Tuesday 24 October 2017

Pressure builds on Minister Katherine Zappone about whether Cabinet was briefed on Tusla controversy

Fianna Fáil Public Expenditure Minister Dara Calleary. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Fianna Fáil Public Expenditure Minister Dara Calleary. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Independent.ie Newsdesk

Independent.ie Newsdesk

Children's Minister Katherine Zappone is facing mounting calls to explain her actions after being directly informed of the shocking Tusla blunder surrounding Maurice McCabe in January.

Fine Gael ministers have today expressed their deep surprise at why Ms Zappone did not formally inform Cabinet of a meeting with Sgt McCabe and his wife in January.

Ms Zappone, who is currently in the United States, has yet to respond to the questions. Her spokesman has not responded to requests for comment today.

Independent.ie has learned that in January, Sgt McCabe's wife Lorraine contacted the office of Health Minister Simon Harris and asked to speak to the minister about a "Tusla issue".

Mr Harris's secretary informed Ms McCabe that Tusla falls under the remit of the Department of Children.

A meeting then took place with minister Zappone, during which the situation surrounding the file on the McCabe family was outlined to the minister.

It's still not clear who in government Ms Zappone spoke to.

Tanaiste and Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald told the Dail yesterday that she was unaware of any such involvement by a state agency.

Labour TD and former Education Minister Jan O'Sullivan is among those who have called for clarity about what Cabinet knew about the controversy before drafting the terms of the commission of investigation into an alleged smear campaign against Maurice McCabe.

"I am also calling on Minister Zappone to immediately provide clarity as to whether she briefed her Cabinet colleagues on her knowledge of the TUSLA file on Maurice McCabe. We have heard this morning that she was fully aware of the details of the case at the end of January.

"If she did not bring this information to Cabinet, she urgently needs to explain why she withheld such relevant information from her Cabinet colleagues when they were agreeing to the establishment of a commission of investigation."

Political reaction to revelations on RTE's Prime Time that a mistaken allegation of digital rape of a child was linked to the garda whistleblower has been swift.

Health Minister Simon Harris has said the child and family agency should apologise immediately and did not need to wait for the commission of investigation into an alleged smear campaign against Mr McCabe concludes. 

"I think they should explain why an apology hasn't issued to Sergeant McCabe, when it was clearly their intention to do so," he added. "I think they should issue that apology forthwith," he told Newstalk Breakfast.

Meanwhile, Fianna Fáil's Dara Calleary said his stomach churned as he watched the program on Thursday night. He spoke on RTE's Morning Ireland and said the situation was "absolutely incomprehensible"

“The notion that a very serious report can be made on the basis of a cut and paste job is absolutely incomprehensible given the seriousness of the job TUSLA have to do on a daily basis,” he said.

“Where are the checks and balances and have they reviewed the processes in light of what has come out given that they have done an investigation into this in January of 2017?

“I think that TUSLA need to urgently answer their appalling failings and how the situation arose. How Maurice McCabe was not informed? How files were opened on his children, including two adult children without being informed? And why they haven't issued an apology?”

Also speaking on RTE this morning Labour Leader Brendan Howlin said:

"It beggars believe that matters of such seriousness could firstly have happened, that somebody could have the most vile of accusations circulated about them by the state. That is a possibility and we have to fully investigate that," he said.

Tusla, which is responsible for the protection of children, has said it is in the process of apologising to Mr McCabe.

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