Thursday 19 April 2018

Zappone: I won't reveal identities of 'relevant government colleagues'

Children's Minister under fire as Tusla controversy escalates

Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone. Photo: Tom Burke
Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone. Photo: Tom Burke
Whistleblower Maurice McCabe. Photo: Tom Burke
Sergeant Maurice McCabe Photo: Tom Burke

Niall O'Connor and Laura Larkin

Children's Minister Katherine Zappone has said she will not reveal the identities of the "government colleagues" with whom she said she discussed the shocking blunder by Tusla regarding garda whistleblower Maurice McCabe.

Ms Zappone has been under mounting pressure over whether she properly informed the Cabinet of the "copy and paste" blunder by the State's child and family agency.

There has been widespread shock after it emerged a false file containing allegations of child sexual abuse remained on the TUSLA database for almost two years - without the knowledge of the McCabe family.

Ms Zappone said she became aware of the circumstances surrounding Tusla after being contacted by Mrs McCabe on January 18. She said she then met the couple a week later.

In a statement this afternoon, Ms Zappone insisted she ”informed relevant Government colleagues” in the period since the meeting with the McCabe family.

"Minister Zappone has met with Mrs Lorraine McCabe and Sgt Maurice McCabe. She has heard first hand of the devastation caused to them by the false allegations against Sgt Maurice McCabe,” the statement reads.

“Since then her office has been in regular contact with Mrs and Sgt McCabe and Tusla - which has led to the offer of a public apology.

“The Secretary General of the Department of Children and Youth Affairs held a meeting with Senior Tusla Personnel on Friday January 27.

Tusla provided DCYA with a chronology and analysis of the case  - which my Department gave to Mrs and Sgt McCabe on Saturday 28th January.”

She does not state who these "relevant colleagues" are and whether they are members of Cabinet. The statement does not say whether she passed on this information to Taoiseach Enda Kenny or Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald.

This evening, the minister's spokesperson refused to divulge the names and refused to say whether these individuals were members of Cabinet.

"We are not deviating from our statement." the spokesperson said.

Senior Fine Gael sources say it would be "incredible" if Ms Zappone had not discussed the issue with Tánaiste and Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald.

Ms Fitzgerald told the Dáil yesterday that she was unaware of any other state agencies being linked to the growing controversy.

The statement added that Tusla informed the Secretary General of the department that the issue is now under review.

“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.

"Minister Zappone informed relevant Government colleagues during the course of this period.

"Minister Zappone was always of the view that Tusla would form part of the investigation by the Commission of Inquiry.”

Earlier, the chief executive of Tusla refuted any inference that Tusla was involved in any sort of collusion with gardai in relation to mistaken and false allegations which were linked to whistleblower Maurice McCabe.

Fred McBride, speaking on RTE News at One, said that he "absolutely refuted any suggestion there was collusion between Tusla and the gardai".

A PrimeTime investigation on Thursday revealed that a mistaken allegation of digital rape of a child was linked to garda whistleblower Maurice McCabe due to a 'clerical error'.

Mr McBride said "there is no doubt that mistakes have been made" and a full review of what occurred will take place.

Mr McBride said he had issued a letter of apology to the McCabes today and has offered to meet the family personally to apologise in person if necessary.

He said the reason for the delay is that he wanted the apology to come from him personally and he wanted to know the detail of what had occured.

Tusla have a responsibility to ensure that all information was investigated Mr McBride said.

"If that information turns out to be inaccurate and that was the case here... it is incumbent on us to correct that information as quickly as possible and that's where mistakes were made," he said.

Mr McBride said he escalated the matter to the Department of Children and Youth Affairs "within days".

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