Last Wednesday evening I met the Tánaiste in a quiet area of this House to tell her that I wanted the terms of reference of the proposed commission of investigation extended. I told her that I had become aware, from speaking to my party leader Deputy Micheál Martin, who had spoken to Sergeant McCabe, that Sergeant McCabe had informed him that there would be a "Prime Time" programme broadcast on Thursday evening which would contain a story about a Tusla file that contained a false allegation of sexual abuse against Sergeant McCabe. I told the Tánaiste that paragraph B of the terms of reference needed to be extended to cover that. The Tánaiste agrees that I asked her to extend the terms of reference. She also agrees that I asked her to extend the terms of reference because of a forthcoming "Prime Time" programme. However, she denies that I told her about any Tusla file contained in that programme. If she is correct, why did she agree to consider my amendments, as she did, without asking me what the "Prime Time" programme was about?
Clarification of Statements made by the Taoiseach and Ministers: Statements (Resumed)
I got a phone call from Deputy O'Callaghan at about 6.30 p.m. last Wednesday. He asked me if I would meet him and I left the parliamentary party meeting and went to meet him. We had a discussion for about 12 minutes. Deputy O'Callaghan informed me that there was a "Prime Time" programme the next evening. He used the word "documentary" in relation to Maurice McCabe and the allegations. He said the programme would cover the smear campaign allegations that had been made against Sergeant McCabe and he said to me that I needed to look at the terms of reference because if they did not cover what emerged on the "Prime Time" programme that would not be a good place to be in and it would leave "egg on our face" in terms of the Dáil and the work we are doing. He said to me that he wanted to make sure that the allegation of a smear campaign against Sergeant McCabe was covered and whether it had been carried out by the Garda Commissioner and the previous Garda Commissioner. I said to him that they were already covered in the terms of reference and the vast majority of our conversation was about the detail of the amendments and how they needed to be changed because the Deputy was concerned that the reference in relation to Superintendent Taylor was too restrictive and would mean that there was not a proper examination of the allegations. For that reason, I agreed to consider how we would extend the terms of reference to make it absolutely clear that this could be covered. He also asked that Ministers would be included and I said there was no reason not to include them. I went away to do some work on the changes to the terms of reference. At no time did Deputy O'Callaghan mention Tusla, and if he had, or if he had said to me he wanted a particular reference in that regard I would have included it. It would have been to my advantage to include it if I had been told about it, and if he had made it clear to me that Tusla should be included because "Prime Time" was covering it, I would have included it.
It would have been totally to my advantage to come back to the Dáil and insert Tusla. Deputy O'Callaghan made no mention the next day about Tusla when he made his speech.
There are four minutes left so I suggest that the Deputy be as crisp as possible to get his answers.
I disagree with the Tánaiste. I referred to Tusla in our conversation. What the Tánaiste has said in her statement is that she was prepared to seek the amendment of important terms of reference based upon a forthcoming television programme I was telling her about. At no stage is she saying that I indicated to her what the programme was about and at no stage did she ask. Is it credible that a Minister for justice would agree to amend terms of reference of an important commission of investigation based on upon a television programme and not ask what the programme was about?
Deputy O'Callaghan made an extremely strong case that he felt the way the terms of reference were formulated as the judge presented them - because they were the judge's words - regarding the allegation of a smear campaign in Superintendent Taylor's protected disclosure was too narrow. The Deputy spent most of the time talking to me about how it circumscribed the investigation too much and ought to be broader. He made his case entirely on the fact that the terms of reference were too narrow, not on the "Prime Time" programme. He made his case on the basis that the way the judge had written them made them too circumscribed. I accepted in full the Deputy's bona fides on it. He wanted the terms of reference changed so that there was no doubt whatsoever that all of those allegations could be investigated and I responded on that basis. What was in or not in the programme was not the central point. It was that the Deputy wanted clarity in respect of the allegations and that they would be fully investigated and would not be circumscribed by reference to Superintendent Taylor. That was the main point of the discussion.
I suggest that Deputy O'Callaghan combines his two questions into one because there are only two minutes left.
The Tánaiste is correct in stating that most of our discussion was about paragraph (b) and I emphasised to her that it was too limited in terms of how it referred to Superintendent Taylor's communications with the media and that it needed to be broader. However, I commenced the conversation with her by telling about the forthcoming programme which was in respect of a Tusla file. My final question for her is this. After her discussion with me, who did she contact and what did she say to them?
The first point I would make to Deputy O'Callaghan is that if he was so concerned about Tusla being included in the terms of reference, why did he not raise it himself? Why did he not raise it in his speech? I came in here last Thursday and asked for statements so I could take on board the point of view of everybody here. I was completely flexible in terms of what I wanted to include in terms of investigating it and getting at the truth. After Deputy O'Callaghan spoke to me, I contacted the Attorney General, asked her about changing the terms of reference, told her what Deputy O'Callaghan's formulation was and asked her whether it was legally sound and whether it was the way we should proceed. I had a further discussion with Deputy O'Callaghan about how it should be changed. Deputy O'Callaghan reiterated the points made here the next day but he never mentioned Tusla. Other people mentioned different things they wanted included. Deputy O'Callaghan did not mention Tusla. I had a conversation with him primarily about making sure that the terms of reference included Government Ministers, that they included great clarity and that the commission would investigate the allegations fully.
Were any of the Tánaiste's officials or Government officials aware of the Tusla allegation prior to the programme being broadcast on Thursday evening?
I was not aware of what was in the Tusla file prior to the programme being broadcast and neither were my officials. Nobody had brought it to my attention.
We now move to Sinn Féin, which has eight minutes. What way do its Members propose to proceed?
Tá mé ag roinnt ama le Teachtaí eile.
Deputy Adams might indicate the Deputies to which he is referring.
Deputies Mary Lou McDonald, Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire and Jonathan O'Brien. The purpose of this evening's proceedings was for Ministers to set out what they knew and when they knew about the shameful campaign against Maurice McCabe. Can we start the time again? The Taoiseach was engaged in a conversation. My question is for him. I would like him to hear the question I am putting to him.
We will give Deputy Adams 20 seconds of injury time.
The purpose of this evening's proceedings was for Ministers to set out what they knew and when they knew about the shameful campaign against Maurice McCabe. The Taoiseach has not done this. I have asked him repeatedly to tell the Dáil when he became aware of the false child abuse allegations against Maurice McCabe. Perhaps it was years ago. We do not know. He has ignored my questions, stonewalled and refused to answer. So far, the Taoiseach has given three different versions in as many days about what he says the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs told him. For her part, the Minister is very clear about this, what the Taoiseach said to her and what her official told an official in the Department of the Taoiseach. While giving his contradictory versions, the Taoiseach has refused to say when he first became aware of the false allegation of child abuse against Garda McCabe. I would like to put that question directly to the Taoiseach now. When did he first become aware of this false allegation?
I have answered this before. I do not deal in rumours, hearsay or allegations. Deputy Adams's question is irrelevant to the central issue here - how to define and determine the truth of a central issue, namely, senior gardaí carrying out a deliberate smear campaign against Sergeant McCabe and his family.
I call Deputy Jonathan O'Brien. To which Minister is he addressing his question?
It is addressed to the Taoiseach initially. In her speech, the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs stated that she spoke to the Taoiseach prior to last week's Cabinet meeting, which was after her meeting with Sergeant McCabe. She told the Taoiseach that she had discussed false allegations of sexual abuse against Sergeant McCabe that were made to Tusla. The Taoiseach stated that this would be covered by the commission of investigation. First, did the Taoiseach say that? Second, how was he aware that it would be covered by the commission of investigation when the very Minister tasked with drafting the terms of reference for the commission of investigation claims she was not even aware of the existence of a Tusla file?
The Government was considering the setting up of a commission of investigation arising from two protected disclosures dealing with matters of sexual allegations. The Minister for Children and Youth Affairs is the Minister responsible for Tusla. My assumption was that the terms of reference would cover that. That was clarified by the judge appointed at the time to conduct the commission of investigation.
I thank the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs for clarifying the fact that she did in fact brief the Taoiseach as regards the Tusla file in advance of the Cabinet meeting. There was no confidentiality or sensitivity around that. Maurice McCabe came to see the Minister not to discuss an allegation or a live investigation but to complain about a false allegation. He also made the Minister aware that he had been talking to the media and that a "Prime Time" programme would be broadcast. The Taoiseach repeatedly refused to say when he first learned of allegations of a sexual offence made against Maurice McCabe. Let me help him. It was reported in the Irish Independent on 12 April 2014 that Deputy Micheál Martin met with the woman alleging sexual assault or abuse by a serving Garda. On 15 April, the same newspaper reported that the alleged victim wished to meet with Deputy Micheál Martin. On 2 May, it was reported that Deputy Micheál Martin wrote to the Taoiseach and told him about this and it was mooted in an article that the Taoiseach was going to order an investigation into this matter. The Garda about whom the woman spoke to Deputy Micheál Martin was none other than Maurice McCabe. So the Taoiseach was aware from that point. Did he instigate an investigation and why does he persist in a game of make believe that he did not know about these allegations? He knew about them going back to May 2014. Will he and Deputy Micheál Martin be witnesses at the tribunal of inquiry?
I think Deputy Micheál Martin presented a number of issues from the far side of the House about matters of importance.
That was transferred by me to the Minister for Justice and Equality. It was transferred to the independent review mechanism, which was assessed by legal opinion and all of that. It is a matter that was handled from my Department to the Department of Justice and Equality. Following all of the cases there, there was an independent review mechanism set up to deal with it.
May I correct the record?
Did Deputy Micheál Martin write to the Taoiseach and report that he had a meeting with a woman who made a complaint of sexual abuse against Garda Maurice McCabe? Yes or no? It is reported that this happened in May and that the Taoiseach was to instigate an investigation. I ask the Taoiseach to confirm this.
Can I make a correction?
I will take a point of clarification from Deputy Martin and then the Taoiseach.
Let the Taoiseach answer the question.
I will call the Taoiseach.
I want to correct the record of the House. There have been enough smear campaigns going on and undermining-----
Deputy Enda Kenny is supposed to be the Taoiseach.
Correct the record.
I wrote to the Taoiseach. I want to make this point because it is very important.
No it is not.
How do you know?
Either we live in a democracy in which we correct the record or we do not.
The Taoiseach is the man being asked the questions, not Deputy Martin.
Please, Deputies. A point of clarification.
I want to make it clear. Whether the Deputy wants the truth or not-----
No, Deputy Martin wants to distort the truth.
Please, Deputies. A point of clarification.
It is a matter of record that I sent a dossier of complaints that Maurice McCabe sent to me when I met him about Garda malpractice in Bailieborough at that time.
No, please. Subsequent to me sending the dossier, an individual approached me following articles in a newspaper about an allegation of sexual abuse that was dealt with by the DPP back in 2006 with regard to a case from 1997 or 1998. The alleged victim at the time said to me that the DPP had made a decision on it but was anxious that the Guerin investigation would cover the manner in which the case was handled. The contention was that it was because it was a Garda sergeant-----
And it was Maurice McCabe?
Yes. Maurice McCabe was made aware of this at the time because I made him aware of it. He was fully anxious that it be dealt with by the Guerin investigation. He spoke to Mr. Guerin about it as well-----
Thank you. The clock has stopped.
-----and made the background very clear. I believe it is important-----
It is all coming back now.
-----that we get the light and the truth out of all of this.
There will be other opportunities to speak.
I asked the Taoiseach to ask Mr. Guerin to include it. He decided not to.
I call the Taoiseach. The clock starts again.
The letter Deputy McDonald refers to was a letter in respect of how a case that had been dismissed by the DPP had been handled by the Garda. It has nothing to do with the current exposés on the "Prime Time" programme or the so-called Tusla file. The letter was a complaint about how the process and the procedure was handled. That case had already been previously dismissed by the DPP.
