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As it happened: There will be a Tribunal into alleged smear campaign against Maurice McCabe

Enda Kenny will likely announce a tribunal this afternoon.

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THE GOVERNMENT WILL establish a Tribunal of Inquiry into an alleged smear campaign against whistleblower Maurice McCabe. 

Enda Kenny confirmed the public inquiry this afternoon following a meeting of Cabinet. 

It will look at the central question: “Was there a deliberate smear campaign waged on Maurice McCabe?”

We’ll continue to bring you all the news from Leinster House and Garda HQ over the coming hours.

Stay with us. 

Good afternoon.

There has been a flurry of meetings around Kildare Street this morning as the government scrambles a full response to allegations of a smear campaign against whistleblower Maurice McCabe by senior gardaí.

Sinéad O’Carroll here to take you through the next few hours, with news from our political reporter Christina Finn who is embedded in Leinster House.

Enda Kenny is due in the Dáil for his usual Leaders’ Questions slot at 2pm.

 

There, he will be quizzed by Micheál Martin (who he has already met today) and Gerry Adams, among others.

However, there has already been a delay to the schedule with a Dáil Business Committee meeting postponed to 1.30pm because Cabinet are still meeting.

It now seems definite that a public inquiry (also known by that dreaded term – Tribunal) will be held.

It is what Maurice McCabe – the man at the centre of this entire scandal and the man who has suffered the most because of it – wants, and it is also what Opposition parties have called for.

Kenny has little choice, it seems, but to grant their wishes.

We asked our readers today what they would like to see happen – and the response has been an overwhelming agreement.

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Christina has this synopsis from Kenny and Martin’s meeting this morning:

A public inquiry expected to be accepted by Fine Gael. Fianna Fáil made it clear that one is needed and Martin made that point to the Taoiseach.

Martin also met with Maurice McCabe and his wife last night and told the couple they would be calling for a public inquiry now.

According to my sources, he also made the point to Kenny about how ‘dismally’ the government has handled this entire situation.

The party has also submitted what it would like the terms of reference of any inquiry to be – but that doesn’t necessarily mean they will be used by the government.

It is not clear if the terms will be widened to include other whistleblowers or if it will stick to the circumstances around the treatment of McCabe.

As we entered into this week, a general election seemed likely but that threat now seems to have lessened.

All ministers will emerge with their jobs in tact from today’s Cabinet meeting and Sinn Féin’s vote of no confidence should fail tomorrow.

(There is also very, very little public appetite for heading back to the polls, as a Amárach/Claire Byrne Live poll for TheJournal.ie found yesterday.)

McCabe’s statement yesterday did not call for heads to roll – but more for the truth over what he has endured over the past eight years to be put on public record as soon as possible. Here’s a key part of his statement – issued through solicitor’s yesterday.

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What we know today…

  • A public inquiry into how Maurice McCabe was treated after whistleblowing on a number of concerns about policing in his Cavan/Monaghan division will be established.
  • The fall of the current government and subsequent general election seems unlikely at this point.
  • Nobody’s position – either as a Minister or as a Garda Commissioner – is in immediate jeopardy.
  • Another whistleblower, David Taylor, is back at work after being cleared of allegations of leaking information by the DPP and his suspension lifted.
  • A statutory investigation into Tusla will be conducted by HIQA as a result of its creation and handling of a file about Maurice McCabe which contained false and erroneous allegations.

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After Enda Kenny at 2pm, Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone will face questions from her Opposition colleagues. She’s probably not relishing the timing of that prospect.

The Ceann Comhairle starts off the session in a light-hearted manner with a Valentine’s Day greeting after the usual prayer.

Micheál Martin picks up and says he hopes there won’t be a massacre.

We then get to the serious business…

Martin begins, of course, with his meeting with Maurice and Lorraine McCabe last night. He talks about the ‘casual approach to a monumental false report’ by Tusla, that was ‘hanging around in garda stations without it being corrected’.

He calls for a public tribunal of inquiry. 

“The kitchen sink thrown at them” by the garda’s legal team is how Martin describes how McCabe was treated at the private Commission of Investigation led by Kevin O’Higgins.

In no way do they want to be involved in anything similar again, adds Martin.

Enda Kenny confirms that the government ‘agreed in principle’ to set up a Tribunal of Inquiry under the 1921 Act.

“Was there an organised smear campaign against Garda McCabe by senior gardaí?” will be the central question.

“When we proceed down the road of having a tribunal of inquiry under 1921 act, we have to be very clear that it is right down the middle in respect of everybody,” Kenny said.

