Discussing McCabe meetings at Cabinet "highly inappropriate", says Zappone

Tánaiste says he was 'not informed' of Tusla records on Maurice McCabe

Discussing McCabe meetings at Cabinet "highly inappropriate", says Zappone

Children and Youth Affairs Minister Katherine Zappone speaking to the media at Government Buildings in Dublin | Image: RollingNews.ie

A spokesperson for the Children's Minister, Katherine Zappone, says it would have been "highly inappropriate" for her to to brief the Cabinet on meetings she had with Maurice McCabe.

It comes after it was confirmed Minister Zappone met Mr McCabe and his wife in relation to false allegations of sexual abuse made against him.

The spokesperson added that Minister Zappone "informed relevant Government colleagues" during this period.

Minister Zappone says she believed Tusla would be subject to investigations by the Commission of Inquiry into allegations of a smear campaign against Mr McCabe.

In a statement, her spokesperson said: "It would have been highly inappropriate for the minister to brief the Cabinet  on confidential, highly sensitive and personal information which one could reasonably assume was the subject of a protected disclosure, which was leading to the establishment of the commission."

While Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald says she was not aware of details in relation to confidential Tusla records on Mr McCabe.

Also in a statement Friday, Ms Fitzgerald said: "As was confirmed in a statement by the Department of Children and Youth Affairs this afternoon, Minister Zappone became aware in mid-January of an issue affecting Sergeant McCabe which related to her department. As the statement points out Minister Zappone has taken and is taking a number of steps to deal with this matter.

"She informed me in January that she intended to meet with Sergeant McCabe. She of course did not inform me about any details in relation to confidential Tusla records.

"The terms of reference of the proposed commission put before the Oireachtas by me refer specifically to a complaint of criminal misconduct against Sergeant McCabe and whether this allegation was used against him.

"I have always been scrupulous to avoid any comment in the Dáil on what was at issue in the criminal complaint against Sergeant McCabe, referred to in the terms of reference. Had I put into the public domain anything which indicated or implied the nature of the complaint against Sergeant McCabe I would be rightly open to criticism.

"At the heart of the issues to be examined by the commission is whether senior gardaí were involved in a campaign to use information to damage Sergeant McCabe.

"I agreed to take on board amendments designed to put beyond doubt that the examination of any smear campaign would not be confined.

"Just as my colleague Minister Zappone is dealing with the serious matters relating to her area of responsibility, I am proceeding to finalise the terms of reference of the Commission of Investigation arising from Mr Justice O'Neill's report."

Tanaiste and Justice Minister Francis Fitzgerald in Dublin | Image: RollingNews.ie

Zappone timeline

Minister Zappone says she became aware of the circumstances when Mrs McCabe contacted the office of the health minister on January 18th 2017.

As the matter related to the Department of Children, the private secretary of that department was requested to call Mrs McCabe.

This call between the private secretary and Mrs McCabe took place on January 18th, and Minister Zappone met Mr and Mrs McCabe on Wednesday January 25th.

The Secretary-General of the Department of Children also held a meeting with senior Tusla personnel on January 27th.

The agency provided the department with a chronology and analysis of the case - which the department gave to the McCabes on January 28th.

Tusla informed the secretary-general that they have instituted a case review to "extrapolate all relevant information in order to provide a more detailed analysis".

Tusla apology

While Tusla has said it is in the 'process of apologising fully' to Sergeant McCabe, after it emerged the agency had created a file of false sexual abuse allegations around the garda whistleblower "in error".

The untrue allegations were passed to gardaí but Sergeant McCabe was never informed.

In a statement earlier, Tusla said: "Although we cannot comment on the details of this individual case, we can confirm that we are in the process of apologising fully to the individual involved.

"It appears there were some failures and these are the subject of our internal review, the conclusions of which will be made public."

"Tusla regrets that this situation has arisen and deeply apologises for distress caused. It does not reflect the high standards that we hold ourselves to and we want to assure the public that we will take whatever steps are required to ensure that nothing like this happens again."