My question is directed to the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs. It is clear that there was error upon error and failure upon error with regard to the child protection and Tusla handling of the file relating to Sergeant McCabe. As regards the involvement of the HSE counsellor, the reason the counsellor was in contact with the Garda and who contacted who, it is all contrary to Children First processes. How could a file of such seriousness be treated as casually as to allow copying and pasting? Most of all, how could a file exist on alleged child abuse and not be picked up for several years? If this file was not a false accusation, why was there no review, no oversight and no investigation? How could it happen that it was not followed up and was allowed to sit there?
It is clear that normal procedures were not followed. That raises questions about the handling of child protection by Tusla on a systematic basis. There have been examples of this before. A June 2016 report found 822 unacknowledged Garda notifications of alleged abuse from Tusla in the midlands region. Mr. Fred McBride has refuted that he would knowingly allow collusion with the gardaí. However, it happened before his watch. How can the Minister account for the facts that normal procedure was so comprehensively ignored in this instance and that the Children First policy was not followed? Can Tusla disprove the charge of collusion by some of its staff and does it intend to do so?
I thank Deputy Ó Laoghaire for those questions. I believe they are excellent and relevant questions. These are the issues that I expect will be covered in the statutory investigation that we are requesting of HIQA. The terms of reference are being drawn up. As we are having this debate, work is going on. I am going to bring those terms before the Attorney General to take a look at them. It is very important that we get those terms right and that the issues that the Deputy has identified are asked and answered. I also believe that it was extremely important to establish this, in addition to the commission of investigation or the tribunal of inquiry, because my understanding is that that is going to be focused on a particular case. The Deputy is also raising systemic questions about processes that have inflicted this extraordinary damage on this family. That would be my feeling and belief as well. Therefore, we needed another type of investigation, an independent, robust and external review to come up with the answers to the Deputy's questions.
I want to put my first question to the Taoiseach. I wish to refer to his meetings with the Minister, Deputy Zappone. I cannot understand how it could be the case that the Taoiseach could have such a flawed recollection of such significant meetings. On the radio last Sunday, the Taoiseach referred to what he "said to her", referring to the Minister, Deputy Zappone, at a meeting that never took place. How could it then be when he actually did meet the Minister, Deputy Zappone, just before the Cabinet meeting, during which he was told of the Tusla involvement in the McCabe affair, that he proceeded to forget about this meeting almost from that moment and denied it existed when he was asked about it last Sunday? Why did he not mention the Tusla piece of information to the Cabinet? Is the Taoiseach actually suggesting that he did not remember that piece of information when the terms of reference were being discussed? The Minister, Deputy Zappone, said, "I let him know that I had met with the McCabes, that we had discussed Tusla". Is it not the case that if the Minister, Deputy Zappone, had not insisted upon her version of fact, that an entirely incorrect sequencing of events would have remained on the public record subsequent to the Taoiseach's interview last Sunday?
I actually told the truth today in the House. I reflected-----
Which time? Was it the first, second or third time?
-----on many things that come my way on the average day. As I pointed out today, and as the Minister, Deputy Zappone, pointed out, her office informed my office of her intention to meet with the McCabe family. That was relayed to me. In all of the activity, I was mistaken in saying that I had actually spoken to the Minister about her meeting with the McCabes.
She has just contradicted you.
She did inform me just before the Cabinet meeting began that she had met with the McCabes and that they had discussed false sexual allegations against the sergeant. She did not make me aware of the existence of a file in Tusla or of any contents of that file------
She did not make me aware of any of the content of the discussion that she had with Sergeant McCabe or his wife.
When was the Taoiseach first made aware of Tusla involvement in this affair and by whom?
The Minister said that she had discussed false allegations that had been made to Tusla about Sergeant McCabe. The Cabinet was in session dealing with protected disclosures, which it is not-----
Is the Taoiseach saying that she told him during the Cabinet meeting?
-----allowed to discuss the content of. Obviously, the terms of reference had been set out for the commission of investigation by Mr. Justice Iarfhlaith O'Neill.
The Taoiseach did not answer the question. When was he first told about Tusla involvement and by whom?
As I said to the Deputy, before the Cabinet meeting, the Minister, Deputy Zappone, said that she had met with the McCabes and that the question of false allegations of sexual abuse had been made to Tusla and had been discussed by her with the McCabes.
Can I ask the Tánaiste a question? Her version of events and that of Deputy Jim O'Callaghan both cannot be true. Being able to depend on the word of the Minister for justice is important in any jurisdiction, all the more so when discussing matters of the gravity that we are now discussing in the events of recent days. I ask the Tánaiste for complete clarity. When was the first time she heard that the Tusla agency was involved in the Maurice McCabe case? Again, from whom did she learn that?
As I have said consistently, in terms of the facts as they emerged on the programme regarding false allegations, the first time that I heard of those details was when I went home and saw the "Prime Time" programme. I had never been briefed on a Tusla file. I did not know whether there was any Garda involvement, for example, with Tusla in regard to Maurice McCabe. I never knew there was a counsellor involved. I never knew about the set of false allegations that had been made by the counsellor to Tusla. I had no information on those facts as they emerged on the "Prime Time" programme. I had had no briefing from anyone on that because no one in my Department knew, and I had never been briefed by anybody else that these allegations were around.
Prior to the "Prime Time" programme, was the Tánaiste aware of Tusla's involvement in any other whistleblower case?
Many whistleblower cases come to my attention. I cannot investigate them myself but I have the responsibility to pass those on to the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission, GSOC. It has been noted publicly, and I can confirm, that in one of those cases there was a mention of Tusla and that was passed on to GSOC for investigation.
Can I ask the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs a question? In terms of the critical information she had given to the Taoiseach concerning Tusla involvement, an involvement that the Minister had vastly more knowledge of than the Taoiseach, how could it be that she did not mention that during the Cabinet discussion on the terms of reference? She is specifically entitled, under the Child and Family Agency Act of 2013, and is required under Article 28.4.2o of Bunreacht na hÉireann, to ensure that her colleagues are informed. Was the Minister advised by any departmental official to take this extraordinary course of action? In other words, was she advised to deny her Cabinet colleagues of the full knowledge when they were making such an important critical national decision?
I will answer Deputy Howlin's last question first. No, I was not advised. I was not aware of the contents of what we would be discussing that morning regarding the response to the O'Neill report. No, I did not have any advice in that regard.
With regard to the Deputy's first question, I have already answered that. I made a decision. I discerned the information that had been shared with me by the McCabe family in that original meeting and had Tusla respond very quickly to their questions in terms of a further file and what was going on. As I said already here in the Chamber, the letter that went with that was to ask if there were any other issues they wanted to clarify. That was where I was at with them at that stage, and I decided that is where it should stay.
When then did the Minister first see the terms of reference that were proposed for Cabinet? Were they circulated in advance of the Cabinet meeting? I refer to the terms of reference for the proposed commission of investigation.
No, they were not.
They were brought to Cabinet directly.
I am moving on to the Independents 4 Change whose Members have eight minutes.
AAA-People Before Profit is next.
I have it in the other order. To be clear, I intend to limit everybody asking a question to one minute and everyone giving an answer to one minute. I will treat everybody with the same parity of esteem.
I will take two minutes, Deputy Coppinger will take two minutes and Deputy Boyd Barrett will take four minutes.
People tuning in will be a little bemused to hear that the Taoiseach is looking for a pat on the back for telling the truth in the Dáil today and that it is some sort of event that is newsworthy. However, they have to ask themselves which version of the truth was he telling. Deputy Adams referred to three versions of the story in three days but we have had three versions of the story today. At 2.16 p.m., in answer to Deputy Micheál Martin, the Taoiseach stated that the Minister, Deputy Zappone, told him before the Cabinet meeting last Tuesday that she met with him and they discussed allegations that were false that were given to Tusla. At 2.32 p.m., the Taoiseach answered me and stated: "It is not true to say that I had any information about the existence of that prior to the Cabinet meeting in Government Buildings". That was in response to me saying that he knew about Tusla. With regard to the Minister, Deputy Zappone, not only does she state: "I told him that I met the McCabes and we discussed false allegations of sexual abuse made against Sergeant McCabe to Tusla"-----
Thank you, Deputy. Who do you want to answer the question?
-----the Taoiseach responded by stating that this will be covered by the commission of investigation.
To whom is the question aimed, Deputy?
Is the Minister, Deputy Zappone's version-----
Deputy, your time is up.
To whom is the question aimed?
Did the Taoiseach engage in a conversation around it and therefore he was fully aware of Tusla's involvement?
Will the Acting Chairman lighten up a little bit?
Sorry, I am in the Chair and I make my decision, as Chair. I do not need Deputy Coppinger's assistance. The Taoiseach has the floor.
No, I was not aware of any of the details of the discussion the Minister, Deputy Zappone, had with the McCabe family and I was not aware of any of the details contained in the Tusla file. What the Minister did say to me was that she had met the McCabes and that they had discussed false allegations of sexual abuse that had been sent to Tusla.
Did the Taoiseach say to her that this would be covered by the commission of investigation?
The Cabinet was meeting to adopt terms of reference set out by Mr. Justice O'Neill regarding matters that clearly were of a sexual nature. The Minister, Deputy Zappone, is the Minister with responsibility for Tusla. Obviously, she had said that the discussion she had had with the McCabes, without giving me any detail, had been about false allegations of a sexual nature that had been made to Tusla.
With regard to the wording the Minister, Deputy Zappone, used, she stated: "I told him I had met the McCabes, that we had discussed false allegations ... made against Sergeant McCabe to Tusla". She then stated: "The Taoiseach said that this would be covered by the commission of investigation". That is what she has said and it is written in black and white. Is that accurate?
Will Deputy Coppinger repeat her question?
Did the Taoiseach tell the Minister, Deputy Zappone, that the Tusla issue would be included in the terms of reference of the commission of investigation because she says in her statement that he did? She went on to state: "During the Cabinet meeting it was my belief that Tusla would be covered by the inquiry under the terms of reference before us". She said that because the Taoiseach told her it would be covered.
I had looked at the terms of reference and I was clear in my mind that anything to do with allegations of a sexual nature would be covered by the terms of reference.
Did the Taoiseach tell her, or not, that it would be covered in the terms of reference because the Minister says he did?
Yes. I said these will be covered in the terms of reference because they were false allegations of a sexual nature but I want to make it clear again that in informing me that she had met the McCabe family, she did not tell me the detail of the discussion she had with the McCabes or of the existence of a file in Tusla and the contents of that file.
Is the Taoiseach saying that the Minister, Deputy Zappone, is telling a lie in black and white in her script tonight-----
No, I am not.
She said that the Taoiseach assured her it would be in the terms of reference and he is saying he did not.
The Deputy is incorrect. The Cabinet was considering the terms of reference as set out for the Government by Mr. Justice O'Neill. Clearly, the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs has responsibility for Tusla. She informed me before the meeting that she had met with the McCabes, that questions of false allegations of a sexual nature-----
Yes, the Taoiseach said that.
-----that had been presented to Tusla were discussed by her. That is what she said to me. Obviously, the terms of reference dealing with those covered by Mr. Justice O'Neill would cover that, and that was actually confirmed by the Supreme Court judge, who was determined at that stage-----
Why did the Taoiseach not go on then to ensure, having told his Minister it would be in the terms of reference, that it was in the terms of reference?
It was in the terms of reference and it was-----
The Tusla allegations.
No, the terms of reference were sufficiently flexible to cover Tusla.
No, they were not.
I have a question for the Minister for Justice and Equality. She spoke to the Minister, Deputy Zappone, about her meeting with the McCabes. She stated that all she said was, "Thank you, Katherine". She had read a full transcript from the O'Higgins commission which went into detail-----
She had it in her possession, according to Maurice McCabe, so if she did not read it, there is a problem. Why did the Minister not think to ask the Minister, Deputy Zappone, who is in charge of Tusla why she was going to meet Sergeant McCabe and his family that day? Why did she not think to ask that, given that she is the Minister for Justice and Equality and it would ultimately be her responsibility to ensure this entire matter is dealt with?
