Tánaiste has no objection to including Tusla in whistleblower inquiry

Sgt McCabe received documents confirming he was subject of an unfounded complaint

Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald, has no objection to including all contacts between gardai and Tusla the terms of reference of a commission of inquiry. Photograph: Gareth Chaney Collins

Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald, has no objection to including all contacts between gardai and Tusla the terms of reference of a commission of inquiry. Photograph: Gareth Chaney Collins

 

Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald told the Dáil she has no objection to including all contacts between gardaí and the Child and Family Agency – Tusla in the terms of reference of a commission of inquiry.

The Irish Times understands Tusla was informed in 2013 of allegations of misconduct made against whistleblower Sgt Maurice McCabe.

Sgt McCabe has received Freedom of Information Act documents confirming he was the subject of an unfounded complaint but was never questioned by Tusla.

Tusla sent the file to gardaí, who processed the complaint. However neither agency contacted Sgt McCabe. It was widely known among senior members of the force but Sgt McCabe only discovered he was the subject of a complaint in mid-2014.

Sgt McCabe is taking a case against Tusla and has met with Minister for Children Katherine Zappone seeking an apology.

A spokeswoman for Tusla declined to comment on individual cases.

She said: “This is to protect the privacy and wellbeing of the children and families with whom we work.”

Speaking in the Dáil, Ms Fitzgerald responded to questions from Fianna Fáil TD John McGuinness and said she would examine if the agency must be included.

The Government has established a commission of investigation into allegations Sgt McCabe was the victim of a smear campaign orchestrated by senior gardaí.

The inquiry will investigate claims that Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan and senior gardaí tried to discredit his evidence of Garda malpractice.

Ms O’Sullivan has vehemently denied the claims but following an initial inquiry by retired judge Iarfhlaith O’Neill, the Government decided to proceed with the inquiry.

Meanwhile, Taoiseach Enda Kenny has insisted the Government has full confidence in Ms O’Sullivan. Mr Kenny said the Garda Commissioner is fully entitled to the support of the Government.

He said: “These are all allegations, none have been proven, there is no prima facie evidence . . . You cannot have a country if everyone against whom allegations are made has to step aside. ”

A Government backbencher has told the Dáil he does not believe Ms O’Sullivan’s version of events in the whistleblower controversy.

Journalists briefed

Fine Gael Wexford TD Michael D’Arcy said he disbelieved Ms O’Sullivan “because of her actions” and echoed Opposition calls for her to step aside.

He also said he had been given information that up to 10 journalists were briefed with negative stories about Sgt McCabe.

And he said that when former head of the Garda press office Supt David Taylor alleged in protected disclosures that he had been directed to spread malicious reports about Sgt McCabe, he was arrested by the Garda Commissioner’s husband and his Garda-issued phone taken from him. Mr D’Arcy asked where that phone was now.

He said it was appropriate that Supt Taylor who was the subject of an investigation was on leave for the past 21 months and he had not been found guilty of anything.

“I do believe it appropriate that the Garda Commissioner steps aside,” he said.

“The interests of one individual should not come in ahead of the interests of the police force.” He said “their names and all their reputations are to some degree in disrepute when the person at the top faces very allegations as serious as this”.

Support for Howlin

The Fine Gael TD also expressed his support for his Wexford constituency colleague and Labour leader Brendan Howlin, who told the Dáil on Wednesday that a journalist had told him he had direct knowledge that Ms O’Sullivan made very serious allegations of sexual crimes having been committed by Sgt McCabe.

He said Mr Howlin was not somebody “who makes things up” and he had a serious track record in relation whistleblowers, to the Morris tribunal and “the information he had was helpful”.

Mr D’Arcy was speaking during debate on the terms of reference of the commission of investigation into allegations that the commissioner attempted to smear Sgt McCabe’s reputation.

Mr D’Arcy said “I don’t believe her because of her actions and how she instructed her legal counsel to deal with the O’Neill investigation”.

“She said her counsel was given instruction to show that Garda Maurice McCabe was acting with malice, that he was getting his own back on the force and that he was unreliable.”

Mr D’Arcy said the commissioner had had the opportunity to clarify her instruction to her legal counsel but she chose legal privilege.

The Government backbencher said “you couldn’t make it up”, that “a Garda Commissioner is being investigated by a Supreme Court judge, a commissioner’s husband arresting one of the people in question, the evidence being taken by the husband of the commissioner. Where is the phone in question, I don’t know.”