Third Interim Report of the Disclosures Tribunal: Statements (Resumed)

First, I compliment Mr. Justice Charleton on the efficient way in which he dealt with the tribunal and on the clear report he submitted afterwards. He was unambiguous in his comments on the various issues raised. He has shown the Government and the State how a tribunal can be run efficiently and over a short time. I also acknowledge Sergeant Maurice McCabe's role in the tribunal and its outcome. I am satisfied that the tribunal heard his version of events, and the tribunal was clear in its acknowledgement that he was vindicated in everything he did and said.

As for the Government and the apology to Sergeant McCabe, it was the most blatant, brazen piece of hypocrisy I have seen in a long time. Sergeant McCabe was telling his story for 12 years, describing what was happening and highlighting issues in the force, yet the Government stood idly by and did nothing. In fact, the time for the apology and intervention was when the current Taoiseach, Deputy Varadkar, said as a Minister that Maurice McCabe's actions were distinguished, not disgusting. However, the Government sat on its hands and watched as that family was put through torture during those years.

The Minister for Justice and Equality continues to preside over a Department that appears to be dysfunctional. I have seen no evidence of the reform that was promised. There are many examples of that, such as the current hearings of the Committee of Public Accounts with prison officers, including Noel McGree. To say that the replies to all the questions I have asked in this House were economical with the truth and misleading in their content is an understatement. The Department feels it is okay to stand over that. Now that the Minister has been converted to examining the actions of the Department and is showing a willingness to say when he is wrong, will he tell John Wilson, Noel McGree and the two female whistleblowers I am aware of that he was wrong? Will he intervene now and tell them he is sorry for what the State has done to them? Will he give them a chance to get their lives back on track, as he should? I doubt it, because he does not have the backbone to do it. That is the sorry aspect of what is happening.

The tribunal came and went and left its report behind. The Minister appears to think that the dogs will bark and the caravans will move on. However, the country has taken a turn. There is a demand now for truth and justice from all of us who serve, but the people are not getting truth and justice from the Department; they are getting anything but that. The Government has to be dragged, kicking and screaming, to court or through tribunals before it will acknowledge what is happening to individuals in the employment of the State. I have given the Minister the examples and I have asked him to intervene. Perhaps he will tell us what he intends to do about it.

A motion was passed by the House relating to the investigation of the death of Shane O'Farrell. The Government has taken no action to implement the desire of the Opposition to have that matter investigated. It lets Shane's mother, Lucia, his father and sisters wallow in the sorrow of losing him and will not intervene. The Government fails to understand the devastation it has visited on their lives by not recognising them. Ultimately, the motion was passed in the House but nothing was done about it. If the confidence and supply arrangement meant anything it should make a difference in people's lives. Under that arrangement Fianna Fáil should step up to the plate and tell the Government to act on the motion or else. That is what we are coming to because the State and the Government are presiding over the beating up of our citizens by Departments.

Similar to the actions of Sergeant Maurice McCabe, other State employees have come forward and given disclosures. To say they have been treated badly is, again, an understatement. Their lives have been ruined. In some cases they are professionals and their careers have been ruined. There are other cases, such as Douglas Fannin and the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine. The Department has not dealt with it. It just continues to ignore it and to pull people through the courts. Last week, the Department of Defence went to the High Court. The Department was totally wrong and had given incorrect and inaccurate replies to parliamentary questions.

In the Morrissey v State case the Department of Defence lost. Thankfully that young man is now taking his place in the Cadet School.

I have just highlighted a few cases but I shall also speak about one other case where, again, the House set up an investigation and to this day we do not know what is happening. I refer to the Grace case. Individuals who were mentally and physically challenged and non-verbal were abused while in the care of the State. The State is sitting on its hands rather than dealing efficiently and factually with the cases of Grace and the 47 other individuals. What more do we have to do in this House in the context of debating the issues, of highlighting the issues and of getting action from a Government that quite frankly does not seem to care? The only reason the Minister apologised is because he was flushed out and the matter came out into the open. The State could not beat Maurice McCabe but there are many others out there who the Government seems prepared to beat. The Government is currently dealing with the case of John Barrett. I wonder why that is coming about and what is going to happen.

When individual citizens raise issues in this State, the Government's answer is to bring the house down around the person, to push him or her to the pin of the collar and to break careers, families and health. There is no response from the Government and no showing of humanity or compassion. There is no attempt to bring in the necessary reforms to stop all of this from happening again and again. People turn to this House for direction and leadership. They turn to this House for protection. They believe they are doing the right thing. If one was to ask Maurice McCabe I would say he is doubtful whether he would do it all over again. He has, however, done an enormous service to the State and he is to be commended on what he did. He should be protected for what he did. The others should also be protected for what they did. I have given the names to the Minister, and I have often mentioned them in public. Out of all of those cases and from the motion that was passed, I believe the Shane O'Farrell case is one that clearly demonstrates to people that the State and the Government have no interest unless they are pushed to the point where action has to happen. By that point, the families are generally broken.

The Minister, Deputy Flanagan, and his Government, have an awful lot to answer for. The political system in this House has an awful lot to answer for. The confidence and supply arrangement has a lot to answer for because it does not demand transparency and accountability. Where it sees the need for accountability, such as the motion on the Shane O'Farrell case, it is not prepared to do anything else. That is just an exercise in voicing an opinion about things rather than an exercise to put in place fair play, justice and an acknowledgment that the State should not beat up families or ignore them. The State should do the opposite; it should show compassion, humanity and an attempt to deal with the reality of the lives of the people who are being destroyed by the inaction of the State.