He says it is very important that all main players go into the probe with a presumption of innocence.

“People should be very careful with regard to this.”

Enda Kenny in a minor concession says:

“I might say mea culpa here- I am guilty here of not giving accurate information,” he says in relation to who told him about Zappone’s meeting with McCabe.

“I understood that she had asked me,” he continues, explaining it was her office who actually informed him.

Again, speaking about Zappone’s meeting with McCabe, Kenny says that she did not “indicate details” of it with him.

“Minister Zappone is clear that the discussions she had with McCabe were of a confidential nature. They were not in the public domain at the time.”

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The Taoiseach gets into argy-bargy with Gerry Adams, Kenny calls the Sinn Féin leader a ‘hypocrite’.

He gets very animated in telling Adams that a number of people ‘vehemently’ deny that there was a smear campaign waged on McCabe. He says for this reason, it is imperative that the Tribunal was ‘set up in Cabinet’s wisdom’ to ensure it will be fair to everybody involved.

Paul Murphy:

You’re well-known for having a casual relationship with the truth.

The AAA-PBP TD says Kenny’s ‘mea culpa’ goes beyond what the Taoiseach has he has conceded.

He claims that his original statement about Zappone’s meeting with McCabe was erroneous and misleading.

He indicates his position as Taoiseach is untenable.

“It matters.”

Murphy says that his party are in favour of a Tribunal but says that it is not necessary to have Maurice McCabe’s questions answered. Here are the questions, the McCabes want the truth about:

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To move away from Leinster House for a minute, Fine Gael’s Brian Hayes has given this interesting response to EuroParl radio.

“What is behind this is bad practice, a culture of secrecy, a culture of looking after their own, I think the guards have to be held accountable for that and I think the wider issue now is the reforms that every government has spoke about in the last decade are so actually are put in place by the Commissioner to make sure the public confidence in the force remains,” he said.

Clearly the government could have handled this an awful lot better but we’ve seen in Irish politics over the years these things happen and how governments respond often becomes a bigger story than actually the substance of the story itself.

“It’s not a case of a few bad apples… The barrell is evidently rotten,” continues Murphy in the Chamber about the gardaí.

He says it is chilling what has been revealed in recent days.

He is also concerned about the misinformation from government benches.

“Facts are stubborn things. They can’t exist in two different states at the same time,” he notes, citing the different stories from Zappone and Kenny about her meeting with McCabe and Jim O’Callaghan and the Tánaiste’s recollections of a conversation about the same issue.

Mick Wallace is up now. 

He says a criminal investigation must run in parallel with the Tribunal, led by external investigators from outside the country.

“A lot of bad things have happened,” he notes.

Asking about Nóirín O’Sullivan’s presumption of innocence, he says that Maurice McCabe was treated as ‘guilty’ for years.

“Are they all liars?” he asks of a list of whistleblowers which includes McCabe, Keith Harrison and Nick Keogh.

If she genuinely didn’t know how whistleblowers were treated, she’s not fit for the job anyway if she didn’t know what was going on in the force.

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Wallace decides to quote whistleblower David Taylor, a former press officer in An Garda Síochána who said:

Everybody in headquarters knew about the campaign against Maurice McCabe.

He also reiterates the story of Taylor telling both former Commissioner Martin Callinan and O’Sullivan about the journalist who had a ‘damaging’ story about McCabe after visiting the family allegedly at the centre of the false accusation of sex abuse.

He said that Callinan texted Taylor back after he told him the news. Wallace says O’Sullivan ‘rang him for a good chat’.

Leaders’ Questions concludes with the Taoiseach calling for support for the Tribunal of Inquiry.

There are still a lot of unknowns about the Tribunal – who, when, how much, how long are all pertinent questions right now.

Fianna Fáil already has its demands about terms of reference, and Fine Gael seem concerned that a presumption of innocence will be central to its ethos.

We’ll continue to bring you reaction and details as we get them.

Ireland is *very* familiar with Tribunals (how do you respond to the words Mahon and Moriarty?) but here’s a rundown of what powers they have:

According to the Taoiseach’s Department:

  • The main difference between a Parliamentary Inquiry (non-statutory) and a Tribunal of Inquiry is that non-statutory inquiries are not vested with the powers, privileges and rights of the High Court; Tribunals of Inquiry are.
  • They are established by the Oireachtas to examine ”matters of urgent public importance”.
  • They do not administer justice.
  • Their work is solely inquisitorial.
  • Tribunals are obliged to report their findings to the Oireachtas.
  • They have the power to enforce the attendance and examination of witnesses and the production of documents relevant to the work in hand.
  • Sittings are usually public but can, at the Tribunal’s discretion, be held privately.