First of all, let me correct Deputy Coppinger. It would be illegal for me to read the transcripts of the O'Higgins commission. They are meant to be under lock and key for 30 years except that GSOC went to court a few weeks ago to have access to them because I had asked GSOC to investigate and the court decided it could access those records. Just be very clear, I would have no right to read the transcripts of the O'Higgins commission and I have not read them.
The Minister, Deputy Zappone, on the morning she was meeting the McCabes, phoned me and said she was having a meeting with them that afternoon. I think I said to her, "complex situation" and "thank you for letting me know". That was what I said. I respected the integrity of the process in which she was involved with them. I was working on protected disclosures which I could not speak about anyway in any detail. I could not speak to anybody about them. I was drawing up the terms of reference for the commission, and I assumed the Minister would get on with whatever work she had to do with them. I probably assumed it was a personal matter that they wanted to talk to her about, and that if it was relevant it would emerge in any further discussion at a later point. The Minister, Deputy Zappone, has also made the point she had not finished her engagement with the McCabe family.
Maurice McCabe has lifted a rock and what has appeared from underneath it does not look pleasant at all. I want to know from either the Taoiseach or Tánaiste whether they will be led by what Maurice McCabe, the brave whistleblower, has asked for in terms of answering the questions. I note the Minister, Deputy Zappone, has responded to the questions that relate to her Department and has already sent answers to the McCabes and she is willing to further engage, but the Minister for Justice and Equality has suggested she will not respond to the questions that the McCabes believe can be answered even before a tribunal of inquiry is established. Why is the Minister taking a different line from the Minister, Deputy Zappone?
Let me clarify this. With regard to Sergeant Maurice McCabe and the various issues he has unearthed, I must agree with the Deputy. I have already spoken in the Dáil about the changes he has brought about, for example, with regard to penalty points and the issues that arose subsequent to the O'Higgins commission where a huge amount of action has followed given the points he raised regarding Garda management of investigation of crime.
With regard to the question about the legality of answering the questions, I believe any of us with information should provide answers where we can, but I have just made the point there is an interaction with setting up a tribunal of inquiry, and if the same issues are about to be investigated by the tribunal of inquiry then we have to be sure we are fair to everybody. Otherwise we could scupper the inquiry by showing we were dealing more favourably with one party to the inquiry than the other. This is the legal advice I have at this stage. In so far as we can answer any of the six questions put forward by Sergeant Maurice McCabe, and already the Ministers, Deputies Harris and Zappone, have said they would be in a position to answer some of those questions, of course I want to see it done. Just be conscious we have to be aware we have to be fair to all parties, otherwise one party could go to court and say it was not fair procedure.
I have another question.
I will bring the Deputy back in when we have free-flowing questions.
I have one more question.
No, the eight minutes have gone for the Deputy's group.
My first question is to the Minister, Deputy Zappone. I commend her on her contribution. It struck me as being honest. Rian Counselling made a report on 9 August 2013, which turned out to be the false report. It rectified the matter, or amended it, on 14 May 2014. Does the Minister know the personnel involved on both ends on each occasion in August 2013 and May 2014? Is she aware of the personnel from Rian Counselling? Is she aware of the personnel from Tusla who were dealing with the case?
I have information. I am sorry, Deputy, but I am just trying to recall absolutely clearly information that went back and forth that may have had initials as distinct from full names of the people about whom the Deputy is asking. I can check that in the context of this debate. I am trying to recall that now, with all the information and the back and forth I have had in terms of what the McCabes spoke about with me in coming to me that day and the subsequent report I requested from Tusla.
From the information the Minister can recall, is there any indication there may have been any interference on the part of An Garda Síochána in any way, as far as she knows?
I do not have that explicit information.
I will ask the Minister for Justice and Equality the same question. Is she aware of any potential interference on the part of An Garda Síochána on either end of those two different correspondences? We are speaking about 9 August 2013, when a report was made to Tusla which made the false allegation about Maurice McCabe, and then the amended report on 14 May 2014. My question is whether the Minister is aware of any possible Garda Síochána interference on either end of these two correspondences?
No, I am not aware of that. Since yesterday I have a copy of the HSE file, but I am not aware of any because I do not have any of that information. I have nothing in relation to that because, as I said, I did not know about the false allegation. I did not know a referral had been made like that to Tusla. I had no information on that or any of the interactions around it because I did not know about it. I was never briefed on it and it was never brought to my attention, for example, by any member of An Garda Síochána or at any briefing I was at. The answer is I do not have the information the Deputy is asking about. I do not have any information that happened.
It is not clear whether the Minister does not have the information because she has not read the file yet or because that information is not contained in it. She might answer that with my next question. I want to put on the record that the Minister, Deputy Zappone, has responded efficiently, sensitively and appropriately. I am not just saying that as my opinion, I have seen the evidence that supports it was an adequate response when she was made aware of those allegations. Her account today has been eminently believable, and I must put it to the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste that their accounts have not been the same.
The account of the Taoiseach and Tánaiste has not been as full or as humble. They have tried to hide behind the Tusla files, as if this is a get out of jail card. All of us, including the Taoiseach and Tánaiste, know from the protected disclosure of Dave Taylor that false allegations of child sex abuse were being made against Maurice McCabe. Do the Taoiseach and Tánaiste expect us to believe that when Deputy Zappone told them she was meeting the McCabes they thought it might have been on a personal matter and not something they should be interested in?
The protected disclosures received by the Minister for Justice and Equality are not public information. No member of the Cabinet other than the Minister had access to those files. When they were referred to Mr. Justice O'Neill he considered them and made his recommendation for a commission of investigation, giving the suggested terms of reference.
Having had access to the information in the protected disclosure, the Minister was aware that a false allegation of child abuse was made against Maurice McCabe. Dave Taylor's allegation was that he had been instructed to spread word to journalists. This was included in the terms of reference and the criminal misconduct could have been investigated but now the Taoiseach tells us that no one had any knowledge about it. It is just not credible and there is a huge problem if we cannot believe the word of the Minister for Justice and Equality.
I am not hiding behind anything but telling the Deputy the facts. I had a protected disclosure. The Deputy seems to know what is in that protected disclosure.
The Minister does. She has read it.
The Deputy says it is about child sexual abuse allegations but the protected disclosure in the terms of reference was to do with a smear campaign. When I say I had no information or briefing, I am not hiding behind any one file. The allegations are not in any file I hold, or in anything of which I was aware. Deputy Wallace asked me about An Garda Síochána but I have no information about that. The file to which I refer is the file which Deputy Zappone has, giving details of the counselling service and interactions relating to that.
If the allegation was about a smear campaign, why did the terms of reference include an allegation of criminal misconduct? If that criminal misconduct was not alleged child sexual abuse, the Minister might tell us what it is.
The judge decided that any allegation of criminal misconduct made against Sergeant McCabe should be included in the terms of reference. It would cover sexual allegations.
The Minister just said there was no allegation other than the one about the smear campaign.
Please do not talk over the Minister.
The Deputy misunderstands me and is misrepresenting what I am saying.
That is what the Minister said.
It is now the turn of the Rural Independent Group, who have eight minutes. I will limit each question and response to a minute.
I am glad the Business Committee agreed to this question and answer session as it is vitally important. Did any of the Ministers have any intent to mislead the House during this saga? Might they have inadvertently done so at any point?
I have corrected my mistaken comment in regard to the Minister, Deputy Zappone's meeting with Sergeant McCabe.
What I said in the Dáil last week was absolutely accurate and that is plain to anyone who reads the record of the House. What reason would I have to mislead the House in this matter? What would I be trying to hide? I freely admit that I was scrupulous in referring to Sergeant McCabe at all times, lest I put anything on the record of the House that might be damaging to him. In formulating his terms of reference the judge spoke about criminal allegations so I was scrupulous not to put lurid details on the record and was very careful in the way I referred to issues. I have never, ever misled the Dáil and I did not mislead the Dáil last Thursday.
This is the first time I have spoken on this issue in the Dáil. I do not believe I have misled the Dáil. As I said in response to Deputy Wallace earlier, certain information is available but it is not appropriate to bring the names of those concerned to the Dáil.
I have never been asked to address the Dáil on this matter before and only became aware of information relating to this on Friday evening, receiving the first report at midnight on Saturday, 11 February. I have provided the Dáil with all the information I have available to me.
I believe the return of the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Deputy Katherine Zappone, was welcome and brought a lot of clarity. It is refreshing and I compliment her on it. I accept the answers to my questions from the Ministers.
Deputy Zappone used words like "vile" and "graphic" and said false information was put out there by Tusla. Can the Taoiseach and Ministers say whether they have faith in Tusla and in its CEO? Do they have full confidence in Tusla? I certainly do not. I have raised many issues in this House in this regard and I opposed the children's referendum. People get in touch with me on a weekly basis about horrific cases and the answer I always get is that Tusla will investigate this matter itself. It is farcical in the extreme for a relatively new organisation to investigate itself. I was told there was a grandparent rule meaning a child was not allowed to be cared for by grandparents. That has been changed now but this rule was made up by the agency itself - it was not in the Act. Tusla has tried to account for this as a copy and paste mistake but it is far from it. There are many, many mistakes and they are being covered up.
The Minister has ordered a root and branch review of the mechanics of the way Tusla does its business. Clearly, in the outline in the programme on the treatment of Sergeant McCabe, this was incompetence on a major scale. There are requirements in law for Tusla to assess every case that comes before it, but to do so with accountability and responsibility in an expeditious and fair manner. Clearly, this particular issue was not dealt with in accordance with the standards one would expect and that is why the Minister and the Minister for Health will see to it that there is a root and branch examination of the mechanics of the way Tusla does its business.
Anybody who has looked at the details of this case and how it was handled by Tusla would be very concerned - absolutely very concerned. It is a relatively new organisation, which was set up to get more focus on child sexual abuse cases and on all the issues relating to children in care, in foster care, adoptions and so on. It is extremely disappointing that there was a delay of a year and a half in what it thought was a very serious child sexual abuse claim.
It turned out that, in fact, it was based on false information. It is equally upsetting to see that in the report of false information that was given back to them by the counsellor, the bits were not joined together and that Sergeant McCabe had to suffer the appalling situation where he had contact from Tusla on what was a totally false allegation. Therefore, of course, I would be concerned. I am pleased that the Minister, Deputy Zappone, is setting up an inquiry under HIQA.
As we well know, child sexual abuse has been hidden away for a long time. Let us make it clear, however, that at present, with Children First now in place, everybody in the country is under an obligation to report it if they suspect child sex abuse. The public must have confidence in how those allegations are handled.
I have only one minute left for the other two Ministers to respond.
In response to Deputy Mattie McGrath, I am deeply concerned about Tusla which is why I have requested that statutory investigation. As the Tánaiste has said, it is a relatively new organisation. There has been a change of leadership even within its short period of life, so I think it is important to note that at this stage as well. Yes, I have deep concerns and that is why it is absolutely critical that we have the inquiry, but also an investigation into the systems and processes that will allow us to see whether they are fit for purpose.
The Minister for Health has ten seconds.
In reply to Deputy Mattie McGrath, I am also extraordinarily concerned about so many of the revelations that we have heard in recent days. I do think, however, that people are entitled to due process, as is this organisation. It is a welcome development that the head of Tusla is going before the Committee on Children and Youth Affairs. It is vital that the tribunal this House will set up includes both Tusla and the HSE, and their interactions with An Garda Síochána.
I am now moving on to the Social Democrats who have eight minutes. I call Deputy Catherine Murphy.
I wish to share time with Deputy Shortall and Deputy Catherine Martin. I want to address my question to the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality.
I ask Members to refrain from consulting in the Chamber, please.
The Taoiseach made the point that at the heart of this is a smear campaign against Sergeant Maurice McCabe, and a suggestion that it was orchestrated by senior gardaí. The Tánaiste expanded that to say the Commissioner and somebody at the next level to the Commissioner. Given that the Garda Commissioner is charged with handling discipline in the force and serious breaches of discipline, is it tenable for the Commissioner to appear as a witness potentially at the tribunal, and refute claims by people in her own organisation, and maintain discipline in the force? Is it tenable for the Commissioner to continue in position while this tribunal is in place?
