Wednesday 26 April 2017

Taoiseach knew of McCabe abuse claims

Zappone 'told the Taoiseach of allegations before Cabinet meeting'

Maurice and Lorraine McCabe
Maurice and Lorraine McCabe

Kevin Doyle, Cormac McQuinn and Niall O'Connor

Taoiseach Enda Kenny was aware that the Tusla file on Garda whistleblower Maurice McCabe referenced allegations of sexual abuse, it has emerged.

In the latest twist to the ongoing controversy, Children's Minister Katherine Zappone revealed that she briefed the Taoiseach before a Cabinet meeting where the terms of reference on the proposed Commission of Investigation was discussed.

"I told him that I had met with the McCabes, that we had discussed false allegations of sexual abuse made against Sgt McCabe to Tusla.

"The Taoiseach said that this would be covered by the Commission of Investigation," she told the Dáil last night.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny Photo: Tony Gavin
Taoiseach Enda Kenny Photo: Tony Gavin

The statement called into question the series of events outlined by to the Dáil by Mr Kenny just moments earlier.

However, later the Taoiseach acknowledged that while the minister didn't divulge details of the sexual abuse, she did mention it to him.

Ministers have agreed to hold a public tribunal into the alleged smear campaign against Sgt McCabe, which is expected to have a deadline of around 12 months.

A special Cabinet meeting will be held today or tomorrow amid serious concern from Independent Alliance members about the controversy.

The independent TDs have maintained a public silence in recent days, but behind the scenes are extremely frustrated at how the issue has been handled by Government colleagues.

Sources confirmed to the Irish Independent they have major concerns about contradictions in the Taoiseach's version of events.

They were due to release a statement last night, but will seek further clarifications today from Mr Kenny before guaranteeing they will back the Government in a confidence motion.

During a heated Dáil debate last night, Mr Kenny was asked on at least 10 occasions to reveal when he first learned of the false allegations that Sgt Maurice McCabe had molested a child. He repeatedly insisted that he was unaware of the accusations until the 'Prime Time' programme relating to the Tusla file last Thursday night.

Dramatic

However, in one of the more dramatic interventions, Fianna Fáil's John McGuinness said the Taoiseach was aware long before last week.

Mr McGuinness famously met former garda commissioner Martin Callinan in a hotel car park in 2014, when he says the ex-garda told him Maurice McCabe was "not to be trusted and there were serious issues about him".

He told the Dáil last night that "everybody in this House knew" about the allegations hanging over Sgt McCabe.

"Efforts were made to derail Maurice McCabe and the story he was telling. Everyone knew. The fact of the matter is it was a deliberate attempt to undermine Maurice McCabe," Mr McGuinness said.

"You did nothing about Maurice McCabe until now when you're put in the spotlight."

In response, Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald questioned why the deputy did not alert people to his meeting with the former commissioner sooner. But Mr McGuinness said he had "followed legal advice" and like Minister Zappone "didn't want to give legs to something that was totally untrue".

Ms Fitzgerald and Fianna Fáil's justice spokesperson Jim O'Callaghan also continued to row last night over whether he had warned her during a Dáil bar meeting last Wednesday of the Tusla link to the McCabe case.

The Tánaiste questioned why "if he was so concerned about Tusla" didn't Mr O'Callaghan raise the issue during his Dáil contribution last week.

Mr O'Callaghan refused to back down, asking: "Is it credible that a Minister for Justice would agree to amend terms of reference of an important commission of investigation based on a television programme and not ask what the programme was about?"

Irish Independent

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