So, after a bit of kerfuffle in the chamber about the order of business, it looks like Zappone will take questions as planned at 3.45pm.

According to our reporter Christina Finn, there may also be statements from the Taoiseach and Tánaiste later.

BREAKING:

Whistleblower Keith Harrison has issued a statement through his solicitor to “demand” that his case is included in any inquiry to be held by the “political establishment”.

More to follow… 

Christina Finn with you now from down in Leinster House. It’s been an interesting day…

Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone is now in the Dáil chamber to take questions about her department.

Fianna Fáil’s Ann Rabbitte is the first to address to Zappone. She says it would be remiss of her not to mention what has been going on in relation to the McCabe affair and the false allegations contained in a Tusla file.

However, she says the public need to understand that the questions being put to the minister now were submitted in advance of last week’s RTÉ programme.

She urges Zappone to come before the House to give answers.

This is the explanation Minister Zappone gave yesterday:

Sinn Féin’s Donnchadh O’Laoghaire also urges the minister to come before the House to make a statement in relation to the Tusla file. Zappone acknowledges his comments and says she is happy to cooperate with whatever decision the business committee make in relation to ministers making statements to the chamber. (The Dáil business committee were expected to meet at 4pm to work out the schedule for the rest of the day and decide if ministers should come before the Dáil to answer questions in relation to the handling of the McCabe case).

Social Democrat’s Róisín Shortall says “we all want to ask questions on behalf of the public”.

In light of whistleblower Keith Harrison now issuing a statement through his solicitor demanding his case is included in any inquiry, Labour’s Alan Kelly is now calling for the same.

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There is a lot of talk now about the Tribunal’s terms of reference which the government is hoping to finalise over the next couple of days.

As we mentioned earlier, Fianna Fáil’s Jim O’Callaghan already has some he prepared earlier.

EXTRA DÁIL TIME:

The government has decided to rejig the Dáil schedule for this evening to allow for further statements on the establishment of a Tribunal from 6pm.

The Taoiseach, the Tánaiste and the Minister for Children will all speak for 10 minutes.

Enda Kenny is back up in the Dáil and is clarifying what was shared between himself and his Children’s Minister around her meeting with Maurice McCabe.

He reiterates that he was informed by officials in his office that Katherine Zappone intended to meet with the whistleblower.

And then last Tuesday, she told him before Cabinet that she had met with him and his wife Lorraine.

“However, Minister Zappone did not divulge these very serious details…” he continued.

“That was absolutely the correct course of action.”

Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald is up now…

She repeats much of what she has been saying in the past week – that when the matter was previously before government, she had no knowledge of the Tusla matter; that she was taken aback and disturbed by Prime Time revelations last Thursday; and that Justice Charleton believed the terms of reference for the originally planned Commission of Investigation would have been sufficient to investigate the entire McCabe scandal.

And now for Katherine Zappone… 

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She says that the McCabes have her full support.

She said the Tusla file she was showed by them was shocking. On Friday, 27 January Tusla gave her a chronological timeline of what had happened in this case. She forwarded that to the McCabes on Saturday, 28 January.

Zappone said she wanted to ensure that none of her actions as a Minister would harm the McCabes even further.

She also confirmed that Tusla has deleted all electronic files relating to McCabe and his family. There is a paper file still in existence – for use for a review and for the Tribunal. It is under lock and key, as requested by Maurice McCabe.

A big question…

Katherine Zappone: “The question remains whether I should have spoken up at Cabinet?”

She says “in order to bring clarity”, she accepts that some colleagues would have preferred her to brief them on the meeting she had with the McCabes.

“I will learn from that,” she added, but says she would prefer to have a mechanism to deal with sensitive information.

She says she did not want to cause any further stress on the McCabe family and that she believed Tusla would be included in the terms of reference of the Commission of Investigation.

Basically, she says she thought she was doing the right thing and refutes claims that she was being politically naive.

Here’s more of the Tánaiste’s statement tonight…

On Tusla:

“Suggestions have been made that I had knowledge of TUSLA records at the time the matter was before Government, which would have required me to amend the terms of reference. As I have repeatedly stated that is not the case.

And I was as taken aback at – and disturbed – at watching the revelations about TUSLA that were aired last Thursday as anyone else. Clearly very serious issues have arisen.

“Throughout my entire career I have worked to ensure that cases of child sex abuse are not kept hidden and are dealt with openly and properly.”