Mr. Justice O'Neill investigated and did a preliminary report into the allegations that had been made. I made a mistake earlier when I said that Mr. Justice Charleton had done so. It was Mr. Justice O'Neill, so I want to correct that. I have just realised that I had said that. In his preliminary report, Mr. Justice O'Neill made contact with all of the people who were involved in the protected disclosures. Having done that preliminary report he decided that he could not arrive at a conclusion in relation to the matters before him. He said it was not possible for him to do it. He recommended a commission of investigation. Allegations are not convictions, however, and people are entitled to the presumption of innocence. That applies to all of the parties involved, including the Commissioner.
My questions are to the Taoiseach. The issue of public concern is not so much who said what when, but rather the Taoiseach's failure to do the right thing by the whistleblowers. Their complaints go back to November 2012. On seven occasions since then they have been vindicated in official reports.
Therefore my questions to the Taoiseach are as follows. In light of the vindication of the whistleblowers and the clear evidence of corruption within the gardaí, why did it take a conflict in Cabinet to force his hand to agree to a public inquiry? When was the Taoiseach first made aware of the scurrilous rumours about Sergeant McCabe, and by whom? When did the Taoiseach decide to include these in the commission of inquiry? Finally, when did he become aware of the content of the meeting between Deputy McGuinness and the then Commissioner, Martin Callinan?
The latter case was referred to here in the Dáil on whatever date that was. I have already referred to the changes that are under way with the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission, GSOC, under the direction of Ms Justice Mary Ellen Ring. Protected disclosures are-----
I did not ask the Taoiseach that.
The Deputy mentioned about protected disclosures.
When did he first become aware-----
One second Deputy, I will let you back in. Let the Taoiseach finish.
The Cabinet did not draft the terms of reference. They were drafted by Mr. Justice O'Neill having examined the two protected disclosures. He made the recommendation that he was not able to determine the truth after analysing both protected disclosures. The terms of reference were drafted by him.
On a point of order, the Taoiseach is not prepared to answer a straight question. I asked him when did he first become aware of the scurrilous rumours circulating about Sergeant McCabe. Can he tell us that?
I am sorry, Deputy, but that is not a point of order.
The point of order is that the Taoiseach is refusing to answer questions.
I have no role or function in making anybody accountable in this House. I am just trying to administer the rules as fairly as possible. If she has a point of order it applies to the rules.
I want to correct Deputy Shortall. She made a comment about my drafting the terms of reference. These terms of reference were not drafted by me or by the Cabinet, they were drafted by Mr. Justice O'Neill.
That is not what I asked the Taoiseach.
Can I stop the Taoiseach for a moment? Deputy Shortall will have to let the Taoiseach answer without interruption. She will be brought back in and can then further pursue her line of questioning. That is how I have treated everybody to date and I am not going to make any exceptions.
The Taoiseach is answering questions that he was not asked. He is refusing to answer straight questions that he has been asked.
Deputy Shortall can highlight that when she comes back in. I should not have to raise my voice. I am going to move on from the Deputy's group.
When did the Taoiseach first become aware of the rumours?
If the Deputy continues to shout down the Chair I will move on from her group and will move on with the proceedings. Please bear with me and do not interrupt the other speaker. She will get a minute to come back in and can then make whatever complaint as eloquently as she wishes.
He will not answer the questions.
The Deputy can make that point in a second.
They were rumours, allegations or hearsay. After the "Prime Time" programme things became very clear indeed. The Deputy did comment, rather than asking a question, saying we had drafted the terms of reference. Let me correct her and repeat that they were drafted by Mr. Justice O'Neill.
The Deputy has one minute.
When did the Taoiseach first hear about those rumours?
I do not act on rumours, allegations or hearsay. I act on fact.
Considering the grave extent of incompetencies and mistakes made to date by Tusla, can the Minister, Deputy Zappone, confirm whether or not similar mistakes of this magnitude have been made by Tusla, and whether or not Tusla made this mistake in respect of any other members of An Garda Síochána, or persons who are not members of the force? Is this an isolated incident? Or have other individuals - be they members of An Garda Síochána or not - been adversely affected by such appalling false allegations? If there are other cases, what supports can be given to these individuals and their families? Apart from the investigation that the Minister announced yesterday, what immediate steps have been taken to safeguard against this ever happening again? Surely there is no need to have to wait for the findings of an investigation or inquiry to assure the public that immediate steps are in train to ensure that this never recurs.
I appreciate Deputy Catherine Martin's questions. Of course, that is exactly what I want to do - to ensure that this will not happen from this day forth. That is what we have communicated in our conversations with Tusla, even from the beginning, subsequent to my meeting with the McCabes. In order to ensure that, however, it needs to be complemented by an investigation, as I have outlined. At the moment, this has been presented to me as an isolated case. That is what I know.
At the same time, I have deep concerns about the nature of this case. It is critical in terms of my leadership to ensure that we have that investigation to determine if the systems and processes are part of what led to this.
The time is up in the group's eight minute slot. I can bring the Green Party Deputies in as part of the next round. I note that Deputy Eamon Ryan wants to come in, but I ask if I can bring him in as part of the next session to be fair to every grouping. I gave them all eight minutes and do not want to change the rules for anybody.
No. If I can come in-----
I ask the Deputy to be very brief. Deputy Shortall took all of his time.
I ask the Tánaiste in any investigation regarding Garda whistleblowers, what regulations will cover the examination, treatment and disclosure of phone, e-mail and Internet records of Members of the House, journalists and members of An Garda Síochána, given that this is an unprecedented inquiry and that the institution with access to those records is the one we are investigating? How will we have independent certainty and auditing in the terms of reference whereby we have safe access to phone records and are not reliant on gardaí to do that work? How will we do that work?
It is a very good question. Mr. Justice Charlton will be the person dealing with that. He has given some indication already that he will also take independent expert advice on the management of all those issues.
I now move to questions and answers from the floor. Any Member can indicate. Currently, 12 Members have indicated and they are Deputies Micheál Martin, Jonathan O'Brien, Louise O'Reilly, Anne Rabbitte, Mary Lou MacDonald, Alan Kelly, Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin, Pearse Doherty, Peadar Tóibín, Richard Boyd Barrett, Mick Barry and Jan O'Sullivan.
Deputies Catherine Murphy, Roísín Shortall, Billy Kelleher, Catherine Connolly, John McGuinness and Catherine Byrne have also now indicated. Members can indicate as they go along. I will stick to the same format as I now have 18 Members. There will be one minute for the question and one for the answer. This will take approximately 40 minutes and we may have a few minutes to take in a few more Members at the end. Is that agreed? Agreed.
My question is, in the first instance, to the Tánaiste and then to the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs. On the file, there is a reference of the counsellor who made the false report which was subsequently corrected which states: "Following our phone conversation yesterday, I am contacting you to inform you that I had another call in relation to the retrospective report which you are aware contains a clerical error. I was informed that the superintendent in the jurisdiction referred to in the report was not yet aware of the clerical error and has been asked to meet with the Garda Commissioner in relation to the case. I have agreed to send the superintendent the amended and corrected report by registered post today. If you have any queries relating to this, do not hesitate to call me." The deduction from that is that the counsellor who made the report which turned out to be false was, in essence, discussing the case with a senior garda who seems to have been advising her on how to deal with the error which had been made. That is a very serious issue in one respect. It is an issue which demands clarity.
I thank Deputy Martin.
It demands clarity from both Tusla and An Garda Síochána and does not have to await the establishment of an inquiry.
With the Chair's forebearance, I want to put something to the Minister, Deputy Zappone.
Be very brief. I do not want to change the ground rules for everybody.
The sexual abuse regional team has reviewed Tusla's handling of the case. What is striking is that in one paragraph it says it is also not clear why a decision to proceed with the allegation was made without the co-operation and corroboration of the alleged victim and without having formed some opinion with regard to the credibility of the allegation referred.
What is the question?
This is extraordinary and demands more than the systemic type inquiry HIQA might do. There is something very untoward or - how to put it - very odd about all this in terms of the creation of this and the initiation.
What is the Deputy's question?
My question is to the Minister, Deputy Zappone, and the Tánaiste. The interaction between gardaí on the one hand and Tusla on the other, and the counsellor, begs a lot of questions in terms of how this file was created and how it is described as a mere administrative error subsequently. The file screams out-----
The Deputy is still making statements. Will he just ask a question, please?
-----an inertia. Does the Minister agree that it screams out an incredible casualness about a monumental mistake about a very well known-----
I have given the Deputy too much latitude to be fair.
The Chair was shouting down Members earlier. He shouted down Members when they were over their one minute.
There is a bit more latitude in this section, but if Deputy Doherty wants me to enforce it strictly, I promise I will. It was a rather serious issue and I allowed him a little bit of latitude.
They are all serious.
I will adhere to the one minute strictly and allow no further latitude on any event if the Deputy insists.
I appreciate the importance of the issue Deputy Micheál Martin raises. There is always ongoing contact between An Garda Síochána and Tusla. There is a very close interaction in relation to child sexual abuse. In this case, the counsellor, as I understand it from that file, which I just got yesterday, was the person dealing with the issue to begin with. The Deputy asking questions on that and thinking we can get answers at this point is not, I think, possible and I will tell him why. It is so much the essence of what is going to be examined in the tribunal of inquiry. We will have to be clear and follow scrupulously fair procedures for everyone. I acknowledge that there are questions there about who was involved and when and what the interaction was between members of An Garda Síochána, the counselling service and Tusla.
I support what the Tánaiste says. I can understand why the Deputy is asking the question. He may have a suggestion in terms of other ways to get at that more quickly than what we are identifying here. The tribunal of inquiry may be appropriately placed or the investigation I have ordered. In light of the questions he raised and an earlier question from Deputy Catherine Martin on Tusla and An Garda Síochána, I indicated that I understood that this was an isolated case. I took Deputy Catherine Martin to be asking the question in terms of sexual abuse. If she was asking if it is wider than that, I can confirm that on Friday I received correspondence from a Garda whistleblower in another part of the country in relation to gardaí and Tusla.
My first question is for the Tánaiste. Last week, when we sought to extend the terms of reference for the commission of investigation which was going to be established, we asked that other agencies would be included in terms of their contact with gardaí. Why was that ruled out? Why did the Tánaiste not take that on board?
My next question is to the Taoiseach. Earlier in reply to my question to him about how he knew the terms of reference would cover the Tusla connection, he said he made an assumption they would. Is that how the Taoiseach does business on such a serious issue? He made an assumption that it would be covered. Did he not think to go and check with anyone within Government that it would be covered under the terms of reference which were only being brought before Cabinet at that moment?
My final question is to the Minister, Deputy Zappone. She says that when she telephoned the Tánaiste and said she was meeting Maurice McCabe and his family, she did not inform her as to the purpose of that meeting. Is that correct?
When we had the debate here last week, it was statements in order to hear what people had to say about the terms of reference. I gave an indication that I would accept various amendments which had been put forward. After I had seen the "Prime Time" programme, it became very clear there should be a specific reference to Tusla or, indeed, other agencies. Now, I would include the HSE as well.
I have since then indicated that I believe that those need to be involved in the terms of reference. Obviously, the programme made it absolutely clear that they should be involved. Many people here have suggested that Tusla, the HSE and other relevant agencies should be involved in the tribunal of inquiry, and I accept that and will include them.
When I communicated with the Tánaiste, I did not say what the meeting was about because I did not know what it was about at the time.
In respect of the Deputy's question, I refer to the terms of reference set out by Mr. Justice O'Neill covered in the disclosure made by Sergeant Taylor and the question of criminality. This was dealing with matters of sexual abuse, and the Minister, Deputy Zappone, met the McCabe family. The discussion centred on false allegations of a sexual nature. The Minister has responsibility for Tusla and obviously the terms of reference would cover that.
No, the Taoiseach said Tusla would be covered under the terms of reference. He made an assumption on that.
The Taoiseach's statement earlier that he told the truth in the House is very welcome, but it beggars belief that he felt the need to say it nonetheless. I thank him for clearing that up.
