Sergeant McCabe the small civility of telling him his reputation was being shredded in private as a result of gross incompetence?

“No,” Ms Ward replied. “Unfortunately not.” Later, the chairman, Peter Charleton, asked a similar question of Conor Dignam, counsel for senior gardaí.

Fiona Ward, a director of counselling with Rian, a free counselling service under the remit of the HSE, told the tribunal ‘my understanding was that the information was corrected. I had no information the incorrect information was still in circulation. I was shocked to learn that.’

“Did anybody call in Sergeant McCabe and say a very idiotic error was done and we’re doing nothing about it because it isn’t true?” “No chairman,” came the reply.

Yesterday’s proceedings were largely concerned with the clean-up job once the “catastrophic error” was discovered in May 2014.

The error had occurred the previous August when a counsellor had wrongly inserted details in a report accusing McCabe of the grievous abuse.

By May 2014, McCabe was a public figure, his complaints of malpractice had led to the resignation of a garda commissioner and the establishment of an inquiry into malpractice in the Cavan/Monaghan division.

Behind the closed doors of the HSE and the gardaí, efforts were afoot to correct the record.

In May, the gardaí had been informed of the erroneous error. Within weeks the HSE officials were back onto the gardaí saying they had got it wrong. Letters were sent back and forth in an effort to sort things out.

Ms Ward received a letter from the office of the chief super in Cavan/Monaghan asking how the mistake had occurred.

Her response was less than clear. She did not tell the guards the allegation in question related to a completely different party and had nothing to do with McCabe.

The gardaí, for their part, appeared slow to destroy the report of the erroneous allegation on foot of a request from HSE personnel. There was a lot of this back and forth over a few months, yet nobody thought to inform McCabe.

Nobody thought to inform him or his wife that the catastrophic error had led to the opening of files on four of their children on the basis that their father may be a danger to them. As of yet there has been no explanation as to why the McCabes were not informed of what had occurred.

Once more yesterday, there was worrying evidence about the child welfare services. McDowell pointed out to Fiona Ward that the Children First guidelines demanded that regular case meetings be held. If this had occurred in the case at hand, then the error would have quickly come to light.

Later, the chairman hit on a similar theme. “Why don’t people sit down together and have a chat,” he asked, in the context of whether there was any relationship difficulties between the various agencies.

“There is no issue with any relationship difficulties,” Ms Ward responded.

As with other aspects to this affair, basic procedures were not adhered to, common sense was not applied.

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