On that chat with Fianna Fáil’s Justice spokesperson:

“My engagement with Deputy Jim O’Callaghan last Wednesday was constructive
throughout and entirely focussed on ensuring that a commission of investigation would establish the full truth. I accept that each of our positions on this aspect of the discussion are genuinely held. And I acknowledge very much that is this spirit in which Deputy O’Callaghan has worked.

“I regret that differences have arisen between the two of us as to what exactly was said.  I have always found the Deputy honourable and I do know he made very helpful suggestions about changes that might be made to the terms of reference – which, indeed, I accepted in substance.

On misleading the Dáil: 

“As I have already said Minister Zappone telephoned me on the 25 January to say that she was meeting with Sgt McCabe later that day. I have also said that I respected the integrity of that meeting between her and the McCabes. I know as a former Minister for Children and Youth Affairs how sensitive some of the matters in that portfolio.

“I welcome the fact that there has been a full apology by Tusla and that Minister Zappone is to establish a statutory HIQA inquiry into the terrible issues that have arisen there.

“There is no question of me having misled the Dáil in any way in what I had to say here last Thursday.”

On McCabe’s statement: 

“Deputies have referred to a series of questions in the McCabe’s statement yesterday.

“In particular, there are a series of six indented questions relating to contacts between the Gardaí and others relating to the false rape offence allegation. My department is not involved in garda operational matters and would not have details like that in our records.

“They are, of course, matters that will be dealt with fully by any inquiry and this gives rise to a difficulty with the suggestion it is simply a matter of asking the Garda Commissioner to ask the gardaí involved.

“I have not had a chance to get detailed formal advice on this from the Attorney General but there are clearly implications for the rights of the people involved.  To say, on the one hand, we are going to establish an inquiry into what you did, but in the meantime, we want you to provide answers which we need to give to a person who will be party to that inquiry clearly is fraught.

“Of course, I understand well the concerns which people have expressed about the treatment of Maurice McCabe. But it would be a great pity for people here to try to rectify one injustice by causing others. Whatever anger people might feel, in this country we do not set up tribunals of inquiry simply to confirm what people already believe.  We set them up to look at all the evidence, hear all sides, and establish what the truth is.

“We have to be careful not to rush to judgment. And above all everyone is entitled to basic, fair procedures enshrined in our Constitution. I am not prepared to ignore that and engage in a rush to judgement, which ignores anyone’s fundamental human rights.

“We have to investigate matters fully, but it must be fairly too. I cannot uphold the integrity of the office to which I have been honoured to be appointed by setting at nought the rights of others. Some deputies might find that unsatisfactory but I cannot yield on that point.”

Fitzgerald in a long answer says that “at no time did he mention Tusla”

“I disagree with you. I referred to Tusla in the conversation with you,” responds O’Callaghan.

Is it credible that a Justice Minister should agree to amend terms of reference based upon a television programme and wouldn’t ask what the programme was about?

Brendan Howlin now raises the point about Kenny saying he met Zappone before she met the McCabes, when he did not.

He asks why he didn’t bring up the issue of Tusla at the Cabinet meeting last week.

“I actually told the truth in the House here,” says the Taoiseach.

He says a lot of things come his way on an average day.

Enda now tells the Dáil that the discussion before Cabinet with Minister Zappone, she did mention the false allegations of sexual abuse against McCabe.

The Taoiseach says she did not make me aware of the file or the content of the discussions she had with the McCabes.

Brendan Howlin tells the Tánaiste that both her story and Jim O’Callaghan’s story cannot be true.

Paul Murphy says we have three versions of the story today. He says that first Kenny said he had discussed false allegations in regards to Tusla with Zappone.

Murphy then states that Kenny told the Dáil he did not have prior information to the Cabinet meeting.

Murphy then states that Zappone says false allegations regarding sexual abuse was raised with the Taoiseach. He wants know which statement is accurate.

The Taoiseach says he was not aware of any of the details of the discussions Zappone had with the McCabes and he reiterates again that he did not know the information contained in the Tusla file.

Kenny states again that Zappone told him that she had met the McCabes and that they had discussed false allegations of sexual abuse that had been sent Tusla.

Did you tell Zappone that Tusla would be in included in the terms of reference, asks Ruth Coppinger.

“Yes I said these would be included in the terms of reference,” said the Taoiseach.

Mick Wallace is up now and says he thinks Zappone is being honest in the Dáil this evening.

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Clare Daly says Minister Zappone has acted “efficiently” “sensitively” and “appropriately” this evening. She has been “imminently believable” says Daly.

“Yours has’t been the same it hasn’t been as humble.”