Go raibh maith agat a Leas-Cheann Comhairle. Nuair a chuaigh mé abhaile aréir bhí seans agam féachaint ar chlár ar TG4, an clár ar a dtugtar "Finné". Bhain an clár sin le cad a tharla d'Osgur Breatnach agus do dhaoine eile sna 1970í. Chuir an clár sin na rudaí a tharla in iúl dúinn, rudaí uafásacha, rudaí náireacha. Osgur Breatnach and others were accused and convicted for taking part in the Sallins train robbery. This was due to appalling, cruel and inhumane treatment by certain gardaí who became known as the heavy gang. This group took part in beatings, assaulted prisoners, questioned them throughout the night without any breaks and did not allow them access to lawyers. Prisoners were beaten so badly that afterwards they said they were prepared to sign anything for fear of the violence continuing. The court heard garda after garda saying that the men had beaten themselves up. The men were eventually freed.

Chuala mé ar an gclár sin mar gheall ar an rud a tharla ansin go raibh seans go dtarlódh sé arís. This is exactly what has happened in the years since. We remember the cases of Joanne Hayes, Peter Pringle, Frank McBrearty, Frank Shortt and others, and now the case of Maurice McCabe. The common denominator is the unjust, wrong, immoral and unethical behaviour by some in the Garda, and by some within the Garda who are leaders. We are aware of the saying, leading by example, but the kind of leadership that was implied in that was not what came from leadership in An Garda Síochána.

Apart from the victims of this injustice, I feel for the members of the Garda who have been doing their job in a conscientious, diligent and honest way in serving the public. In common with other Members, I know the gardaí in my constituency of Dublin Central, from the community gardaí to the chief superintendent. They do a very difficult and demanding job. Because of some issues that have arisen in the north inner city of Dublin, this work is sometimes done at risk to their own lives. They do the job well. No matter what branch of public service or what career or occupation one is in, there will always be people who are not suited to a job and there should be an exit strategy. There should be a strategy for helping them while in the job and, if necessary, an exit strategy. Recommendation No. 14 of the Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland report is a review of the current system of discipline and suggestions for guidance, advice or training. The Charleton report and the report on the future of policing in Ireland need to go together. I am struck by one section of the commission's report on learning and development strategy that refers to training - including continuous professional development - and in-service training for gardaí. I believe that this includes supports, be it training or counselling in the Garda, including the applied suicide intervention skills training, which should be mandatory if it is not already.

We have had a damning report from Mr. Justice Charleton. It is damning of Tusla, of the HSE, of journalists and of gardaí. It is like a report card that says there is much room for improvement from everybody. In all of that, lives were damaged. After a controversy we say it will never happen again and that we have learned lessons, but unfortunately we do not learn and the same continues. There is an opportunity now, with the two reports from Charleton and from the Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland, if the recommendations and points become a reality. If that happens the structures will be in place to prevent the same from happening again or if it does happen, there would be robust procedures to deal with it.

An initiative we have in the north inner city of Dublin has been ongoing for more than ten years. It came out of the prevalent heroin issue at the time 12 or 13 years ago and is called the community policing forum, CPF. The staff work with residents, the local authority Dublin City Council, DCC, and with the Garda. Meetings held are open to the public where DCC and gardaí - including some quite senior ranking gardaí such as the chief superintendent - take questions and criticism from the public. This can also happen privately, but these forums are a form of accountability and transparency that could be replicated. The policing commission is very supportive of that model. I believe it is the kind of model that can prevent some of the types of cases in the State that we are aware of, where there are questions around the lack of thorough investigations, or where there are no investigations at all.

The seven obligations, as outlined by Mr. Justice Charleton, are the way forward. The first obligation is for gardaí "to take pride in their work and in their uniform." We know that Garda pride has taken a battering. The obligations include the principle of honesty and the need for visibility. This is very much appreciated by communities because they want to see gardaí on the streets and they want to know them. In Dublin inner city we had the small area policing initiative, which is the essence of what is contained in the Charleton report. It is a model of partnership, social responsibility, continuous learning, innovation and improvement. It tried to highlight the values of honesty, accountability, respect and professionalism. If that model had been used in all Garda divisions we may not have been having this debate today.

Other principles from the Charleton report were about politeness, diligence to service and an obligation to the public, instead of what happens such as circling of the wagons and defending the indefensible.

With all of this going on I was struck by a play that I always enjoyed teaching; The Crucible by Arthur Miller - and by John Proctor's line, "How may I live without my name?" In the cases we referred to earlier people's good names were taken because of the rush to judgment instead of looking at all of the facts and waiting until everything was known.

We need those proper structures in place and this is the opportunity to do so now. The other aspect that has come out, which is very valuable, is that good names have been restored to those who lost them.

I will start by paying tribute to Maurice McCabe and his family. It is of vital importance to wish them well. He and his family have had to wait 12 years to get to this stage. It is only because Maurice McCabe was resilient enough and was able to withstand the process that we are at this stage. That is the really sad and worrying thing about the system we have at present. Unfortunately, it is a system we have always had. People from republican backgrounds have known what the system is like and how it has worked. They know how members of the Garda have worked with impunity and can do whatever they want and that this has always been the way. It is only when we see the issue widening out into the wider community that we can see the extent of it, its importance and the impact it can have on people. People who live with and grow up with this kind of corruption and this kind of treatment become immune to it and expect nothing else. Ordinary citizens deserve an awful lot better, however.

