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Wednesday 6 December 2023 Dublin: 4°C
Laura Hutton/ Maurice McCabe

As it happened: Political turmoil over the Maurice McCabe whistleblowing smears

Pressure is increasing on government ministers and Tusla over who knew what about the Maurice McCabe story.

THE STORY OF how Tusla got involved with Maurice McCabe has been developing at breakneck speed today – and it’s not clear how it’s all going to end.

Since the story broke yesterday evening about Tusla – the Child and Family Agency – circulating a false allegation of sex abuse against garda whistleblower Maurice McCabe, there have been recriminations about who knew about it, what they did, and exactly who is to blame for it all.

We’re following this story as it develops. Stick with us.

Hi folks, it’s Christine Bohan here, following this extraordinary story.

Got something to say about it all? Let us know in the comments below, mail us at or tweet me @christinebohan.

A little moment of humour from the excellent Mallow News before we get stuck in:


So how did we get here? Let’s have a really quick recap:

  • In September 2006, the daughter of a garda who worked with Sergeant Maurice McCabe made a complaint that McCabe had tickled and made inappropriate gestures towards her eight years previously, when she was six years old.
  • This allegation was investigated by gardaí and the DPP was informed about it, but it was found there was no grounds for bringing charges against McCabe.
  • In 2013, the girl, who was then aged 21, had an appointment with a counsellor, who has not yet been identified. What happened in the meeting is not known. However afterwards, Tusla was told that the woman had made an allegation that she had been abused – including digital penetration – when she was six. The gardaí were also informed.
  • Maurice McCabe was not told about the new allegation. It took place at around the time that he had acted as a whistleblower on garda activities.
  • Earlier this week, Labour leader Brendan Howlin told the Dáil that some journalists had been told about the sexual abuse allegation against McCabe at the time of his whistleblowing, in a bid by gardaí to discredit him.
  • Yesterday, the Irish Examiner broke the story that Tusla said it had made a mistake by including the allegation in the girl’s file, and that it had been a copy-and-paste error which should not have been there.
  • Questions are now being raised about which government ministers knew about this – and when they found out.

Katherine Zappone PA PA

The focus over the past few hours has shifted to Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Katherine Zappone.

Sources inside the government have confirmed that Zappone did not inform Cabinet on Tuesday about the mistake by Tusla, despite already knowing about it. This would seem to be extremely unusual not to mention this.

However in a statement this afternoon, Zappone said that she informed the “relevant Government colleagues” about the mistake.

However, she has not – and according to several political correspondents on Twitter, is refusing to – clarify exactly who these ‘relevant Government colleagues are’. And, as Today FM journalist Gavan Reilly has pointed out, Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald does not seem to have been informed about it when she spoke to the Dáil earlier this week. So if she isn’t considered relevant, who exactly is?

Here’s Katherine Zappone’s statement in full, which was sent to the media just over an hour ago:


Note that in it, she says that she became aware of the false allegations – and the effect that they had on the McCabe family – in January, and met Maurice McCabe and his wife on 25 January.

This line raises more questions than it answers:

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

She’s talking about the O’Neill Report, parts of which were published on Tuesday, which set out the terms of reference for the inquiry into the smears against Maurice McCabe.

You can read the terms of reference here.

My colleague Christina Finn is down at Leinster House to see what the reaction is among TDs (well, the ones who are there, at least – a lot of TDs go back to their constituencies on Friday when the Dáil isn’t sitting).

She has gotten confirmation that Katherine Zappone did not raise the Tusla issue at all at Cabinet on Tuesday:

Two ministers have said this was not raised at Cabinet, at all

One senior minister said: “I was totally taken aback at last night’s revelations. What happened to McCabe was totally unacceptable. I’m totally baffled at what has happened”.

This is from RTE journalist Joan O’Sullivan.

Labour leader Brendan Howlin is questioning why Katherine Zappone would not have told Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald about the Tusla mess.

Zappone still hasn’t said that she didn’t tell Fitzgerald about it – but judging by what Fitzgerald said in the Dáil the other day, she did not know anything about it (or else was not telling the truth to the chamber).

Someone has ALREADY set up a website to track exactly who Katherine Zappone told about Tusla: 


More from Christina Finn in Leinster House – including the promise of ‘serious discussions’ at next week’s Cabinet meeting about Zappone:

The feeling within senior ranks of the FG party is that TDs are very anxious to get the terms of reference [of the upcoming Commission of Inquiry] off the ground now and get going with the investigation

One senior government source said there will be serious discussions next week at Cabinet over why Zappone omitted to tell her ministerial colleagues

One TD told her that the Commission of Inquiry – which is expected to take 6-8 months – needs to start as soon as possible, saying:

The sooner we get on with the inquiry the better. We need to get all the paperwork done, get on with it and get to the truth. We need to get on with the full report and make it broad

Another Fine Gael TD told her that while some people think there was possible collusion among authorities in this case, the facts need to come out as soon as possible to definitively answer the question.

John Wilson – who was also a garda whistleblower – has been speaking to Shannonside about what has happened to Maurice McCabe.

Wilson said the treatment of McCabe was the worst scandal in the history of the Irish republic.

Listen to it here.

Fine Gael TD Jim Daly says a request has been sent to Fred McBride, the head of Tusla, to appear before an Oireachtas Committee to answer questions.