My questions are to the Minister for Health. I would like to know the nature and format of the information held by the HSE regarding the disgusting allegations made against Sergeant McCabe. Are there paper files? Are there electronic files? Does the Minister know where they are? Can he share that information with us? Can he assure us that the information is held in the secret and confidential manner?
With regard to the counsellor referred to during the course of the discussions, is the individual employed directly by the HSE? Is the person covered by HSE terms and conditions of employment and all of the rules that govern those explicitly? Is the person paid on the grade of counsellor? Is that his or her substantive post? Can the Taoiseach confirm that he or she is not acting or in some other way seconded?
There seems to be an assumption in some quarters that people are going around telling deliberate lies or that I am not telling the truth. We have now spent two hours that would have been very well spent on discussing the terms of reference for the public inquiry into this matter. The central issue is was there or was there not a deliberate smear campaign against Sergeant Maurice McCabe carried out by senior members of the Garda, that is, the Commissioner and the previous Commissioner. That is the central allegation. For that purpose, we need a tribunal of inquiry.
I understand Deputy Shortall said the reason one does not have a commission of investigation is that the McCabe family said it would not participate in it and instead wanted a full public inquiry. Today, the Cabinet agreed that there should be a full public inquiry under the Tribunal of Inquiry (Evidence) Act 1921 which has to be fair to all persons associated with this. For that reason, I am much happier to hear people talking about the decision to have a tribunal of inquiry and determine its terms of reference.
Yes, that is-----
Please, Deputy. Do not shout across the Chamber.
Since I became aware of this at midnight on Friday, my priority has been to make sure that the HSE fully co-operates with what will now be a tribunal of inquiry, that the HSE apologises to Sergeant Maurice McCabe and that the HSE makes itself available to meet Sergeant Maurice McCabe and provide him with as much information as possible. In terms of whether the HSE employee is acting or otherwise, I do not have that information but I will get it for the Deputy. In terms of whether there are any records held, I do not have that information but I will get it for the Deputy.
In regard to the National Counselling Service in general, as the Deputy heard me say in my statement, I have asked the director general to report to me regarding the procedures, policies and operations of the National Counselling Service. When I get the report I would like it to be discussed by the Joint Committee on Health to consider whether there is room for improvement. If the Deputy wishes, I can tell her all I have heard from the HSE so far. A note given to me states that the HSE was advised on Friday afternoon of potential involvement in the allegations relating to Garda McCabe which had been covered extensively in the media. While the details surrounding the cases are currently being determined, it seemed that a client who self referred to the HSE's national counselling service-----
The answer to my question is that the Minister does not know.
My questions are for the Minister, Deputy Zappone. When was she aware that the "Prime Time" programme was going to take place? When did her officials become aware of the "Prime Time" programme? When did the Minister become aware that Tusla issued a statement of apology to the McCabe family and when did she share that information with her colleagues?
I was aware of the "Prime Time" programme as it was being aired. I was not aware that it would happen prior to that. I think that covers the Deputy's first two questions. The third question concerned the apology.
When was the Minister aware that Tusla issued an apology to the McCabe family?
Just prior to it doing that.
What date was that?
I think I was away at that time. I need to recollect and I will come back to the Deputy on that.
When were the Minister's officials at the Department aware of the apology that was issued?
The Minister will return to the matter.
We have made a bit of progress in the session. We have established that the Taoiseach was made aware of allegations of sexual abuse against Garda Maurice McCabe in May 2014. He was well aware of the narrative around this man. The Minister, Deputy Zappone, has finally clarified that she briefed the Taoiseach in advance of the Cabinet meeting of the meeting with Maurice McCabe and the false allegations. The idea that the Taoiseach comes back and says that he knew there were allegations but he did not know there was a file is a bit far-fetched. What did he imagine there would be? Of course there would be a file where there is a complaint, and of course that would be with Tusla.
My question is for the Tánaiste. Last Thursday, I asked her a very specific and open-ended question. I asked her of her state of knowledge of communication with other State agencies in respect of Maurice McCabe. She misled the Dáil. She did not put on the record her knowledge of meetings in terms of the McCabes and Tusla.
The Minister, Deputy Zappone, informed me just before the Cabinet meeting that she had met the McCabe family and that discussion centred around false allegations of a sexual nature made to Tusla about Sergeant McCabe. That is the briefing that the Minister gave me. These matters were covered in the terms of reference set out by Mr. Justice O'Neill, in that Tusla was covered in that. The judge appointed at that time for the commission of investigation was happy that that also included all of the issues he saw on the RTE "Prime Time" programme on the Thursday evening.
The Deputy's party thrives on rushing to judgment. She is wrong to say that I misled the Dáil. I did not know that there had been contact between the Garda and Tusla when I was in here last week. If I had known it, I would have thought of saying it to the Deputy when she asked the question.
I do not believe the Tánaiste.
The Deputy may not believe me, but I am telling her that is what happened. She rushed to judgment immediately and said that I had misled the Dáil and that I did not mention other agencies. I did not know about the Tusla involvement.
Many people have asked the Tánaiste when she first heard of the allegations in regard to Sergeant McCabe. Maybe she should think about that for 24 hours and come back to us because she has not answered the question on numerous occasions. We need an answer to that.
My main question is to the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality. Garda Keith Harrison has publicly come out and made a statement today on how he was treated as a whistleblower, along with his partner Marisa.
Among 13 letters he sent to the Minister for Justice and Equality, the last three of which she has not even replied to, was a letter dated 21 October in which he outlined his issues regarding Tusla. Did an alarm bell not go off for the Minister when, on 25 January, the Minister, Deputy Zappone, came to her and said that she was meeting Sergeant McCabe that there was more than one case in relation to Tusla and whistleblowers? Finally-----
Very briefly, Deputy.
-----would the Taoiseach and the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs - I am sorry now for breaking a bit of protocol - and also the leader of Fianna Fáil and its justice spokesperson be willing to meet Garda Harrison's representatives in the next 24 hours before the terms of reference are closed off in order to ensure that we get the proper terms of reference to what is an incredible situation?
I do not think that nominating a date for having heard allegations or rumours or hearsay or innuendo would do anything to deal with the central question: Was there or was there not a systematic campaign to smear Sergeant Maurice McCabe and his family? That is why Mr. Justice O'Neill examined two protected disclosures; why the Cabinet, at the time, decided there should be a commission of investigation; why Mr. Justice O'Neill set out his terms of reference as he did, which covered issues within those protected disclosures, including criminality; and why the Cabinet this morning decided to move beyond that and to have a full scale public inquiry under the Tribunals of Inquiry (Evidence) Act 1921. It is because one could not conduct any inquiry without the participation of the McCabe family. We should be discussing what should go into those terms of reference. They should be comprehensive and fair so that they work effectively in the interests of answering that question, which is whether there was a definitive smearing campaign by senior gardaí against Sergeant McCabe. That is what is at stake here.
I have never commented on other disclosures that I have received and I believe it is incumbent on me not to do so. In fact, I have only given details in respect of the protected disclosures that are relevant to the setting up of the commission. I have only commented on those in so far as I needed to do so to establish the commission. I want to make the point to Deputy Kelly that I do not investigate protected disclosures.
I did not ask that of the Minister.
We have a process to investigate protected disclosures. Every Department receives protected disclosures and there are clear ways of dealing with them. When I get a protected disclosure from a member of An Garda Síochána, and there have been a number of them, GSOC is the body that has been appointed to investigate-----
Does the Minister not see the similarities?
We spend a lot of time in this House talking about setting up-----
Does the Minister not see the similarities between-----
I will move on, Deputy.
I did not ask the Minister-----
I will move on from the Deputy's question. That is it.
We spend a lot of time in this House talking about setting up independent procedures to remove policing from this House. We give these protected disclosures to GSOC so that they can be independently assessed. That is what I did with the information I received.
The Minister, Deputy Zappone, wanted to come in.
I wanted to respond to Deputy Rabbitte.
I asked the Taoiseach and the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if they would meet Garda Harrison in the next 24 hours.
I am aware of that. Will the Minister, Deputy Zappone, respond to Deputy Rabbitte and I will then deal with-----
On the question about an apology, we asked Tusla to issue an apology after our meeting and were examining the most appropriate way to do it and we did see it before it was issued. If I may, I will take this moment to correct myself again so as to not mislead the Dáil. Deputy O'Brien asked about my communication with the Tánaiste and whether I told her what the meeting was about. I did not tell her what the meeting was about. There were a couple of phone calls between my office and the McCabes. There was some information available. When I said that there was no information, I was thinking "not full information". I think his question was whether I shared that at all with the Tánaiste. I did not.
Does the Taoiseach or the Minister for Justice and Equality want to respond to the question on the invitation to meet-----
It was the Taoiseach and the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs. Garda Harrison does not want to meet the Minister for Justice and Equality. Will the Taoiseach and the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs meet Garda Harrison in the next 24 hours. It is a simple "yes" or "no" answer.
In relation to the protected disclosure?
Does the Taoiseach want to answer that question? Very briefly, please.
The priority here is that the Government-----
Is that a "no"?
-----that is, the Cabinet, has made a decision which I understand the House accepts in principle and which is that we should have a commission of inquiry. It is important because of this sensitive matter that the commission of inquiry be set up as quickly as possible and allowed to do its work.
That is a "no".
Therefore, we have agreed, I understand, that the spokespersons on justice for the different parties will get together with the Minister for Justice and Equality to draft these terms of reference and nominate a chairperson to conduct the proceedings and determine the question that needs to be answered. The answer to that question is in everyone's interest.
The Minister for Children and Youth Affairs has to answer the question.
One second. Relax, Deputy. I think the Taoiseach has addressed the issue.
The Minister for Children and Youth Affairs has to answer the question as well.
Excuse me, Deputy. I am not responsible for the responses they give. The question was asked and a response was given.
I asked the question of the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs.
Also, it is somewhat-----
It would take five seconds. It would be over by now.
It is somewhat outside of what we are discussing.
It is a "yes" or "no" answer.
Does the Minister want to give an answer to it?
To meet them about what?
About the letter he wrote to the Minister three days ago.
In which he indicated a series of questions on which he was looking for a response.
Yes, before the terms of reference are closed off.
My understanding, from what the Tánaiste has said, is that is in reference to a protected disclosure.
We are straying into an area. I am going to leave it there.
Tusla and a false claim of sexual-----
Shouting will not change anything.
I will consider it.
I thank the Minister.
That is not an answer.
I am moving on. I call Deputy Ó Caoláin.
Would the Taoiseach not accept that it is critically important that we establish when he first became aware of the smear of sexual activity with children involved in relation to Garda Sergeant McCabe? It is important we establish how the Taoiseach acted on receipt of that information. Dismissing it as rumour or whatever it might be does not inform us as to how the Taoiseach acted. The only way we can establish if the Taoiseach acted appropriately is if he tells us when he first became aware of it. The fact of the matter is that we can only conclude that the Taoiseach bought into the smear and did nothing if he does not share that information. It is critically important that the Taoiseach informs this House. In relation to the reference to a "private capacity", what does the Taoiseach mean by "private capacity" in the context of everything to do with Garda Sergeant McCabe? I ask this of the Minister, Deputy Zappone, too. There can be no question that Garda Sergeant Maurice McCabe and his wife were meeting the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs in a private capacity.
It was a private meeting.
They were meeting the Minister because she is the Minister with responsibility for children and youth affairs. There is no two ways or pick a cap. She is either the Minister or she is not. I want that cleared up. I want the Minister to clarify in what capacity she met Garda Sergeant Maurice McCabe and his wife.
I can help the Deputy. The Minister met privately with the McCabes but she had personnel with her from her Department.
What does that mean?
Hold on. The Secretary General of the Department-----
She was meeting as the Minister-----
The Taoiseach without interruption, please.
The Minister, who is doing a very good job by the way, was quite entitled to meet privately with Sergeant McCabe and his wife and to have a note taker there to have an account of the meeting.
That was not a private meeting.
The Secretary General of the Department of Children and Youth Affairs sent a copy of the note taken at the meeting to the Secretary General of my Department.
