'No malice by our staff in false allegations against Sgt McCabe' - Tusla chief
There is no evidence of any malign intent by staff in Tusla in dealing with false allegations of child sexual abuse against Sgt Maurice McCabe, it was claimed yesterday.
Fred McBride, head of Tusla - the Child and Family Agency - admitted mistakes were made in processing the case but said he had no "knowledge or evidence" that staff acted "with any malice of intent".
Repeating his apology to Sgt McCabe, the head of the country's child protection watchdog said he wanted to make clear that "if I did receive such evidence or information, I would intervene, personally, immediately and publicly".
Mr McBride was appearing before the Oireachtas Committee on Children and Youth Affairs in the wake of the storm over its handling of the wrongful allegation against Sgt McCabe which it received through a "cut and paste" error by a HSE counsellor in 2013.
The mistake was reported in May 2014. However, Tusla failed to inform Sgt McCabe about the allegation until December 2015 and it was months later before he was informed there was no basis to it.
The committee was precluded from quizzing Mr McBride on the facts of the case, although they asked questions around the safeguards and systems which it has in place to follow up on current and historical allegations of abuse.
He conceded the controversy had affected public confidence in the agency, which has received 122,528 referrals since it took over child protection from the HSE three years ago. More than 51,000 of these relate to abuse and neglect.
The agency is currently carrying out an internal review following the McCabe revelations and this will feed into the tribunal of inquiry into the controversy.
Asked what efforts are made to contact a person about whom historical allegations of abuse are made, Tusla officials said they are written to and given the offer of responding. They also have a right of appeal.
"Almost every inquiry into serious cases of child abuse in this country, including child deaths, have highlighted the lack of information-sharing across key agencies as a key contributing factor to things going wrong," he said.
"Appropriate information-sharing is the cornerstone to our child protection system; it ensures that children get the specific intervention and response required. I want to reassure the families we use information responsibly."