We have seen what has actually gone on here. I myself have heard a former Minister for Justice and Equality say in this House, in respect of the investigations that went on in Donegal about which the Morris tribunal went on for years, that the only thing at that time was to make sure that it only affected Donegal and stayed in Donegal. It was the modus operandi of the Department of Justice and Equality and of the Garda to make sure that it was a Donegal issue and to suggest that things were different up there when, in fact, the problem is right across the country. The only way to deal with the issue is to recognise that and deal with it. I do not think it is going to happen. Unfortunately I think that we will be here in a couple of years' time talking about somebody else. That is really sad because there is an opportunity to make this happen.

It is also sad for the ordinary members - the people who are joining the Garda now with, perhaps, the hope of making a change or of serving their community. Someone at the top cannot be corrupt unless everybody surrounding him or her is also corrupt because such a person cannot get to the top without cover. Such people will not surround themselves with straight people because straight people will look and ask what they are doing and what is going on. It therefore permeates the whole way through the system. The only way we can have faith in the Garda in the future is to make sure that everybody at the rank of superintendent and above resigns or is retired and paid off. That is the only way we can ensure that this will never happen again. Even at that, we can only ensure that it will never happen again if the proper scrutiny is there, the proper way of looking at the issue is there, and the proper people are in place.

We have seen this report come out and we have seen Maurice McCabe being vindicated but, unfortunately, I have no faith that this will not happen again or that we will make sure that it will not. It is going to happen again. That is the sad thing about it. I have been sitting here for six years. I may not be the person dealing with it next time. It may not be Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan or the Minister either, but we will be back here dealing with the same issues. Unfortunately, that is the way it will be.

I am sure all Members of the House will join with me in expressing the hope that the publication of the recent report by the disclosures tribunal will represent a turning point for Sergeant Maurice McCabe, his wife, Lorraine, and his family. Since its publication I have spoken with Sergeant McCabe directly in order to express my personal good wishes for him, Lorraine, and his family. No words of mine could describe better than Mr. Justice Charleton's the great wrongs which were done to Maurice McCabe by those in senior positions in An Garda Síochána and, indeed, by the prevailing culture. The tribunal's report sets out eloquently and unsparingly the deeply troubling realities we have to confront. Mr. Justice Peter Charleton had an onerous and complex task. He is entitled to the fullest of appreciation for the thorough and expeditious manner in which he did this. He has discharged his task fully in the public interest. There are, of course, many issues outlined in the report. Deputies have referred to some of them. It must now be considered in detail and responded to comprehensively. Above all, we now have an independent and objective assessment of the facts, which was the reason we in this House decided to establish the tribunal in the first place.

On a personal note, I want to acknowledge that Sergeant McCabe has, and did in the past, make clear that he had no criticisms of me or of how I dealt with the matters in question. His approach, both in November and when appearing personally at the tribunal, contrasted greatly with what I experienced in the Dáil in November and in the responses from some political parties more recently. I can live my life quite contentedly without an apology from the Deputies involved but none of us should stand for an attempt to rewrite facts. For too long, some of the matters at the centre of this report have been approached by others on the basis of what they choose to believe and assert, rather than the facts that have been established. Some Deputies were willing to pay more attention to what is described in the report as "snippets" of information. More Deputies piled in when details of the serious mistakes in Tusla emerged and implied that An Garda Síochána must have been involved. The Minister, Deputy Zappone, will address some of those issues later.

A very understandable concern at how Sergeant McCabe was treated sometimes set at nought the right of others to a good name. As I said in the Dáil, we were in danger of trying to remedy one injustice by creating others. That is something we all need to reflect on when considering this report. In this House we were unwilling to wait for Mr. Justice Charleton to look at these matters, despite the fact that he was doing so at the request of the Oireachtas.

The House will remember that I established the disclosures tribunal on 17 February 2017 following receipt of very disturbing information through protected disclosures made by a member of An Garda Síochána to me in my then capacity as Minister for Justice and Equality. I referred that information to Mr. Justice Iarfhlaith O'Neill and requested that he review the allegations of wrongdoing contained in those disclosures. In light of his inquiries, Mr. Justice O'Neill concluded that he was not in a position to make a determination on the truth or falsehood of the allegation and that a commission of investigation should be established. There were extensive discussions here with all Deputies on all sides of the House, with all spokespeople on justice and so on, as well as with the McCabe family, and we agreed that we would establish the tribunal.

I hope that Deputies can accept, in the light of the findings of the Charleton report, that the allegations relating to former Commissioner Nóirín O'Sullivan were not upheld. One thing is clear. The thrust of the charges made then was that Commissioner O'Sullivan had improperly tried to undermine Sergeant Maurice McCabe at the O'Higgins commission where, it was asserted, he was being treated completely inappropriately and that I, my Department, or both had either conspired with or acquiesced in that approach. The tribunal finds that no such situation requiring intervention by me as a Minister occurred before the O'Higgins commission. The judge also notes that a incidental situation could have arisen which would have required the Minister or the Attorney General to intervene. It did not. These allegations have been found by the tribunal to be unsupported by evidence. The tribunal did not find any evidence that the former Commissioner was party to the calumny visited upon Sergeant McCabe or of any wrongdoing on her part in respect of Superintendent Taylor. I take this opportunity to thank the former Commissioner for what I experienced when working with her, that is, her hard work and dedication to An Garda Síochána. Her position was called into question here because of what was alleged to have happened at the O'Higgins commission, which it now transpires did not happen at all. I know the personal and family toll which unsubstantiated allegations can bring.

Of course, on a personal level I am pleased that I was found to have acted appropriately and to have used my judgment well and that my evidence has been accepted as truthful. While by last November I had moved from the Department of Justice and Equality, Mr. Justice Charleton found that the Department had acted quite properly in respect of the commission. In fact, there are many dedicated public servants in the Department of Justice and Equality, notwithstanding the changes and reforms that have been recommended.

