McCabe scandal: Pressure mounts on Minister for Justice over knowledge of false claims

Serious differences emerge between Frances Fitzgerald and Fianna Fáil over timeline

Pressure is mounting on Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald to clarify when she became aware of false allegations of child sexual assault against Garda whistleblower Maurice McCabe which were contained in files of Tusla, the Child and Family Agency.

Serious differences emerged last night between Ms Fitzgerald and Fianna Fáil about her knowledge of false claims made against Sgt McCabe.

The Minister for Justice has insisted she first heard the details late on Thursday, a position deemed not credible by Sinn Féin, Labour and Independent TDs.

And last night Fianna Fáil’s spokesman on justice Jim O’Callaghan claimed he made the Tánaiste aware last Wednesday.


Mr O'Callaghan said he asked Ms Fitzgerald to make changes to the terms of references for a proposed commission of inquiry to include Tusla, and then urged her to make contact with Minister for Children Katherine Zappone.

Ms Fitzgerald has said this was not the case, insisting the conversation between the two did not stray into the role of the State agency or discuss Ms Zappone.

Mr O’Callaghan said he was contacted by the party leader Micheál Martin on Wednesday evening, who informed him of what was to emerge. While Mr Martin did not have the finer details, they discussed the need for broader terms of reference.

Mr O'Callaghan told The Irish Times he made this clear to Ms Fitzgerald at a meeting that evening. "I have no doubt in my mind that she is mistaken in her recollection. Maybe her recollection is faulty."

The Fianna Fail TD said he did not raise it in the Dáil because he did not have the exact details of what was to emerge, but that Ms Zappone had met with the McCabe family and that there was Tusla involvement.

In a statement released last night, Ms Fitzgerald asked: “If Deputy O’Callaghan had information concerning the Tusla file, why did he not raise those issues during his statement on the commission’s terms of reference which took place the following day?”

Litany of errors

The Government has been scrambling to outline a clear timeline to when it became exposed to the litany of errors by the State agency.

Ms Zappone, who is due to fly home today, insisted she informed relevant colleagues, but Ms Fitzgerald and Taoiseach Enda Kenny have strongly denied this.

Several Ministers have criticised the Minister for Children for not informing the Cabinet of the details before they were aired on RTÉ.

Tusla and the HSE have apologised to Sgt McCabe for his treatment. However, the family has not accepted the HSE’s position.

In a statement, Mr McCabe said neither he nor his wife Lorraine were contacted before the apology was issued. He said it contained inaccuracies and did not tally with the information they received under Freedom of Information.

Mr McCabe, who is considering suing the State for damages, said: “Our FoI file highlights serious questions to be answered and a blanket statement from the HSE without contacting us was unprofessional and (of) more annoyance to us.”

The Government has agreed to establish a commission of investigation into an alleged smear campaign against Sgt McCabe. The scope of the inquiry, which will be chaired by Mr Justice Peter Charleton, will now be extended to make specific reference to Tusla.

It will also cover any interaction between gardaí and the Health Service Executive. The counsellor who reported the allegations of abuse to Tusla in 2014 was an employee of the HSE.

The possibility of a criminal investigation has also heightened, with the Taoiseach saying he would not object to one being launched.

Mr Kenny said the commission of investigation must discover the facts of how the false sex abuse claims were developed. If evidence of criminal wrongdoing is discovered the Taoiseach said he would not object to an investigation being established.


Speaking to RTÉ radio, Mr Kenny said: “The central issue here is, was there a programme of systemic doing-down of Sgt McCabe based on erroneous sexual allegations and rumours by senior police?

“It is about the truth, and I hope that we can find that in the shortest time and provide justice and understanding so the people of the country can trust the system.”

Mr Kenny’s position has once again come in for scrutiny since the controversy arose. Several of his closest allies said the issue had focused attention on the need for new leadership.

While the Government will survive a motion of no confidence being debated in the Dáil this week, members of Fine Gael have said the process of selecting Mr Kenny's successor should begin.