Just how bad could this be for the government? Sinn Féin TD David Cullinane thinks it could spell the end:

Speaking to my colleague Christina Finn outside Leinster House in the past few minutes, Sinn Féin’s Mary Lou McDonald says she thinks Frances Fitzgerald was “less than forthcoming” when she spoke to the Dáil about the matter yesterday – and that if the Minister doesn’t correct the Dáil record, then she should resign. / YouTube

Here’s some of what she says:

“Minister Zappone’s statement makes very clear that she did in fact brief Cabinet colleagues as regards Maurice McCabe and Tusla, and this goes against the government line that has been spun all day today,” McDonald says.

“I think that Frances Fitzgerald, the Minister for Justice,  needs to immediately make a statement on these matters. Katherine Zappone says she briefed relevant Cabinet colleagues – no Cabinet position is more relevant than that of Justice.

“And therefore I believe that Frances Fitzgerald was less than forthcoming with the truth on the floor of the Dail yesterday in response to a question from myself.

“We need answers to those matters. The Tanaiste needs to correct the record of the Dail, I believe, and if she’s not prepared to do that, I believe that her position would be untenable.”

David Cullinane isn’t the only TD who thinks the government is in a precarious situation right now.

One backbench TD has told my colleague Christina Finn that this Tusla scandal could have legs, and could be so serious that it could bring down the government.

The TD also suggested Garda Commissioner Nóirin O’Sullivan could be in jeopardy – and noted that to lose one commissioner would be bad but to lose two in the space of less than three years would be a disaster.

Commission of Inquiry

There are strong rumours that Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald will be releasing a statement this evening to clarify if Katherine Zappone told her about the Tusla mess or not.

JUST IN: Frances Fitzgerald has released a statement (she’s obviously reading the liveblog).


Having read that statement from Frances Fitzgerald several times, it still doesn’t shed any light on exactly when she found out about what Tusla did.

She says that she knew that Zappone was meeting with Maurice McCabe, but is adamant that Zappone did the right thing in not telling her anything about the ‘confidential Tusla records’. So when exactly did she find out? Did she actually know about it when she was questioned about it in the Dáil yesterday?

JUST IN: RTE’s Katie Hannon has broken a story about a second garda whistleblower who says a case about him was referred to Tusla “as part of a campaign of harassment against him by a senior garda”.

Hannon writes that she has seen correspondence showing that Frances Fitzgerald was in correspondence with the garda about the child protection Tusla notification, which was made by one of his superiors in An Garda Síochána. The HSE said there was no evidence of abuse in the case.





Oops: Fianna Fáil TD John McGuinness says that Tusla accidentally delivered the apology to Maurice McCabe to McCabe’s elderly neighbour instead earlier today.

They’re not having the best of days.

John McGuinness’s interview on RTE One just now was interesting – he’s become the first Fianna Fáil TD to call for Garda Commissioner Noirín O’Sullivan to stand aside.

Brendan Howlin isn’t too impressed with this:

Well, this would explain why she didn’t mention it in her statement:

So if Frances Fitzgerald only found out about the Tusla scandal last night – from the media –  that means she wasn’t one of the “relevant Government colleagues” that Katherine Zappone told about it.

This raises a whole lot of questions, but two in particular: why did Minister Zappone not tell the Minister for Justice about this? And if she didn’t tell the Minister for Justice, who exactly did she tell?

Speaking after a function in Waterford this afternoon, Commissioner Noirín O’Sullivan gave her first public comments about Tusla’s involvement.

She said it was terrible thing to happen to anybody and “our thoughts are with Sergeant McCabe and his family”.

So just to be clear, both Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald knew that Katherine Zappone had met with Maurice McCabe – but neither were told about what happened with Tusla.


Mary Lou McDonald is referring to the Taoiseach and the Tanaiste allegedly not knowing anything about Tusla’s role in the smear campaign against Maurice McCabe.

And on that note, Paul Murphy asks the obvious question:

Why didn’t she tell them? And why didn’t they ask?

A statement has just landed from Katherine Zappone.

She says it would have been “highly inappropriate” to brief the Cabinet on confidential information about Tusla, which she assumed was going to be investigated by the upcoming Commission of Inquiry.

zappone statement

More from Mary Lou McDonald, who is pushing hard against the Tánaiste.

The Sinn Féin deputy leader has said that this evening’s statement from Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald in relation to her knowledge of Túsla’s role in the scandal impacting Sgt Maurice McCabe is not credible.

MLMD / YouTube / YouTube / YouTube

“It is alarming that the Tánaiste, having misled the Dáil yesterday, should continue her cycle of evasion this evening. Her version of events is not credible.

“I repeat my call for the Tánaiste to correct the record of the Dáil.

“She should resign if she is not prepared to do so.

“This scandal goes to the very heart of the integrity of government in this state. Nothing but the full truth and the disclosure of an accurate version of events will suffice. It is the very least that Sgt McCabe and his family deserve after everything they have been put through.”

On the Nine O’Clock News on RTE One just now, Katie Hannon quoted Maurice McCabe’s wife as saying it was “insulting and shocking” that Tusla managed to mistakenly deliver the apology to the McCabe’s elderly neighbour today.


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