It is deeply worrying that politicians would use the shelter of Parliament to defame public servants. Had someone done this outside the House legal recourse would have been possible and predictable but inside the Dáil it is untouchable but printable. Unsupported defamation is walked into our national press wrapped in the cloak of Dáil privilege. Defamation laundering is not what this privilege was designed for. It is tempting to jump to conclusions in complex situations but in both politics and the media, this must be tempered by respect for facts and due process. Equally, in taking measures such as the establishment of the tribunal itself, I have always have had to have regard to the rights of both those making the allegations and those against whom allegations had been made. Those who think that due process and fair procedure can be cast aside for reasons of political expediency do a disservice to the values of our democracy. The public sees right through this. My experience in the past year suggests strongly that the public is very clear about this. I make these points not to engage in any recrimination but to suggest that we all, both inside and outside the House, need to reflect on how, in some instances, what was in effect fake news came to be accepted as true and was acted on to the detriment of others.

A Minister for Justice and Equality cannot assume the truth of all allegations that have been made against others without them having been objectively assessed and everyone involved being treated with basic fairness. The seriousness of allegations or their constant repetition as if they were established fact does not affect the fundamental point in the House. When allegations of wrongdoing are made, they need to be investigated fully and impartially, and that is exactly what Mr. Justice Charleton has done. While not all such allegations warrant the establishment of a tribunal of inquiry, we need to accept the established methods of investigation such as GSOC being ably led by Ms Justice Mary Ellen Ring, the Policing Authority being led by Josephine Feehily and the various recommendations that have now been made by the Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland. These are appropriate places for various issues to be examined.

Of course, we need to examine improvements that can be made in those bodies, the supports we can give them and how we can help them to do their work better, but it is an important principle of the House that we rely on an independent investigation of these matters by those equipped to carry them out. Political playacting should have no part in dealing with such serious issues. I have no doubt that many good members of An Garda Síochána will be disheartened by what is in the report. We need to make a clear distinction between the bad behaviour of a few members, however senior, and the excellent work done by many members of An Garda Síochána. As Minister for Justice and Equality, I recognised that while An Garda Síochána had generally served us well, serious problems, some of which Members have referred to, beset the organisation. Mr. Justice Charleton is very clear about those. Anyone reading his report and his discussion of what the role of An Garda Síochána should be will be impressed.

I congratulate Commissioner Drew Harris on his appointment. Yesterday, he said the findings of Mr. Justice Peter Charleton are a clarion call for action. He said cultural change, which is now so necessary in the Garda, comes from behavioural change. He said his senior team will lead this, including by emphasising the code of conduct. He also said there should be intervention for poor performance involving support, supervision and extra training. He said in cases of serious misconduct where one's trust in an individual is entirely broken the person has no place in the organisation. We all agree with that. He recognises the scale of the challenges he faces. I hope the House will support his work and the work of the Minister, Deputy Flanagan, and the Department in moving forward the reforms.

Mr. Justice Charleton makes a point that is central, which is the leaking of a protected disclosure to the Oireachtas and the media. Those who were the subject of these allegations had little or no opportunity to respond. The concept of the presumption of innocence is fundamental to our legal system. The leaking of this information, which had been provided in accordance with the Protected Disclosures Act 2014, was an abuse of the Act. The legislation was introduced to protect genuine whistleblowers when reporting what they reasonably believed to be genuine wrongs. Of course, we have to support whistleblowers who are attempting to bring various issues to light. We must act on the lessons from Mr. Justice Charleton's report and the extensive reforms under way should greatly assist in avoiding such dark episodes in the future.

I have taken the trouble of reading this report. It is 301 pages, including the afterword. I draw the Minister's attention to the afterword on page 301 which states:

What has been unnerving about more than 100 days of hearings in this tribunal is that a person who stood up for better standards in our national police force, Sergeant Maurice McCabe, and who exemplified hard work in his own calling, was repulsively denigrated for being no more than a good citizen and police office...The question has to be asked as to why what is best, what demands hard work, is not the calling of every single person...Worse still is the question of how it is that decent people of whom Maurice McCabe emerges as a paradigm are so shamefully treated when rightly they demand that we do better.

I remind the Minister an allegation was made in 2006 without foundation. The DPP saw no reason to prosecute and made that clear. Sergeant McCabe had to endure that false allegation. After 2008, he thought it had gone to bed. It was resurrected in December 2015 and into 2016. It had changed into an allegation of digital rape. Let us just listen to that. In eight years an allegation for which the DPP said there were no grounds for prosecution changes to an allegation of rape.

Unfortunately, Deputy Fitzgerald has left the Chamber but she might look back and read my contribution in the Official Report. I came here two and a half years ago and my first introduction to the Dáil was reading the report of the O'Higgins' commission of investigation relating to Maurice McCabe. It was an absolute eye opener. It was not heeded and here I am two and a half years later reading the report of the Charleton tribunal. The background, as the Ministers who are present in the Chamber, Deputies Flanagan, Zappone and Madigan, know, is we have the Morris tribunal. The latest estimated cost of that is €72 million and rising. Each Government decided it was confined to Donegal and there was no problem anywhere else. This tribunal, Mr. Justice Charleton tells us, is about holding the police force to account. The Morris tribunal was about the same thing. The commission of investigation conducted by Mr. Justice Kevin O'Higgins was about the same thing. I might add that the Toland report on the Department of Justice and Equality and the recommendations made in it were not heeded either. Had any of these been heeded, we would not be here today. It is important to remember that Sergeant McCabe and his family are in the middle of this.

