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Tusla 'in the process of apologising' to McCabe over false sex abuse allegation

An internal review has now been launched by the agency.

Image: Brian Lawless/PA

Updated at 1.20pm

THE CHILD AND family agency Tusla has commenced an internal review into a clerical error that led to the circulation of a false sex abuse allegation against garda whistleblower Maurice McCabe.

It emerged yesterday that an allegation was reported to Tusla by a counsellor in 2013. Nine months later the counsellor contacted the agency to say she made “an administrative error” – she had accidentally pasted these details into her report. By this stage the complaint had already been passed onto gardaí.

McCabe had been told that he was being investigated for sexual abuse, but last year was informed that this was a mistake and no allegation had been made.

In a statement today, Tusla said it is clear “that mistakes have been made”.

“On this basis, we have commenced an internal review and will cooperate fully with any commission of inquiry if requested. Although we cannot comment on the details of this individual case, we can confirm that we are in the process of apologising fully to the individual involved,” the agency said.

Speaking to RTÉ’s News At One today, Tusla Chief Executive Fred McBride said he has issued a written apology to McCabe and has offered to meet with him.

“I have issued an apology today and in that apology I have offered a meeting with the McCabes personally. I’ll apologise personally, I’ll try to explain what happened and I’ll try to explain what we are going to do about that.”

“McBride rejected any suggestion that Tusla was involved in some kind of collusion with gardaí surrounding the circumstances: “I would never knowingly allow that to happen, so I absolutely refute that.”

He said Tusla passed on the information to the Department of Children within days, towards the end of January, of finding out that an error had been made.

In its statement earlier, Tusla said:

It is important to note that when we receive allegations from a child – or from an adult reflecting on when they were a child – that we are obliged to carry out a complete assessment. We also accept that because of the nature and complexity of these situations, the systems and processes involved in doing this need to be extremely robust. In this case, it appears there were some failures and these are the subject of our internal review, the conclusions of which will be made public.

“Tusla regrets that this situation has arisen and deeply apologises for distress caused. It does not reflect the high standards that we hold ourselves to and we want to assure the public that we will take whatever steps are required to ensure that nothing like this happens again.”

“Devastated”

Speaking this morning on RTÉ’s Today with Sean O’Rourke, McCabe’s solicitor Sean Costello said that an apology from Tusla would not be enough.

“It is extraordinary that an agency like Tusla should make a mistake of that nature,” he said.

Costello said McCabe was “absolutely devastated” on the back of the Tusla complaint.

“On a human level he’s absolutely devastated as is Lorraine his wife,” he said.

The impact is just horrendous. To think that a government agency charged with as it is the protection of children – and a State-run body – would deal with a complaint such as this in the manner outlined.

He said that some of the questions in relation to what happened had been answered but “there are a lot of questions and in my view some degree of gaps in what we are looking at”.

He also said he had not seen the expanded terms of reference for the Charleton Commission of Inquiry, which will investigate the circumstances surrounding two protected disclosures made by McCabe and one other whistleblower.

The terms of reference include allegations that the former head of the Garda Press Office David Taylor was directed to focus journalists’ attention on allegations of criminal misconduct made against McCabe.

There is also a licence to investigate any knowledge that former Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan and current Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan may have had regarding that matter.

“In respect of the Tusla matter and how that may or may not tie in, I don’t know,” said Costello.

In relation to any future action McCabe will take, Costello said that it was a matter for his client but they are considering all options.

With reporting from Cormac Fitzgerald

Read: False sex abuse allegations against McCabe circulated due to ‘clerical error’>

Read: Howlin says whistleblower Maurice McCabe ‘expressed gratitude’ for his intervention yesterday>

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