“Do you honestly expect us believe you think it [the meeting between Zappone and the McCabes] might be over a personal matter and that you wouldn’t have an interest in it,” Daly asks the Minister for Justice.

“It is not credible.”

“There is a huge problem that we cannot believe the word of the Minister for Justice.”

She claims the allegations of sexual abuse was contained in the protected disclosure that the minister had in her hands.

“I have never ever misled the Dáil,” says the Tánaiste. Zappone says she has never misled the Dáil.

“When did he first become aware of scurrilous rumours against McCabe,” asks Róisin Shortall.

She wants to raise a point of order as she says the Taoiseach is refusing to answer her question.

“After the Prime Time programme, things became very clear indeed,” says Kenny.

She says he has not answered the question.

He repeats what he said on the radio at the weekene – that he does not deal in rumour or hearsay, only fact.

So, again, he refuses to acknowledge if he was made aware of the rumours against Maurice McCabe prior to the RTÉ programme.

Micheál Martin says there is something “very odd” about all of this. He is speaking about the dealings with the gardaí, the counsellor and Tusla and the file that was created which contained the false allegations against McCabe.

He says the creation of the false file which contained the allegations “begs a lot of questions” about how the files were created.

Tánaiste says she thinks he is asking questions that are going to be the essence of what will be the inquiry.

Kenny tells the Dáil that it has now spent two hours discussing issues, and that it would have been well spent discussing the establishment of the public inquiry.

He said he would be “much happier” talking about the decision made today to have a public inquiry.

Zappone says she was aware of the RTÉ programme as it was being aired. She says she was not aware it prior to being broadcast.

Mary Lou McDonald is up now and she says they have made progress this evening.

I asked of your stated knowledge of other state agencies in relation to McCabe, she tells the Tánaiste.

McDonald says the Dáil was misled last week.

Frances Fitzgerald is very exercised in her response.

“Your party thrives on rushing to judgement.

“You may not believe me but that is what happened.

“I did not know about the Tusla involvement.”

Enda Kenny again states that he was told by Zappone the discussion she had with the McCabes centred around false allegations of a sexual nature involving McCabe

These matters were covered in the terms of reference because Tusla was covered in that, maintains the Taoiseach.

The judge was happy that all of the issues he saw on the RTÉ programme were included in the terms of reference, says Kenny.

More heated scenes in the Dáil, even at this late hour.

Sinn Féin’s Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin demands to know when the Taoiseach first became aware of the rumours against McCabe.

Kenny says he only became aware of them after the Prime Time programme.

Opposition TDs, including Sinn Féin’s Pearse Doherty, have been trying to make this point to the Taoiseach all evening.

In a heated exchange with the Tánaiste and the Taoiseach, Fianna Fáil’s John McGuinness tells the Dáil:

Why is it that we cannot admit, anyone that wanted to stop and listen in this House, anyone that supported him [Maurice McCabe... was told] that he was a sex abuser, that he abused people sexually.

He says that those that supported him were fed that “innuendo”.

“How many in this House knew about the allegations that were being made?”

Speaking about when he appeared before the Public Accounts Committee he said “members in this House” wanted to prevent it.

“We have ignored Maurice McCabe and the other Maurice McCabes that exist out there.”

McGuinness says that the culture that has “sent all of those people [whistleblowers] out sick, we cannot ignore”.

“How many people in this government knew about those rumours, even if it was rumour, all of us in this House knew what was going on.”

Speaking to Kenny and Fitzgerlad, McGuinness states: “You knew a long time ago about the accusations against Maurice McCabe – everyone knew.”

“It was a deliberate attempt to undermine Maurice McCabe.”

“Now you have been put in the spotlight and you can’t cover it up anymore.”

Kenny is being asked again about when he first became aware of the allegations against McCabe. Again, the Taoiseach says he only became aware after the RTÉ programme.

Mattie McGrath is now taking issue with Enda Kenny wearing a headphone in the Dáil. “Is it the man on the moon you are listening to there?”

“You can be rest assured that it is you I am listening to,” says Kenny, who adds that he has had to take the headphone out now. “You’ve blown the head off me,” says the Taoiseach.

McGrath says he has no faith in Tusla.

Quite the politically charged day here in Leinster House.

Meanwhile, on top of everything else, Enda Kenny broke the rules today.

More tomorrow for this government which has come close to the brink today.

Tomorrow they are facing a motion of no confidence.

Enda Kenny is also expected to give a significant speech about Brexit tomorrow, which will be followed by the Fine Gael Parliamentary Party meeting, which could prove interesting given that pressure is now mounting on Kenny’s leadership.

Join us back here tomorrow…

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