I refer to pages 296 and 297 of the report. We have now gone through all of these tribunals, ending with the disclosures tribunal, to highlight the seven obligations on gardaí. Imagine it takes a tribunal to tell us gardaí should take pride in their uniform. The second obligation is for them to be honest. The third obligation is for them to be visible. Perhaps by the time I finish talking, the Minister might be able to tell me what it has cost us in money and in absolute distress and destruction to family life to learn these seven principles. They are honesty, pride, visibility, politeness. The fourth obligation is that gardaí should be polite. Number five is they should serve the people of Ireland. Diligence and application to duty are expected of all, not moaning. The sixth obligation is to treat the public well and to treat the public as superior to any false sense that individual policemen and policewomen should stick up for each other. The seventh is self-analysis. Those seven principles should not have cost what they did. Those seven principles should apply to each and every one of us in the Dáil. If those seven principles had been taken seriously by the Dáil, we would not have had the Charleton tribunal. Even now the former Minister, Deputy Fitzgerald, is picking certain parts out - I understand where she is coming from in terms of her position - but there is much more serious content in this report that should be referred to by any Minister standing up in the Dáil.

What came out of this? We have a Garda force that has an utter inability to self-analyse and learn from its mistakes and that is crying out for leadership. The report tells us the former Commissioner was not believable on certain evidence set out. That is who was leading the Garda force. It quite rightly praises many gardaí on the ground and identifies those who are honest. However, the report's findings regarding the former Commissioner are absolutely shocking.

With regard to what it found on Tusla, I have a certain empathy and sympathy with the Minister, Deputy Zappone, on how she will deal with those damning findings. They are truly damning findings of a genuine mistake, which is difficult to understand, on the part of the counsellor. When she did find out, she did her absolute damnedest to correct the mistake. In 2016, Sergeant McCabe and his wife got a letter accusing him of digital and anal rape even though the counsellor had corrected the file in 2014. It is quite clear from this report that just about everyone who mattered in Tusla knew this was wrong and everyone who mattered at the senior level in the Garda Síochána knew. It is set out that a person - I forget his rank but it was quite high - knew but delayed and did not tell those in the upper echelons in Dublin that this was a false allegation. I will go through it.

The words are damning. Page 72 refers to Tusla, which is a name I cannot get my tongue around because it is an abuse of language. It is supposed to be mean "the start of a new day" but it is not spelled right. It might give an indication as to what happened with that organisation because "tús lá" or "tús lae" becomes "Tusla".

When the matter of the file is followed up again inexplicably, Mr. Justice Charleton states:

The tribunal cannot identify the mind [I would have preferred if he had said "the person"] behind the decision to revive the matter at that point but the tribunal regards the explanation of mere coincidence as wholly unconvincing. As to whether it was either Laura Connolly or Eileen Argue or someone directing either of them, there is insufficient evidence to make a decision. The reality is that someone within TUSLA realised that they had what they perceived to be unfinished business with Maurice McCabe and decided that for the avoidance of trouble, the business should [...] be dealt with. This was not, as was related to the tribunal, a coincidence. It is very disappointing [I would say "unacceptable"] that the tribunal could not have been told by TUSLA what [...] happened.

A file was subsequently sent to the regional unit in Dublin which, Mr. Justice Charleton writes, was "filleted". By the time it came before the tribunal, it had returned to its full contents. Will the Minister explain that?

On page 74, Mr. Justice Charleton states that the error is:

shocking administrative incompetence. Reviewing this account of error upon error, of not attending to duty upon not attending to duty, of not abiding by guidelines and of reporting the same matter multiple times to the police, when the police had in fact originally referred the matter to social services, the tribunal is left utterly dispirited.

I would not use the word "dispirited" but that is the word he uses.

Elsewhere, he writes that he does not accept that the former Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan's evidence is trustworthy. He mentions "hideous [...] bizarre coincidences". I would not use that language but I think he is taking the best interpretation. Having read the whole report, I find it impossible not to conclude it was somewhat more sinister than what he described, although that just is my personal opinion. He has explained what happened as "hideous [...] bizarre coincidences". He also writes about "a change of culture" and the principles I have outlined.

Behind all of this, if Sergeant McCabe had not persisted with his family's support, if he had not taken the precaution of making a recording, if my colleagues who are not present had not spoken out, namely, Deputies Clare Daly, Wallace, McGuinness and Deasy, or if not for the Committee of Public Accounts, this would not have come to light. That is shocking. When I hear Deputy Fitzgerald use her time to defend herself, it is disappointing. The time should be used to realise what he wrote, such as: "Ní féidir an dubh a chur ina gheal, ach seal. [One can only deceive for so long.]" If the right questions are put, we are halfway to getting the replies. This was unnecessary but the deception will continue unless there is leadership from the top and from the Dáil, not by taking the matter personally but by saying it is a problem, we welcome the questions and we will endeavour to provide answers. We would have much fewer tribunals and commissions of inquiry.

The report of the disclosures tribunal has fully vindicated Garda Sergeant Maurice McCabe. The tribunal chair, Mr. Justice Peter Charleton, excoriated those who stood in opposition to the stance taken by Sergeant McCabe. The report acknowledged his dedication as a public servant. I agree wholeheartedly and believe this extends beyond his role as a public servant. As a citizen of the State, he made huge personal sacrifices which will make the country a better place. As a member of the Government and as Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, I have apologised unreservedly to Maurice and Lorraine McCabe and their family for the failures which could have destroyed their lives. There are no words to express this adequately. The grace under pressure shown by Maurice McCabe throughout the experience is an example to us all.