Then it is not a private meeting.
How can that be in a private capacity?
In respect of knowing-----
That is total nonsense.
It is a little bit far fetched for Deputy Ó Caoláin-----
That is nonsense.
The Taoiseach should stop trying to deflect.
It is a little bit far fetched for Deputy Ó Caoláin to accuse me or anyone else over here of buying into a smear campaign against Sergeant McCabe.
Will the Taoiseach tell us when he first became aware of that smear against Garda Sergeant McCabe?
I became aware of it the same as most of the rest of the nation, which was after the "Prime Time" programme. For Deputy Ó Caoláin to suggest that someone deliberately bought into a smear campaign is certainly not the way Deputy Ó Caoláin normally conducts his business.
The Taoiseach has to clarify when he became aware for us to be able to establish whether he acted appropriately or not.
Le do thoil, a Theachta. Ní féidir leat leanúint ar aghaidh. Glaoim ar an Teachta Pearse Doherty.
He has to do that.
It was after the "Prime Time" programme.
That does not appear to be the case.
Bomaite amháin, a Theachta.
I have three questions, one of which is for the Taoiseach. Obviously, the Taoiseach is not aware of what is in the protected disclosures from Superintendent David Taylor. He stated that there are allegations of criminality. We know that from the terms of reference, but the Taoiseach stated that they were of a sexual abuse nature. Perhaps the Taoiseach should clarify it. Is he aware that is what the protected disclosures included?
How was the Taoiseach able to satisfy the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Deputy Katherine Zappone, that the allegations, as she made them to the Taoiseach - that they discussed false allegations of sexual abuse made to Tusla against Sergeant McCabe - would be covered in the terms of reference?
My second question is directed to the Minister, Deputy Zappone. Keith Harrison is a whistleblower who has been in direct communication with the Minister for Justice and Equality for a while. He was also in communication with me at a very early stage, namely, when he was about to blow the whistle and go public. At that time, he mistakenly believed that if his case was raised in the Dáil, he would have protection from the type of victimisation that he has since suffered at the hands not only of the Garda, but also Tusla. Will the Minister do what she rightly did with Sergeant McCabe and meet Keith Harrison before the Cabinet signs off on the terms of reference of the inquiry?
On many occasions over many years, I have asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality, her predecessor in the Department and the Taoiseach why the Tribunals of Inquiry Bill 2005 had not been progressed. As every Deputy knows, the tribunals of inquiry legislation dating back to 1921 is flawed as it provides a gravy train for the legal profession. The 2005 Bill imposes a cap on this by providing that people presenting evidence to a tribunal who hire public relations consultants would not be able to recoup their costs for so doing.
The Deputy has exceeded his time.
Why has the Bill, which reached Report Stage, not been progressed so that the tribunal can be held under the new legislation and the most contentious aspects of tribunals removed?
The Minister for Children and Youth Affairs did not answer my question.
The Deputy may have another opportunity.
I ask her to answer the question when she next speaks.
In reply to Deputy Pearse Doherty's question, the judge in question would have had contact with all the persons involved in this. Clearly, the terms of reference, as drafted by the judge, would have covered all the issues that are relevant. It has been confirmed by the judge appointed to look after the commission of investigation that all the issues that were seen on the "Prime Time" programme were included.
The judge did not know that at the time.
I am saying that Mr. Justice O'Neill obviously had contact with all the principals involved here and would have covered in his terms of reference all the issues that were raised, including the agency, Tusla. This was confirmed afterwards by Mr. Justice Charleton who stated the terms of reference included all the issues that he saw on the "Prime Time" programme on Thursday.
The wish of this House has been that we should use commissions of investigation as opposed to tribunals of inquiry. Therefore, the focus in recent times has been very much on commissions of investigation.
In relation to further legislation regarding tribunals, I certainly do not want to delay the establishment of this tribunal by starting to change the terms of reference or how tribunals operate at this point as to do so would unduly delay the new tribunal.
The Bill in question has been on the Order Paper for 12 years.
In replying to Deputy Pearse Doherty's questions, I ask the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs to respond to the question asked by Deputy Ó Caoláin.
I am sorry but I did not hear the Deputy's question.
In what capacity did the Minister meet Sergeant Maurice McCabe? Was it as Minister for Children and Youth Affairs?
Yes, it was as Minister for Children and Youth Affairs.
Deputy Doherty asked the Minister a question.
I will meet him.
It is very significant that the Taoiseach stonewalled the question on when he first knew of the false allegations because to answer that question would require him to change his narrative on the issue again. Such was the importance of the Tusla revelations that the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs apparently decided it would be best to leave to chance its inclusion in the terms of reference. The Taoiseach and Tánaiste stated they did not have the full details of the Tusla allegations but they could guess in advance that the terms of reference would be robust enough. Why did the Tánaiste not speak directly to Maurice McCabe before the terms of reference were finalised? The one individual who could have shed light on the full frame and necessity of this investigation was not part of the discussion.
There is a very easy answer to the Deputy's question. I met Maurice McCabe and his wife some time ago because I felt it was important to meet him and hear what he had to say given the various events that were happening at that time. He made a request to meet me so I met him. There is a reason I did not change the terms of reference. If I had come into the House and changed the terms of reference that Mr. Justice O'Neill had recommended, I would definitely have been open to criticism. I wanted to accept the terms of reference the judge had suggested. Why did I want to do that? It was because Mr. Justice O'Neill was the person who had direct access to the persons who had made the protected disclosures, including Sergeant Maurice McCabe and Superintendent Dave Taylor, the people the allegations had been made against, if one likes. The judge, having discussed the issues that were in the protected disclosures with all these people, suggested these terms of reference. I accepted fully that the judge had heard everything that needed to be heard because he had direct access to Sergeant Maurice McCabe. I, therefore, accepted the recommendations he made. I was not going to second guess what the judge had to say because he was the one with the direct access to the people who had made the protected disclosures.
Do the Tánaiste and Minister for Children and Youth Affairs not believe it is relevant to the terms of reference of the tribunal of inquiry to be discussed that we now have two Garda whistleblowers against whom false allegations of sexual abuse have been made involving Tusla? Do they not believe this is relevant to the decision on the terms of reference? I ask the Tánaiste and the Minister to give straight answers to that question because it is highly relevant. If there is a pattern of using Tusla to-----
On a point of order, while it may have been inadvertent, the Deputy's statement is not accurate.
Child abuse is what he said. It was child abuse via Tusla. Is it not relevant to look into those matters and engage with-----
The Deputy's statement is not accurate.
I am reading from the report today.
The Deputy's time is up.
The Government has made clear its view on this matter but does the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs believe it is tenable for Nóirín O'Sullivan to remain in situ as Garda Commissioner? Notwithstanding the Commissioner's right to due process, if any of these allegations were true - we do not know and it should be without prejudice - her being in situ potentially prejudices the ability of any tribunal to get to the truth of the matter.
The Deputy must conclude. Other Deputies wish to contribute.
Does the Minister consider that to be a tenable position?
When the judge was given this task and looked at the protected disclosures he said they were unique because they were about the most senior members of An Garda Síochána and incredibly serious. He said that if, at the end of the process, it was proven that whomever was not telling the full truth, there would be the most serious consequences. He said that these matters should be dealt with alone because they were so serious, they deserved a commission of investigation on their own. One of the central points there, and I discussed it with Deputy Micheál Martin earlier, will be in relation to the interaction between the whistleblower, Sergeant Maurice McCabe, and what happened to him in his dealings with Tusla. It is in the interests of getting at the truth and dealing with the very issues the Deputy raises that this goes ahead because it will investigate, in the context of Sergeant McCabe, the very issue the Deputy is highlighting. It is important that we move ahead quickly to establish this tribunal of inquiry. If people want quick answers, we have to be very careful not to extend the terms of reference so much that this becomes impossible.
I call Deputy Mick Barry.
The Minister for Children and Youth Affairs did not respond to a direct question I asked.
I have no control over the answers Ministers give.
She is about to respond.
My apologies. The Minister must also watch the clock.
In relation to the Commissioner, I believe in due process.
The Taoiseach told the Minister, Deputy Zappone, that the false allegation about which she told him would be covered by the commission. That means he had to have known in advance of the Cabinet meeting that this was more than any false allegation, that this was an allegation which related specifically to the smear campaign. Why, therefore, did he not ensure that Tusla was specifically and explicitly included in the terms of reference?
As I have already stated, Mr. Justice O'Neill had contact with all the people involved in the two protected disclosures. He was not in a position to determine the truth and so he advised the establishment of a commission of investigation in respect of which he set out the terms of reference. Is the Deputy suggesting that an eminent judge would examine two protected disclosures and draft terms of reference that did not include issues that were relevant? As I said previously, the Minister, Deputy Zappone, pointed out to me that the discussion she had with Sergeant McCabe was about false-----
A Leas-Cheann Comhairle-----
Deputy McDonald, please.
-----allegations of a sexual nature that were given to Tusla.
May I intervene to ensure that the record of the Dáil is correct?
The Deputy will be here quite a while so.
The terms of reference cover Tusla. The Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality said she would broaden them explicitly to cover that later on but the justice was happy that was the case.
On a point of order, to ensure that the record of the Dáil is accurate-----
I will allow the Deputy's intervention.
The Taoiseach is wrong in his response for the following reason. At the time of the protected disclosure Maurice and Lorraine McCabe were not aware of the particular file.
The Taoiseach is not answering the question factually and it is essential to point that out.
The Taoiseach will have a further opportunity to respond. I call Deputy Jan O'Sullivan.
Given that intervention, the Taoiseach needs to respond further.
Hold on, Deputy. I have a lengthy list. I have to ensure that everybody gets an opportunity to speak. The Taoiseach will have further opportunities to contribute, at which point he may address that question.
The Taoiseach did not know what was in the protected disclosure so how could he reassure the Minister that it was covered?
I have called Deputy Jan O'Sullivan.
It is impossible.
If I may, I will repeat that question to the Taoiseach and perhaps he might answer it. Maurice and Lorraine McCabe wrote a long letter yesterday explaining that they wanted a public inquiry because of their experience of the previous inquiries that were private. That now, I presume, will be a decision of this House. They also set out six specific questions that they said could be answered in the interim as we await answers from a tribunal of inquiry. The Minister, Deputy Zappone, referred to two of those questions in her contribution.
My first question is to the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Fitzgerald. Can she answer, in whole or in part, any of those six questions in advance of the tribunal and, if so, will she do so? My next question is to the Minister, Deputy Zappone. The Minister said that she has already corresponded with the McCabes on the second question of whether a decision was made not to inform Maurice of the making of the 2013 allegation. If so, why and by whom? I do not see any reason that information cannot be put into the public domain. Will the Minister, Deputy Zappone, put into the public domain whether a decision was made not to inform Maurice McCabe in 2013 of the allegation made? If he had been told at that time the family would have been spared a huge amount of pain because they would have been able to clarify the situation. I believe that is information that should be in the public domain. It is not specifically about any individual and so I do not see any reason it should not be in the public domain. Perhaps the Minister, Deputy Zappone, would respond to that question and the Minister, Deputy Fitzgerald, would respond to my other question.
Tusla deals with matters of sexual abuse in so far as children are concerned. Mr. Justice Iarfhlaith O'Neill examined two protected disclosures, the contents of which I did not see or have knowledge of. He had contact with everybody involved and he then drafted terms of reference that were broad enough to include Tusla. Separate from that-----
No, that is wrong.
-----the Supreme Court judge who was appointed to head up the commission of investigation said that the terms of reference as drafted by Mr. Justice O'Neill were broad enough to cover all the issues that were raised on the "Prime Time" programme on the Thursday night.
The Taoiseach continues to brazen it out-----
Deputy McDonald, you are usually very orderly.
This is unbelievable.
I call Deputy Zappone to respond.
Is Deputy O'Sullivan asking if the question she has raised is one of the six submitted?
I have received answers from Tusla. We have sent them to the McCabes and are waiting to hear back from them in terms of whether or not as far as they are concerned they are correct. When I get that response I will be happy to share it.
