Friday 28 April 2017

Tusla staff 'ill-equipped to deal with historical abuse'

Sgt Maurice McCabe: Tusla will repeat its apology. Photo: Tom Burke
Sgt Maurice McCabe: Tusla will repeat its apology. Photo: Tom Burke
Niall O'Connor

Niall O'Connor

The head of Tusla has issued a dire warning to politicians about the agency's capacity to deal with cases of "historical" sexual abuse.

CEO Fred McBride said his staff are not properly equipped to handle complaints made by adults - and revealed that Tusla has asked the Government to consider transferring responsibility for such cases to an outside body.

The agency boss said as a result of a recent court judgment, Tusla is required to support the alleged victim, ensure other children are not at harm and conduct "forensic type interviews" involving the alleged perpetrator.

"This is an extremely difficult balance to strike," according to the Tusla chief.

Mr McBride will tell the Oireachtas Committee on Children today that Tusla requires greater legal powers if it is to deal with such allegations.

"One particularly challenging area of work which has emerged over time is what we call 'historical allegations'. That is where an adult comes forward to disclose information of abuse when they were a child, usually sexual abuse," according to Tusla's submission, seen by the Irish Independent.

"This is especially challenging because of a lack of a clear legal framework around this area of work.

Read more: A chilling chronicle, whether error or conspiracy

"We have lobbied the Department of Children and Youth Affairs, and have made detailed depositions requesting that Tusla is provided with the statutory instruments under which we can undertake this work, or that it be given to an agency independent of Tusla which would allow our focus to remain that of child protection."

Mr McBride will also strongly defend agency staff on the back of the "copy-and-paste" scandal surrounding Sgt Maurice McCabe and his family.

He will say the events are "not reflective of the high standards" which staff at the Child and Family Agency hold themselves to.

He will reiterate the apology offered to the McCabe family, after it emerged a file containing false allegations of child rape against Sgt McCabe remained on the agency's database for two years.

"I think it is important to also point out that I have no knowledge, or evidence that Tusla staff acted with any malice of intent.

"I also wish to make clear to you that if I did receive such evidence or information I would intervene, personally, immediately and publicly.

"But as we know mistakes were made and we look forward to working in concert with the Tribunal of Inquiry in addressing this matter in its totality."

Mr McBride will state that Tusla will co-operate fully with the Tribunal into the alleged smear campaign and other allegations surrounding the treatment of Sgt McCabe.

It comes as Sgt McCabe snubbed an offer from Garda management to join a special unit tasked with making the force more transparent.

The offer was extended by Deputy Garda Commissioner John Twomey at a recent meeting with Sgt McCabe's legal representatives.

According to sources, Deputy Commissioner Twomey asked whether Sgt McCabe would be interested in contributing to a unit tasked with devising Garda protocol on the area of transparency and accountability.

But the country's most high profile whistleblower turned down the offer.

One source described as "ironic" the offer to "all of a sudden" seek the input from Sgt McCabe to make the force more accountable.

Last night, a Garda spokesman refused to be drawn on the matter.

"We don't comment on such meetings," the spokesman told the Irish Independent.

Irish Independent

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