Tribunal: Ms D told Tusla in 2016 she wanted nothing more to do with allegation

Area manager says social workers are in ‘very rushed environment’ and ‘errors are made ’

 Gerard Lowry at the The Disclosures Tribunal in Dublin Castle. Photograph: Collins Photos

Gerard Lowry at the The Disclosures Tribunal in Dublin Castle. Photograph: Collins Photos

 

The woman who made an allegation of child sex abuse against Sgt Maurice McCabe in 2006, told the child and family agency Tusla in 2016 that she wanted nothing more to do with the matter, the Charleton Tribunal has been told.

The tribunal heard that the agency tried to contact her a number of times after it learned that a mistake had been made in 2013 which led to a much more serious allegation, which the woman had never made, appearing on the Tusla files.

The tribunal also heard that when the McCabe file was handed over to the Sex Abuse Retrospective Team (Sart) in 2016, it too sought a meeting with the woman, Ms D, but to no avail. The team later closed the file.

The tribunal chairman Mr Justice Peter Charleton noted that Ms D had more recently given an interview to The Irish Times. People do, he said, in particular contexts, “blow hot and cold”.

The tribunal, which is investigating, amongst other matters, the treatment of Tusla files in the context of an alleged smear campaign against Sgt McCabe, has heard that a mistake by a counsellor in 2013 led to a false and more serious allegation than the one made by Ms D, being placed on the Tusla files and being notified to the Garda. The mistake was discovered when Ms D contacted the counsellor.

Gerard Lowry, the area manager for the child and family agency, Tusla, said social workers deal with “multiple high-risk problems at any one time” and in a “very rushed environment”. In that context, he said, “errors are made at all levels.”

The service in Cavan-Monaghan operates in a “very rushed environment” and this was the context for the mistakes made in the case of Sgt Maurice McCabe.

Mr Lowry told Patrick Marrinan SC, for the tribunal, that he was not seeking to excuse the management errors he accepted he made in Sgt McCabe’s case, but wanted to outline the broader picture.

No social worker was ever assigned to the case after Ms D first made her allegation in 2006. The DPP decided no charges should be brought, and questioned whether the events, even if true, would constitute an offence.

In 2013, there were more than 200 cases unallocated in the Cavan Monaghan region, because of resource issues.

The tribunal heard that there were 703 referrals of serious family support cases in Cavan-Monaghan in 2006, but this had risen to 2,169 by 2013.

Mr Lowry was asked by Paul McGarry SC, for Sgt McCabe, about the decision to persist with consideration of whether Sgt McCabe might have posed a risk to children, right up to last year, even though he had never been contacted by a social worker about the complaint first made in 2006.

Mr Lowry said the agency’s standard is to act in a “timely and proportionate” way. He said he still stood over his view in 2015 that there was “still something to be discussed” with Sgt McCabe. He said Ms D, the woman who made an allegation against Sgt McCabe in 2006, had made the allegation to her parents and to two social workers.

The tribunal heard that on the same day it received a letter from a solicitor acting for Sgt McCabe in 2016, saying there was evidence of “malfeasance in public office” by the agency, Tusla handed the Sgt McCabe file over to Sart.

Mr Justice Peter Charleton asked if this was a case of a “hot potato” being handed over with the aid of “a long silver spoon”, Mr Lowry said he would not have used that terminology.

The chairman said the Garda was able to quickly conclude that there was a mistake in relation to Sgt McCabe. Mr Lowry said that the “lots of children at high risk dominated our anxiety” in Tusla at the time when the McCabe issue arose. No one person was ever assigned to the case.