As Minister with responsibility for Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, the forthright message from Mr. Justice Charleton is clear. In its mildest interpretation, Tusla needs a radical shape up. I have read comments attributed to Tusla management that politicians, Government and the media need to fall in behind the Tusla message because negative coverage does not help with its aim of recruiting and retaining staff. The foreword to the Tusla business plan of 2018 states:

2017 has undoubtedly been the most challenging year yet faced by the Agency, predominantly because of an unprecedented level of external scrutiny including a programme of inspections and investigation by the Health Information and Quality Authority, as well as a Tribunal of Inquiry, Commission of Inquiry and investigations by the Data Protection Commissioner, Ombudsman and Ombudsman for Children. The Agency was also requested to appear on numerous occasions before the Public Accounts Committee and Joint Oireachtas Committee on Children and Youth Affairs.

Let me contrast this with the remarks of Mr. Justice Charleton from the report:

A public body, paid for by the taxpayer, has a fundamental duty of self-scrutiny in pursuit of the highest standards. The administration of TUSLA was sorely lacking in application and in dedication to duty.

This morning I met with the board of Tusla and we discussed these remarks. I told it that I need its assurances on self-scrutiny and that in order to assure me it will have to assure itself first. I look forward to receiving these assurances.

All of our agencies need scrutiny, both self-scrutiny and external scrutiny. I know the Oireachtas joint committee and the Committee of Public Accounts will continue to do their duty of external scrutiny and insist on Tusla’s presence at committees. I will also continue to insist on external scrutiny. I also read to the board some of the quotations that Deputy Connolly has just read.

I directed the Health Information and Quality Authority, HIQA, to carry out a statutory investigation on Tusla. I did not wait for the results of the tribunal. It was clear to me and many others from what we knew about how Tusla handled the information regarding Maurice McCabe that there could be a serious risk to the health and welfare of children. The report of HIQA's statutory investigation was published in June 2018 and its findings are echoed in the tribunal's report. The Cavan-Monaghan area was looked at by HIQA once the tribunal had finished its work. It is no surprise that the action plan to address the finding of the statutory investigation, which I ordered, will underpin the reforms of the Cavan-Monaghan area. These improvements should tackle head on the deficits that were fully aired in the tribunal's third interim report.

This is necessary, constructive and badly needed scrutiny. As I mentioned, I met with the board of Tusla this morning and we discussed the tribunal's findings. I make no apology for the need for constructive and badly needed scrutiny. I have asked for a formal response to the report which will set out the evidence of change that will prevent a person's reputation being traduced in this way from ever happening again.

The report makes clear that the root cause of Tusla's failures in this case was not some dark conspiracy but simply incompetence. The reforms necessary to address this will be overseen by the board of Tusla. Tusla has said it is addressing the findings by re-organising and improving management and governance arrangements, introducing a dedicated specialist team to manage retrospective allegations of abuse that are received, introducing a formal performance management system and increasing quality assurance of policies on the ground.

While it is my belief that funding is not the key to delivering on these reforms, I have secured an increase in funding to Tusla by over €30 million for 2019, so this cannot be an excuse of lack of delivery. Changes are needed and changes are being made.

The tribunal says that its report holds the policing body of this State to account. I can say that it has also held Tusla to account. In the report, the tribunal chair has made stark and significant findings about the managers of the Cavan-Monaghan area and a litany of missed opportunities.

I find it appalling that if the case had been dealt with in accordance with existing policies then none of this might have been necessary. The procedures in place at the time were, as the report says, simply ignored. HIQA made a similar finding – the policies were in place but not being implemented.

The tribunal's conclusions reflected the withering criticisms in the report from the regional manager in Tusla. The stark evidence of the inertia within Cavan-Monaghan is almost incredible, except we knew what had happened to Maurice McCabe. That area management did not face up to the mistakes that were made, seek the guidance of, or report what had happened, to the senior management team is what led to the unspeakable misery visited upon the McCabe family.

If we have learned anything from this it is the absolute necessity of having a culture of openness and integrity. It is the duty of management to guide, support and encourage this culture of openness and integrity. It is the duty of management and staff to correct mistakes when they happen. It is the duty of the board to hold management to account to ensure that this happens. I said this clearly to the board of Tusla this morning. It is my duty as Minister to hold the board to account, and I am doing this.

The tribunal drew attention to the setting up of the sexual abuse regional team. This team was the first of four established and the remaining three areas can expect similar teams to be set up in the near future. This is a key action in response to the HIQA statutory investigation. The tribunal says that the setting up of such a team is a necessary initiative.

As the 2013 notification which is central to the tribunal’s report concerned an allegation of abuse of a person who was an adult at the time of the notification, this case was managed under the policy for retrospective cases. This is a challenging area for Tusla as social workers have to balance child protection and fair procedures towards the person who is the subject to the allegation. A revised policy, replacing the 2014 policy, is to be published shortly. Tusla's revised policy has an eye to fair process and natural justice and builds on the legal framework that has evolved since 2014.

The report from the Disclosures Tribunal on the handling of this case is clearly devastating in its assessment. In truth, thanks to the excellent HIQA investigation we were expecting many of the high level findings in relation to Tusla’s management of allegations of child sexual abuse but reading how these failures devastated the McCabe family was deeply upsetting. My Department has been working with Tusla to progress the reforms since the publication of the report in June this year. However, I was not expecting, and found it utterly shocking, to read the tribunal’s comments on the extent and nature of Tusla’s co-operation with it in its work.

It is helpful to place these on the record of the House.

Tusla were slow to respond to the public request for cooperation by the tribunal. Statements made were laconic to the point of being mysterious. The tribunal had to seek further information and identify witnesses who might cast light on matters, who had not yet revealed themselves. These then had to be called in evidence, as from them emerged important evidence. This kind of holding back is bad enough from a private citizen, never mind a public body.