Will the information be put into the public domain?
May I respond to the Deputy's question regarding the decision not to inform the McCabes?
I call Deputy Billy Kelleher.
The Tánaiste has not answered my question.
I do not have that information at present. The only place where there is any information about that of which I am aware at this point is in the file that the Ministers, Deputies Zappone and Harris, have in relation to the contacts of HSE and counsellors. I do not have that information but I will try to get it in terms of reply to the questions from Sergeant McCabe in regard to the contact between the counsellor and the HSE and so on. If I can get any information that I can give to Sergeant McCabe I will do that. I must, however, make the point that if it is connected with the establishment of and central to the issues that are to be examined by the tribunal of inquiry then it would be unfair to other parties to do so because it would be seen as a preferential response to one party. As I said already, that is my legal advice. I do have to be careful that I do not do that. None of us would want to see that happen because it would mean that other parties could say that the origins of the tribunal of inquiry were unfair to them. I have to be careful in terms of what precise information I can give.
My question is to the Minister for Health. The HSE statement of last Saturday states: "The HSE wishes to confirm that there was an administrative error by a staff member of the HSE National Counselling Service in the referral made at the time", which was August 2013. It goes on to state that the administrative error was brought to the attention of the National Counselling Service in May 2014. It further states that the National Counselling Service responded immediately in May 2014 and corrected the report and brought it to the attention of Tusla and An Garda Síochána and that in line with due process it was brought to the regional manager for data protection and consumer affairs. Given the seriousness of the allegations contained in the report of serious sexual abuse was any internal investigation, other than a preliminary review of procedures, carried out?
The Minister for Children and Youth Affairs said that under section 9 of the 2007 Act a statutory investigation into Tusla is being commenced. Is the Minister for Health considering commencement of a similar investigation? Perhaps both Ministers would respond on whether it will be possible for those statutory investigations to be carried out in conjunction with the tribunal of inquiry?
With the indulgence of the House it would be helpful to my answering Deputy Kelleher's question if I can make available the information that I have from the HSE. Before doing so I would like to clarify that the HSE at national level and I, as Minister for Health, only became aware of the role of the HSE counsellor on Friday evening, whereas other Departments and agencies have been aware of this for some time.
The HSE was advised on Friday afternoon of potential involvement in allegations relating to Sergeant McCabe which had been covered extensively in the media. While the details surrounding the case are currently being determined it would appear that a client was self referred to the HSE's National Counselling Service in July 2013, making an allegation of retrospective abuse. In line with process, this allegation was referred to the HSE's child protection service in the area in August 2013. It is understood that this incident was also previously reported to the Garda Síochána in 2006 but that the DPP did not proceed with a case at that time. It would seem that the client was then contacted by the Garda in May 2014 in relation to the allegation. However, she became concerned that the detail of the allegation as advised to her by the Garda was incorrect. She then - she being the client - contacted the HSE counsellor and advised her of this. The counsellor, in turn, reported the error to the HSE director of counselling. Immediate steps were taken by the director of counselling that very day and it was found that there was an administrative error on the report form. On that day in May 2014 a letter was hand delivered to Tusla child and family services as HSE child and family services had transitioned to Tusla in 2014 and it was marked for the attention of the social work team leader, informing that it had come to the attention of the HSE National Counselling Service that there was an administrative error on a report submitted to its office on 9 August 2013.
The letter described the error and included an amended report with the correct information. This report was dated 14 May 2014.
Go raibh maith agat.
I beg the indulgence of the House because it is important to put this on the record. The letter requested that the original report containing the error be replaced with the correct version of the report, which was enclosed. The Tusla social work team leader advised by phone on 15 May 2014 that the garda in charge of the investigation of this report had been contacted and informed of the error and advised that an amended report would be issued to him. Between 16 May 2014 and 21 July 2014, there were several communications between the HSE and the gardaí clarifying the nature of the error on the form. A letter from the HSE director of counselling to An Garda Síochána clarified that the administrative error occurred as a result of a typographical mistake when information from a report template was cut and pasted into another template, and the letter stated that the inaccurate information in the original report was in one section only, as previously outlined, and did not relate to the person who was alleged to have abused client X but that all other information contained in the report was accurate. Letters were also sent to the client updating her on the actions that had taken place and to the HSE regional director of consumer affairs.
I thank the Minister.
Maybe I can contribute again in a moment.
Could the Minister circulate that?
Could the Minister circulate that?
That is a note available to me which I have-----
I thank the Minister.
No other question was asked. I have to be-----
Could what was not read into the record be circulated?
Is it possible?
On a point of order-----
I have to deal with one at a time.
Could it be circulated?
To be helpful to the House, including Deputy Kelleher, I made information available that is now on the record of the House.
Can it be circulated? It is going on the record.
It is on the record of the House.
Can it be circulated?
It is on the record.
I will arrange for it to be circulated.
Does the Minister, Deputy Zappone, want to intervene?
The information will be circulated.
What is the position on section 9 of the Health Act 2007?
In answer to Deputy Kelleher's substantive question-----
We must proceed.
It is important.
It may well be but-----
These are important matters, but I need the time to answer the questions properly. I have asked the director general of the HSE to carry out a review of the national counselling service and its operations, policies and procedures and to report to me and the Oireachtas health committee. If at that stage we need a further review through HIQA, I will be more than happy to have that.
The note that was read is extremely germane to the whole debate. Following all that clarification, Tusla wrote to Sergeant McCabe in December 2015 and said it was going to investigate whether he was a danger to children. One should bear that in mind. The Minister is now asking the same executive to carry out a root and branch investigation and asking us to have confidence-----
HIQA for Tusla and the Minister for the Health Service Executive.
I am addressing my questions to the trinity of Ministers. They are asking us to have confidence in a root-and-branch investigation carried out by the very management that allowed this mistake to happen.
With regard to the six questions posed by Sergeant McCabe, I see a difference in the responses. The Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Deputy Zappone, has clarified that two questions have been answered and she is sending that information to Sergeant McCabe. With regard to the other four questions, I am not sure what the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality is telling the House. She seems to be speaking out of both sides of her mouth. On the one hand, she is saying the Government will do its best to give the information and, on the other, she is saying it relates to the very essential nature of the inquiry. I fundamentally disagree with her in that practically every judge associated with every inquiry and tribunal has pointed out that if questions were asked in this House and replied to, tribunals would not take so long and would not be as costly. These are six factual questions. Was there a meeting between the HSE and the Garda on the date in question? I seek a "Yes" or "No" answer. The same applies to the other practical questions. The Tánaiste should please confirm tonight which are the questions she says cannot be answered factually and which go to the heart of the proposed independent tribunal.
I have made this very clear. I have been very clear that if it is possible to answer those questions, I will get those answers. My advice is that if at the request of one of the parties to the tribunal we answer some of those questions and they are central to the work of the tribunal, it could invalidate the tribunal. The other parties would then be in a position to go to court and effectively stop the work of the tribunal because it would have been seen as unfair. I absolutely take the point that if we can put information into circulation that answers these questions, we should do it. I will certainly endeavour to do that. That is what I am currently investigating, but I am not in a position to answer them tonight.
They are factual questions.
That is the Deputy's interpretation of them. That has to be determined.
Did a meeting take place between An Garda Síochána-----
That is factual but, in terms of-----
Which one is causing the difficulty?
It is not that any particular one is causing the difficulty. I am making the general point in regard to answering them that we have to be-----
It is totally straightforward. If I or my colleagues can answer the questions, we will answer them. If they turn out to be dangerous in terms of setting up the tribunal and would prejudice the rights of other parties and make a tribunal of inquiry unlikely to go ahead, I do not want to answer them. It is very simple and very straightforward.
There was a mass wringing of hands going on in Leinster House for the last while over this issue. The fact that we are here now discussing a public inquiry is because Maurice and Lorraine McCabe have absolutely no trust in a private inquiry. We have had enough of such inquiries.
In regard to the smear campaign, why is it that we cannot admit that, for the past number of years, anyone who supported Maurice McCabe or wished to listen to what was being said in this House about him was sold the narrative that he had abused people sexually? That is what they said. Therefore, those who supported him were dissuaded from supporting him by virtue of that gossip, innuendo and accusation. The fact of the matter is that while that was going on, the Tusla file existed. How many gardaí knew about that Tusla file? How many in this House knew about the allegations that were being made? When Maurice McCabe appeared before the Committee of Public Accounts, great efforts were made by this House and Members within it to stop him from coming forward. We are here today because we have ignored Maurice McCabe and the other Maurice McCabes who exist.
Does the Deputy have a question?
If we are to have any public inquiry into this, we have to take into consideration the culture that has sent all of those people out sick. Some are now struggling with mental illness. We cannot ignore those people. The Government cannot ignore them. How many in government knew about the allegations that were being made? Even though it might have been gossip, it was gossip that was spread maliciously to take the Government off its game so it would not support Maurice McCabe. All of us in this House knew what was going on.
The Deputy should ask a question. Does the Taoiseach have a response?
I think it is obvious that the entire country feels sympathy because of the pressure and distress experienced by the McCabe family. Did Deputy McGuinness have a meeting with the former Garda Commissioner and did he hear information relevant to a smear campaign against Sergeant McCabe? If he did, what did he do about it?
The Taoiseach knew about it. He knew a long time ago about the accusations that were being made against Maurice McCabe. Everyone in this House knew. Great efforts were made to derail Maurice McCabe and the story that he was telling.
I am moving on.
Everyone knew. The fact of the matter is that it was a deliberate attempt to undermine Maurice McCabe.
Why did the Deputy not tell the investigation that was sitting at that point that he had his meeting? That would have meant that some of these issues he was told about could have been dealt with by the O'Higgins commission.
No, wait one minute.
That would have meant that some of these issues that Deputy McGuinness was talked to about could have been dealt with in the O'Higgins commission.
On legal advice, Tánaiste.
I followed legal advice.
The Deputy followed legal advice.
Like the Minister, Deputy Zappone, I did not want to give legs to something that was totally untrue.
Then what is the Deputy saying the rest of us should have done?
I judged for myself that it was untrue. That is the fact of the matter, but the Government did nothing about Sergeant Maurice McCabe-----
I am sorry, but the Deputy did not want to act on legal advice.
-----until it had been put in the spotlight and it could not cover up anymore.
Deputy McGuinness had direct information-----
I gave it to this House.
-----which is more than anyone else in this House did.
Everyone knew. Do not try to simplify.
Can I ask Deputy McGuinness to please withdraw a statement that he has made on a number of occasions? He has made the accusation that others in this House knew. That is categorically not true. Will the Deputy please withdraw it?
Those of us who were clearly associated with supporting Sergeant Maurice McCabe-----
Then the Deputy should have said that.
-----knew about this, but not everyone in the House.
Not all Members.
I thank the Leas-Cheann Comhairle.
We did not all hear it from the Commissioner, though.
It is notable that the Taoiseach has refused on seven occasions to disclose when he first heard about the smear campaign against Sergeant McCabe. I cannot understand why he set out to mislead people regarding the status of the meeting that the Minister, Deputy Zappone, had by claiming that it was private. What exactly was the Taoiseach trying to achieve there?
I have questions for the Minister, Deputy Zappone. Who approved the deletion of the digital copy of the McCabe file in Tusla? Were the metadata of who created it retained for the public inquiry? Does she know the identity of the person who created that file and what was the role of Tusla's data protection officer in all of this?
I referred before to the meeting of the Minister, Deputy Zappone, with Sergeant McCabe, and that was a meeting that was held as a private meeting, but the Minister had officials with her, an account was taken of that meeting and an account of that is available and was sent by the Secretary General of the Department of Children and Youth Affairs to my own Secretary General last evening. Therefore, the meeting was with the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs with responsibility for Tusla, meeting privately with the McCabe family but in respect of which an official note was taken.
The Minister just said that it was a ministerial meeting.
Can we have-----
That is the status of the meeting.
What does the meeting-----
Be conscious of the time.
That is the status of the meeting.
There are Members who have been here since 6 p.m. I call Deputy Catherine Murphy-----
I am sorry, but I posed more questions to the Minister, Deputy Zappone.
