It was not until late into its inquiries that someone from Tusla, the child and family agency, first informed the Charleton Tribunal that Garda whistleblower Sgt Maurice McCabe was known to them.
Tribunal counsel Patrick Marrinan SC said it had sought statements from all Tusla staff who had dealt with the McCabe file and “by and large” got one-page statements in reply that “didn’t really deal with the issues”.
Tribunal investigators then met Tusla staff and conducted lengthy interviews. It was not until “late in the day” that interviewee Mary Tiernan indicated that she knew Sgt McCabe from working with him.
Mr Marrinan was questioning Gerard Lowry, the Cavan-Monaghan area manager with Tusla, who told the tribunal he had not known Sgt McCabe and did not believe he had ever met with him.
Accepted the records
However, Mr Marrinan pointed to records that showed Mr Lowry had attended meetings since as far back as 2004 which Sgt McCabe had also been at. Mr Lowry said he accepted the records.
The tribunal has heard that as station sergeant at Bailieboro Garda station, Sgt McCabe had regular contact with local services in relation to child protection matters.
The tribunal heard that in 2014, Mr Lowry learned an allegation against Sgt McCabe that amounted to what Mr Marrinan described as “horseplay” had been transposed into an allegation of digitally raping a six-year-old girl, and that nevertheless a year later Tusla sent a letter to Sgt McCabe seeking a meeting to discuss the alleged rape.
The letter was sent out even though Kay McLoughlin, the Tusla worker who drafted the letter, had sent a copy of it to Mr Lowry for review, prior to it being finalised. Mr Lowry said he did not open the draft letter, which was attached to an email.
Mr Marrinan said this was the latest in a litany of errors that had occurred, all of which had been to the detriment of Sgt McCabe. “There isn’t an error in his favour.”
He asked the witness whether he could assure the tribunal this was merely coincidence. Mr Lowry said this was the case.
Mr Marrinan said the wrong allegation had been notified to the Garda at a time when Sgt McCabe was in a serious dispute with the Garda Commissioner, and this was a matter of widespread public debate.
Sgt McCabe was very vulnerable at the time to the misuse of this false information. Mr Lowry said he understood.
“Are there things going on in the background that the tribunal is not aware of?” Mr Marrinan asked. “Not that I am aware of,” Mr Lowry replied.
Mr Marrinan said after the mistake was discovered in 2014, the false allegation was still allowed to “fester” in a “black hole” in the Tusla files, leading ultimately to a letter being sent to Sgt McCabe on December 29th, 2015, telling him he was being investigated for the rape of a young girl.
The letter was responded to by Seán Costello, a solicitor acting for Sgt McCabe. There was a “suggestion in the ether” that what was happening played into senior Garda management’s hands, Mr Marrinan said.
Mr Lowry said he understood the point being made. He said Ms McLoughlin had been asked to carry out certain steps and they had not been carried out to the required standard.
The chairman, Mr Justice Peter Charleton, said what “jumped out” of the draft letter was that it contained an allegation of rape. It is the wrong allegation “and you are sending it out to a completely innocent person”.
Mr Lowry said he did not look at the draft letter in detail. “I was working on the assumption that it was correct.”
Mr Justice Charleton asked how this could be so given the mistakes that had already been made.
Mr Lowry agreed he should have called everyone into the office, given the mistakes that had been made a year earlier. He could not explain why he had not done so.
Mr Lowry continues his evidence on Tuesday.