I spoke to the chair of Tusla about this when the report was published and I spoke to the board about it this morning. I have asked for an explanation. It is simply not acceptable that a Government agency would not co-operate fully with a tribunal of investigation. The board has undertaken to communicate with the tribunal in order to understand the nature of these findings and learn from them.

As we speak here in our Parliament and comment on this most important report, I am thinking of the women and men who, on our behalf, are saving our children in all parts of our country. Right now, a Tusla front-line worker is removing a child from a dangerous situation because she or he is being sexually or physically abused; is intervening for a child that has not been washed or fed; and is comforting a child who has been abandoned or whose parents cannot care for them. They are the people with the courage and resolve to know what is to be done and we must continue to listen to our front-line agency workers. I intend to meet with them to get their views on how we can move forward with the reform of Tusla as we all digest this report.

I wish to start by thanking Mr. Justice Charleton for the time, effort and energy he invested into the writing of this report. His analysis of the evidence is detailed and reflective, his conclusions clear and unarguable and his prose gripping. I am sure that I am not alone in saying that this report is enthralling. I found it hard to put down, due to its author’s ability to expertly carry the reader through the vast amount of evidence gathered, and towards the eventual conclusions. Sometimes it is important for legal analyses to be written in a way that commands attention. This is surely one of those times. I thank Mr. Justice Charleton for this.

The report speaks frequently about truth, which, as a concept, is explored in many different guises. The report calls for greater respect for the truth, indicating that a cultural shift is required to achieve this. In the report’s contents and conclusions, we see that truth is not always easy, or instantaneous, or obvious. We also see that truth can be betrayed, not only through wilful disregard, but also through omission, or careless neglect.

The betrayal of truth leaves many victims. The first among these is clearly Sergeant Maurice McCabe. Is there anyone in this House who would not now echo the words of the Taoiseach, who in 2014 was the first Member of this House to publicly back Sergeant McCabe, calling him honourable.

Systematic opposition and institutional laxity in relation to the defence of truth has taken its toll on Sergeant McCabe and his family. To have false allegations spread through the public sphere, by way of malicious rumours, gossip and leaks, in quiet conversations and corrupted evidence, would be an almost unbearable burden for any individual. Sergeant McCabe’s honour has been restated again in this report, and I hope it is never called into question again. Sergeant McCabe sought to be an advocate for truth. His duty and devotion to public service saw him take the hard road in order to bring to light practices that were unworthy of the organisation and country he sought to serve. He could have kept his head down, hidden himself in the collective, and silently delegated the responsibility to act but he was braver than that. It is hard to speak out against those around us and to put relationships and personal prospects in jeopardy in the pursuit of truth is an act of supreme courage. Humans are social creatures, and the search for group identity and acceptance is inherent. In Sergeant McCabe’s case, his group loyalty was to his country.

The actions of others, some we know by name, such as Superintendent David Taylor, others we read about as a collective such as staff members of Tusla, were less than honourable. Setting out to deliberately spread misinformation, or accidentally failing to provide correct information due to an erosion of responsibility, has consequences which go far beyond reputational damage. They also damage public trust in institutions of the State. This must be taken into account.

In a different way, my colleague and friend, Deputy Frances Fitzgerald, was a political casualty of the desire of some who practice politics to put gossip above truth. As Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Fitzgerald, acted at all times in a way that was honourable, diligent, and fair. This is underlined again in the Charleton report, which exonerates her completely.

I want to make particular reference to the confluence of events that led to the resignation of Deputy Fitzgerald as Minister for Justice and Equality in November 2017. It may be ironic to do so, as I appear to have benefitted from this series of events in taking her place at the Cabinet table. The herd mentality, the prioritisation of rumour over fact, the sordid glee in playing the woman and not the ball, made this resignation impossible to avoid, but it did not make it right.

Politics and public service is multifaceted and full of nuance: there is rarely a time when there is an absolute right and an absolute wrong.

Others have suffered in the face of a lack of commitment to truth and accuracy. Former Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan is one such person; she embodied qualities of leadership necessary for good public service. As Oscar Wilde wrote, “The truth is rarely pure and never simple.” I strongly believe that apologies are owed to those who suffered personally and professionally from false accusations and incorrect accounts. I hope, for the benefit of public service in this State, that these apologies are forthcoming.

It is a noble thing to serve the public good. This should not be forgotten, nor should the service of the public be degraded through association with malicious scandal and gossip, the contest of personal rivalries, or the desire for a cheap headline. Mr. Justice Charleton does not spare his words on this topic, particularly in the conclusion of the report. The term “the sober truth” paints an important image. It is clear that what is right is not always easy, and what is easy is not always right. All good things are worth working for. This is also the case when it comes to the truth.

The Charleton report calls on us all to look towards the future and to consider how we can finally end the malpractice that has undermined many of the institutions of our State. Over recent years, we have seen many formerly steadfast and unquestioned pillars of Irish life sustain serious reputational damage. We have seen cultures of secrecy and pride exposed, often with devastating consequences.

An Garda Síochána is an iconic institution of this State. Established in the 1920s by a fledgling Government trying to build a stable country at a time of tremendous upheaval, An Garda Síochána broke with all the stereotypes of State-sponsored law enforcement. An Garda Síochána was not simply there to police, but to be the guardians of the peace. Crucially, the force was unarmed, a few short years after the Irish people asserted in arms their right to self-determination. Most importantly, the gardaí were from the communities in which they served. I say that as someone whose grandfather was a garda. This has been the singular towering strength of An Garda Síochána since the foundation of the force.

