We need your help now

Support from readers like you keeps The Journal open.

You are visiting us because we have something you value. Independent, unbiased news that tells the truth. Advertising revenue goes some way to support our mission, but this year it has not been enough.

If you've seen value in our reporting, please contribute what you can, so we can continue to produce accurate and meaningful journalism. For everyone who needs it.

Garda Keith Harrison. Leah Farrell/
keith harrison

Tusla officials reject claim they were 'leaned on' to make home visit by gardaí

“It’s about my professional reputation,” social worker Donna McTeague told the Disclosures Tribunal today.

TWO SENIOR TUSLA officials in Co Donegal have told the Charleton Tribunal that they felt their professional integrity was attacked by allegations that the child protection agency was “leaned on” to investigate whistle-blower garda Keith Harrison.

Social worker Donna McTeague told the inquiry that she was not directed by gardaí or her line manager to make a visit to the home of Garda Harrison and his partner Marisa Simms in February 2014.

In the current module, the Tribunal, chaired by Justice Peter Charleton, is looking at contacts between gardaí and the HSE/Tusla relating to Garda Harrison, which he alleges amount to an abuse of power.

McTeague said she accepted that Harrison and Simms had not called into question her professionalism or her engagement with them at the Tribunal.

The Tribunal heard that Simms said that in a letter sent to Minister for Children Katherine Zappone in February 2017 lawyers for Garda Harrison inferred that there was an abuse of position.

“It’s not about my feelings. It’s about my professional reputation,” McTeague said.

The inference is made that we abused our power, and that is not the case.

Bridgeen Smith, who as team leader was McTeague’s line manager in 2013, said she “categorically” did not give any direction to McTeague to make a home visit to Harrison and Simms.

Smith told the Tribunal chairman she utterly refuted any allegation that she was “leaned on” by Sergeant Brigid McGowan to make the home visit.

Smith said her relationship with Sergeant McGowan was “purely professional”, and she felt the allegation she was “leaned on” was “an attack on my professional integrity” which she found very stressful and utterly unacceptable.

Following the Tusla home visit by McTeague in 2014, Tusla closed the case, concluding that there was no risk to Simms’ children.

Simms had made a garda statement against Garda Harrison in October 2013, which she later withdrew.

McTeague told the inquiry she did not have a copy of Simms’ statement in 2014, and that it would have been helpful to have seen it. She said that in 2014, it was not normal practice to seek a copy of a garda statement, but this had since changed.

The social worker said that had she seen Simms’ garda statement, it would have allowed her to make a more informed and thorough decision.

The Tribunal chairman said that it now appeared that no party at the Tribunal was any longer putting the allegation that McTeague had indicated to Simms she was embarrassed to have to conduct a home visit and wouldn’t be there only for directions she was given.

Read: Garda Keith Harrison accused of making ‘a series of incorrect allegations’ about Tusla >

Read: Tribunal hears details of text messages between Garda Keith Harrison and his partner Marisa Simms >

Readers like you are keeping these stories free for everyone...
A mix of advertising and supporting contributions helps keep paywalls away from valuable information like this article. Over 5,000 readers like you have already stepped up and support us with a monthly payment or a once-off donation.

Gerard Cunningham