-----and if she does not have questions, we will move on to Deputy Quinlivan.
I posed questions to the Minister about the digital file.
Who deleted that?
It was done-----
I call Deputy Catherine Murphy. I cannot force anyone to answer.
The Minister is about to answer.
She is about to. Please allow her.
It was done at the request of the McCabes.
I call Deputy Catherine Murphy.
There is a paper file available that will go to the public inquiry.
Were the metadata retained?
I am sorry-----
Were the metadata retained?
Colleagues, I have been very patient.
Why was the HSE counsellor in contact with the Garda? Obviously, it was someone who had been seconded to Tusla. Being in contact with the Garda was against the Children First guidelines. Why did that happen?
The Minister, Deputy Zappone, stated another garda had been in contact last Friday about a similar situation. If the tribunal of inquiry is extended to include Tusla, is it not then necessary to include that other file and, by definition, another whistleblower?
Let me be perfectly clear. I had communication from another Garda whistleblower. I did not say that it was explicitly about a similar type of case, but there was engagement between Tusla and the Garda. I am agreeing to meet the garda at the request of Deputies Kelly and Pearse Doherty.
What about my other question on Children First?
I am sorry-----
It was a breach.
That will be a part of the investigation.
My question is for the Taoiseach. In response to a question from my party colleague, Deputy Adams, the Taoiseach stated that it was irrelevant when he first became aware of the false allegations against Sergeant Maurice McCabe. Numerous Deputies in this Chamber have asked him that question. We are up to ten Deputies. My question is simple. When did the Taoiseach first become aware of the false allegations against Sergeant Maurice McCabe?
After the "Prime Time" programme last Thursday night.
Who could believe that?
That is unbelievable. It is not fair on the Minister. She told the Taoiseach.
Following on directly from that, the Taoiseach is now saying that he first became aware of it after the "Prime Time" programme. On the previous Tuesday, he advised the Minister that he believed that the terms of reference would be adequate to cover the allegations. Is that not correct? That is my understanding. There is no way that the Taoiseach could have accurately and comprehensively advised her of that unless he was aware. He has said that he was not aware of any of the detail except that there had been a false allegation of sexual abuse. Unless he was aware that this specifically related to a smearing of Sergeant McCabe by members of the Garda Síochána, he could not possibly in any reasonable way have reassured the Minister that that was covered by the terms of reference. That is not possible or credible.
Is the Taoiseach aware of whether any other member of the Cabinet was contacted by Sergeant McCabe about these allegations or by any other garda?
I have answered this before. Mr. Justice Iarfhlaith O'Neill responded after assessing and examining two protected disclosures. The Deputy will be aware that one cannot see or read the protected disclosures because they go to a particular Minister; therefore, the Cabinet was considering the terms of reference drafted by Mr. Justice O'Neill to cover all of the issues in respect of the people that he had contact with arising from the two protected disclosures. The Minister for Children and Youth Affairs is the Minister responsible for Tusla. Tusla deals with allegations of sexual misconduct against children. Clearly, the terms of reference were flexible enough to cover Tusla-----
The Taoiseach did not know about those allegations before Thursday. He just said that.
-----and that was agreed by the justice who was appointed to look after the commission of investigation, who said that the terms of reference were sufficiently flexible to deal with the issues but also to deal with all of the evidence that he had seen arising from the "Prime Time" programme on the Thursday night.
They could only have been flexible enough if the Taoiseach was aware that there was an element of discretion.
"Criminal misconduct" was the term used.
I want to accommodate-----
There was a second question.
"Criminal misconduct" is the broad term that is used in respect of the protected disclosure and the Cabinet was considering the terms of reference, not drafted by the Cabinet but drafted by Mr. Justice O'Neill, to deal with all of these matters.
The second question.
I am sorry, but I want to accommodate the four Deputies-----
The Taoiseach needs to answer the question.
I cannot force anyone.
Mr. Justice Charleton said that all of the relevant matters that he had seen on the "Prime Time" programme-----
Was the Taoiseach aware of any of the-----
-----on the Thursday night were covered in the terms of reference.
My second question was on whether the Taoiseach was aware of whether any other member of the Cabinet had been contacted by Sergeant McCabe or any other garda in respect of these allegations.
Excuse me? Was any other member of the Cabinet-----
Is the Taoiseach aware of whether any other member of the Cabinet has been contacted by Sergeant McCabe or any other garda in respect of these allegations?
I am not so aware.
I want to accommodate Deputies Griffin, Ó Snodaigh, Pringle and Mattie McGrath. Please-----
I am sorry, but I had raised my hand.
Before the Leas-Cheann Comhairle entered the Chamber.
To be honest, I thought that it was a mistake.
No, it was not a mistake.
Normally. The Minister of State will understand.
Her name was in early on.
I am calling Deputy Griffin.
That is fine.
I will get to the Minister of State.
I am happy to give the floor to the Minister of State. I saw her name on the list when I went down.
I have been here for nearly three hours now and I have listened carefully to the debate. I suppose that some Deputies in this Chamber have said that people misled them and told lies, which is totally false.
This is completely inappropriate.
We are not in a court of law. We are in the Dáil Chamber.
We are here to ask questions.
The Government must be accountable to the House.
We are not the judges. We are not the jury.
We are here to ask questions.
Above all, we are not the executioners. Now I have a question.
Come on, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle.
A question, please.
This is a speech.
Some people believe they are all of the above.
The Minister of State has a right to ask questions.
I have a question for the Taoiseach, the Tánaiste and the Ministers, Deputies Zappone and Harris. It is simple.
I want them to give a commitment here this evening that every assistance will be given by their Department to the public inquiry and that they will help the McCabe family, in fairness and truth, to be able to get on again with their lives. The Government owes that to them. I ask that of the Taoiseach and the three Ministers.
Will the Taoiseach and each Minister give every assistance?
The Minister of State, Deputy Catherine Byrne, can rest assured that the issue is to determine the truth of whether there was a deliberate smear campaign by senior gardaí against Sergeant McCabe. The tribunal of inquiry must be comprehensive, fair and balanced to all persons associated with it. We understand the stress, pressure and distress of the McCabe family. The Minister of State can take it that I speak on behalf of the other Ministers that the facilities and resources necessary to do this properly will be provided.
The Taoiseach is speaking on behalf of all four.
My question is for the Tánaiste. She stated earlier that she met Maurice and Lorraine McCabe a while ago. What transpired at that meeting and what allegations or facts did they divulge to the Tánaiste when they met her? Is she positive that they made no disclosure regarding the false allegations of sexual abuse made against Maurice as part of the smear campaign we are now hearing more and more about? If they disclosed anything it would give the lie to the Tánaiste's account tonight.
Deputy Howlin raised the matter on Thursday morning on Leaders' Questions.
I do not believe they did not raise any question at that time about one of the most serious allegations they have about a smear campaign with the Tánaiste, given what was transpiring in the life of Maurice McCabe and his family?
It is two years since I met them and I have a detailed note of the meeting. It was about a range of issues that Sergeant Maurice McCabe was concerned about at that time. The Deputy is rushing to judgment again because at that point-----
I just asked a question.
-----Sergeant Maurice McCabe did not know about the series of false allegations that had been made, the referral to Tusla and the file that had been created that we all now know about. Of course he knew that an historical allegation that had been made against him had been dismissed by the Director of Public Prosecutions.
My question is for the Tánaiste. The Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Deputy Zappone, has already answered two of the six questions posed by Sergeant McCabe in his questionnaire. If I heard the Tánaiste correctly, she said earlier that the reason she could not answer the four questions that apply directly to the Garda is that she could possibly risk prejudicing the tribunal. Is it the Tánaiste's contention that the Minister, Deputy Zappone, has prejudiced the tribunal by answering the two questions that apply directly to her? If not, why can the Tánaiste not answer the remaining four questions?
I have already made it clear that if I am in a position to answer those questions that Sergeant McCabe posed then of course I will. They do go to the heart of what is going to be investigated by the tribunal. One question is "Who was the garda or gardaí who engaged in phone conversations with a HSE counsellor about the false rape allegation?" As the false rape allegation is central to the tribunal of inquiry, I must be careful about how I deal with the question, but that is not because I want to hide anything it is because I do not want to impugn the tribunal process in any way. If I am in a position to respond to those questions, I will.
The Tánaiste has less than 24 hours to do it.
It beggars belief that the Taoiseach could tell the House tonight that the first he heard of the serious sexual abuse allegations was on "Prime Time" last week. I do not know who the Taoiseach is talking to all night in his ear piece or who is listening or if there is a third or fourth person in the House or someone outside advising him.
The Deputy should concentrate on the question.
Yes, but the Taoiseach is not concentrating because he is listening to someone else.
He is listening to the Deputy.
He did not hear what he should have heard.
He is listening to the Deputy.
If he did not hear the allegation before last Thursday night it is time for him to move over and make room for someone else. I said earlier that I have no faith in Tusla.
They are like vultures over there. They are circling around him already.
I have no faith in Tusla whatsoever. If the Taoiseach did not know, he should have known, as should the line Minister. The sooner Tusla is reined in, and the HSE with it, and made accountable to this House or to someone, the better. This kind of carry on is totally unacceptable. I do not know to whom the Taoiseach is listening, whether it is the man in the moon or somebody else but we are not all eejits.
I assure the Deputy that I was listening to him and I had to take out the ear piece because he has blown the head off me.
It is about time the Taoiseach listened to someone.
As I said in respect of the "Prime Time" programme, that became very clear. Deputy McGuinness made comments here but he did not specify what the issue was. In respect of the allegations of the smear campaign, that became perfectly obvious after the RTE programme.
I referred to a question earlier in regard to a letter that came to me through Deputy Micheál Martin about the process that was involved in carrying out an investigation of a case a number of years ago where it had been determined by the Director of Public Prosecutions that no further action should be taken. I have put that on the record already.
I welcome the opportunity for the Dáil to ask questions on this very important matter. I also welcome the fact that the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs has given a commitment to meet with Garda Harrison, but I am conscious that there may be many others in similar situations who were afraid to come forward up to now or for various reasons who feel they have relevant information and an important input to make in the context of the tribunal. Could I ask if a specific point of contact will be established in the Government for such individuals so that we could provide every opportunity to facilitate those people in order that they can be heard?
As far as the tribunal of inquiry is concerned, that would be a matter for Mr. Justice Charleton to determine. If people want to come forward it would be up to him to decide the exact mechanisms he would make available to them. Once the tribunal is established that is how the matter would be handled. When the tribunal is established it will be under the direct control of the judge as opposed to these Houses.
As this is the final question I would like to give the Taoiseach the opportunity to clarify the record of the Dáil. He just said in response to my colleague, Deputy Quinlivan, that the first he heard of the false allegations being made against Sergeant Maurice McCabe was after the "Prime Time" programme on Thursday night. Obviously he is not aware that Deputy Howlin raised those allegations earlier that day during Leaders' Questions. Does he honestly expect anyone to believe he did not hear of those allegations until the airing of the "Prime Time" programme when they were aired on the floor of this Chamber six or seven hours prior to the programme being broadcast?
Deputy Howlin raised a matter here in respect of which he was pulled up by the Ceann Comhairle for his actions. Had Deputy Jonathan O'Brien heard those allegations before?
I am asking the Taoiseach the questions.
And I am telling him that I heard it after the "Prime Time" programme. I have already said that three times.
Did the Taoiseach not hear Deputy Howlin?
The Taoiseach should be allowed to speak without interruption.
Yes. Of course I heard him, and I heard the Ceann Comhairle and I answered Deputy Howlin.
The Taoiseach just said, "Of course I heard him."
The Deputy should not interrupt.
I have already put on the record in respect of a letter that was received about a case that the Director of Public Prosecutions had heard and had dismissed.
The Taoiseach just said he heard Deputy Howlin.
The Deputy should please not interrupt.
That letter was about the process of examination and the way the procedure was dealt with.
In accordance with the order of the House that completes questions and answers. We now move on to the motion re the North-South interconnector.