The obligations delineated by Mr. Justice Charleton in order to promote honour, trust and leadership within the force are to be carefully noted. In many cases they are attributes that we recognise in the vast majority of public servants we see and work with every day. It should be noted that the work and conduct of the Garda force in Donegal is commended by Mr. Justice Charleton in the case of the unfounded allegations made by Garda Keith Harrison and Marisa Simms. He calls on gardaí to have pride in their uniform, and their work. The force has a long history of devoted public servants, including a number who have tragically died in uniform. The legacy of these patriots should not be dishonoured. Honesty is another obligation that ensures respect. The obligation to be visible reminds us all of the important role that gardaí play in our local communities. The report recommends that everyone serving in the police should give a portion of the day to foot and bicycle patrols. A further obligation is politeness, and a further one is service or duty. Loyalty to the public over all else and the importance of self-analysis are the final two obligations described.

As a State, we owe an immense debt of gratitude to our gardaí for the work they do to keep us safe. Opinion polls continue to show that An Garda Síochána is among the most trusted public institutions or groups in Irish society. This is rightly the case, and should be maintained. Further reports, such as that of the Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland, provide a blueprint for how we can maintain this level of trust by promoting accountability. My colleague, the Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Flanagan, is committed to the implementation of its recommendations, and I support him very strongly in this endeavour. I also commend Garda Commissioner Drew Harris for the work he is doing in this regard.

It is an incontrovertible fact that trust is built on a commitment to accountability and truth. This is the same for An Garda Síochána as it is for any other group or institution. As we look to build the culture shift that Mr. Justice Charleton speaks of, not only for our police force but in all institutions of Irish life, let us not forget the vivid accounts of malpractice and betrayal engagingly described in the tribunal report, and the victims left in its wake. The search for truth is at the heart of our justice system. It should also be at the core of everyone who serves this system on behalf of the public. Be it administrative accountability, strength of character, or a refusal to engage in politics as a mindless blood sport, we all need to make sure these values are present in our day-to-day actions. Let us be advocates for the truth, agus cuirfimid chuige le misneach.

This has been a most useful exchange of views on the third interim report of the disclosures tribunal. I was very interested to hear what Deputies had to say about it and its conclusions, particularly in light of the clamour in this House that preceded its establishment and the unedifying and unjustified pursuit of my colleague, Deputy Fitzgerald, last November by those here who accused her of acting incorrectly and indulging in wrong-doing. To finally set the record straight, Deputy Fitzgerald, as Minister, acted entirely appropriately. Mr. Justice Charleton could not have been clearer in that regard. I have noted, nevertheless, efforts by many people opposite to say that her departure was still necessary. I disagree fundamentally with that view, and I remind Deputies of their obligation to reflect on words that were uttered here in a frenzied atmosphere and in the clamour to remove the Deputy from her position.

The report of the tribunal is damning. It goes to the heart of how An Garda Síochána handles allegations of wrongdoing within the organisation. We all have a responsibility to respond appropriately to the findings of the tribunal. The House is, rightly, grateful to Sergeant McCabe for his steadfastness in bringing to attention the serious lack of application to duty and failure to follow basic and fundamental procedures. As Mr. Justice Charleton observed, his actions arose out of a legitimate drive to ensure that An Garda Síochána serves the people through hard work and diligence. In the face of much adversity, Sergeant McCabe persevered with the support of his family. As I mentioned last week, I spoke with Sergeant McCabe on the phone to apologise to him on behalf of the State for his shameful treatment. I hope to meet him in the near future to offer that apology in person, having spoken to him on the phone. I know that the Garda Commissioner has already met with Sergeant McCabe and his wife and he correctly, on behalf of An Garda Síochána, also apologised to Sergeant McCabe.

The independent Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland has just reported following its root and branch analysis of policing in Ireland. Its report also makes clear that transparency, governance and accountability in An Garda Síochána is fundamental. The implementation of that report will be the cornerstone of the necessary transformation in An Garda Síochána, and the points made by Mr. Justice Charleton will very much inform the Government's approach to its implementation. The report also points to specific problem areas within An Garda Síochána. At the heart of these problems is discipline in the force. Mr. Justice Charleton notes that, as an organisation, An Garda Síochána has an obligation to be a disciplined service.

The report suggests that the Oireachtas might usefully consider a potential lacuna in the Protected Disclosures Act 2014. The Act was mentioned by some Deputies in the course of their contributions.

I want to acknowledge the importance of the obligations which Mr. Justice Charleton said should at all times underpin the work of our police service. Many of them are obvious and can be said to apply universally. These include the obligation to be polite, honest, to take pride in their work, pride in their uniform and to be visible. I know that the Garda Commissioner is committed to these obligations, and I believe he is quite right. Mr. Justice Charleton also identified an obligation of self-analysis and that the command structure within An Garda Síochána must hold itself to account, in the same way that my colleague, the Minister, Deputy Zappone, has acknowledged Tusla, which is under her remit, must hold itself to account. I assure the House that, as far as An Garda Síochána is concerned, I will have all the matters referenced by Mr. Justice Charleton to the fore during my work with Garda Commissioner Drew Harris and his team as we consider how to implement the recommendations from the report of the Commission on the Future of Policing.

It is only right that we acknowledge that Mr. Justice Charleton also pointed to examples of diligence, professionalism and integrity within An Garda Síochána. I have attended several ceremonies in the Garda College, meeting new recruits headed to stations all across Ireland. Their enthusiasm and thirst for public service has been striking. We owe it to these recruits, to Sergeant Maurice McCabe and to the people of Ireland, to ensure we deliver the planned transformation of An Garda Síochána in order that it becomes a model of policing excellence by the time it reaches its centenary in 2022.