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 Header Item Clarification of Statements made by the Taoiseach and Ministers: Statements (Continued)
 Header Item Business of Dáil
 Header Item Clarification of Statements made by the Taoiseach and Ministers: Statements (Resumed)

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 938 No. 3

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An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher The scripts should be available to all. I will ask the Government to ensure that happens immediately to give Members a chance to peruse them before the question and answer session. The Taoiseach's script has not been made available yet. I call the Minister for Health, Deputy Harris. In the meantime, I ask those responsible to ensure that copies of scripts are made available to all Members of the House.

Minister for Health (Deputy Simon Harris): Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris I wish to state on the record of the House what I have already said in other public fora, namely, Sergeant Maurice McCabe, Mrs. Lorraine McCabe and their family deserve truth and justice. They deserve answers and indeed all of us, as citizens, require answers to fundamental questions which go to the core of our democracy, the administration of justice, the valuing and protection of whistleblowers and the integrity of the structures we have worked so hard as a country to put in place to ensure that children are protected. The establishment of a public inquiry will ensure that a light is shone on all these issues. It will ensure that there is no room for secrecy. It will also ensure transparent, forensic examination of many key issues.

For my part, I wish to inform the House of the following information. I was contacted by the director general of the HSE on Friday evening, 10 February and made aware that a HSE counselling service was involved in the Tusla file concerning Sergeant Maurice McCabe. This was the first time I was made of aware of that and I had not seen the Tusla file nor have I seen it now. I was informed that the HSE director general only became aware of the involvement of a HSE counsellor on the same Friday, 10 February when he was also contacted by Tusla. The HSE issued a statement the following morning, Saturday, 11 February, clarifying its involvement and offering a full apology to Sergeant McCabe and indicating its intention to make arrangements to formally deliver that apology to the McCabe family.

On the Saturday night, my special adviser received a text message from Sergeant McCabe outlining that he and his family rejected the HSE's apology and the HSE's statement. This contact was brought to my attention and that of the HSE on Sunday morning and attempts were made by the HSE to directly contact the McCabe family and their solicitor. I understand that yesterday the HSE, through the director general, issued a formal written apology to Sergeant McCabe and his family. Prior to 11 February, the only contact between the McCabe family and my departmental office was when Mrs. McCabe phoned that office on 17 January. The call was returned on 18 January and once the official who took the call established that the call concerned Tusla he made arrangements for the office of the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs to contact Mrs. McCabe. I was not made aware of the call and remained unaware of it until last Friday.

I am determined that the McCabes get answers to the questions they posed through their statement last night. Some of the questions relate to the health services. I do not have these answers today nor do I have the information in my possession to provide these answers. However, I wish to obtain the answers and I have written to the director general of the HSE to endeavour to provide the McCabe family or their solicitor with as much information as possible and as exists in HSE records. However, the HSE and indeed the Government will need to be conscious of relevant legal advices and how they interact with the tribunal process on which we are about to embark. I am also aware that the director general, in his written apology to Sergeant McCabe, has offered to meet him directly if Sergeant McCabe believes that would be helpful. It is very important that how the counselling services of the HSE have interacted with Tusla and other agencies is examined by the tribunal. I have vocalised that view to the Attorney General, the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste and I am pleased that it will, as it must, form a part of the terms of reference for the tribunal which I hope this House will establish this week.

In addition to the very important issues currently being debated and which will be examined by a tribunal, separate and distinct to that process, I have also asked that the director general would now provide me with a report which would endeavour to provide reassurance that the current policies, practices and procedures for the National Counselling Service are operating effectively and in an appropriate way. When I receive this report, I will share it with the relevant Oireachtas committees for the appropriate scrutiny.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher In accordance with the order, each of the groups has four minutes. It is a matter for the groups but I suggest four minutes of questions and then four minutes of response or do they wish to ask questions of one minute duration and have a commensurate response? They might indicate to whom they wish to address the questions.

Deputy Jim O'Callaghan: Information on Jim O'Callaghan Zoom on Jim O'Callaghan I wish to address four questions of one minute each to the Tánaiste.

Deputy Ruth Coppinger: Information on Ruth Coppinger Zoom on Ruth Coppinger I am sorry a Leas-Cheann Comhairle but we have not yet received the statement of the Taoiseach. Could the rest of us have a chance to read the statements before the questions begin? We have only received one of the statements.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher Are arrangements being made to circulate the Taoiseach's speaking notes or speech?

Deputy Regina Doherty: Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty Yes. They are on the way.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher They are on the way. Could we clarify the position, for housekeeping purposes? When the Minister of State proposed the Order of Business for the rest of the evening it was expected that we would start earlier and conclude at 8.30 p.m. but in order to give everyone an opportunity I believe it is now being proposed to extend the debate until 9 p.m. to allow for further questions.

Business of Dáil

Minister of State at the Department of the Taoiseach (Deputy Regina Doherty): Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty It is proposed, notwithstanding the order of the Dáil of this day, that the questions and answers following the statements of clarification made by the Taoiseach and Ministers shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion at 9 p.m.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher Is that agreed? Agreed.

Clarification of Statements made by the Taoiseach and Ministers: Statements (Resumed)

Deputy Jim O'Callaghan: Information on Jim O'Callaghan Zoom on Jim O'Callaghan Last Wednesday evening I met the Tánaiste in a quiet area of this House to tell her that I wanted the terms of reference of the proposed commission of investigation extended. I told her that I had become aware, from speaking to my party leader Deputy Micheál Martin, who had spoken to Sergeant McCabe, that Sergeant McCabe had informed him that there would be a "Prime Time" programme broadcast on Thursday evening which would contain a story about a Tusla file that contained a false allegation of sexual abuse against Sergeant McCabe. I told the Tánaiste that paragraph B of the terms of reference needed to be extended to cover that. The Tánaiste agrees that I asked her to extend the terms of reference. She also agrees that I asked her to extend the terms of reference because of a forthcoming "Prime Time" programme. However, she denies that I told her about any Tusla file contained in that programme. If she is correct, why did she agree to consider my amendments, as she did, without asking me what the "Prime Time" programme was about?

Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald I got a phone call from Deputy O'Callaghan at about 6.30 p.m. last Wednesday. He asked me if I would meet him and I left the parliamentary party meeting and went to meet him. We had a discussion for about 12 minutes. Deputy O'Callaghan informed me that there was a "Prime Time" programme the next evening. He used the word "documentary" in relation to Maurice McCabe and the allegations. He said the programme would cover the smear campaign allegations that had been made against Sergeant McCabe and he said to me that I needed to look at the terms of reference because if they did not cover what emerged on the "Prime Time" programme that would not be a good place to be in and it would leave "egg on our face" in terms of the Dáil and the work we are doing. He said to me that he wanted to make sure that the allegation of a smear campaign against Sergeant McCabe was covered and whether it had been carried out by the Garda Commissioner and the previous Garda Commissioner. I said to him that they were already covered in the terms of reference and the vast majority of our conversation was about the detail of the amendments and how they needed to be changed because the Deputy was concerned that the reference in relation to Superintendent Taylor was too restrictive and would mean that there was not a proper examination of the allegations. For that reason, I agreed to consider how we would extend the terms of reference to make it absolutely clear that this could be covered. He also asked that Ministers would be included and I said there was no reason not to include them. I went away to do some work on the changes to the terms of reference. At no time did Deputy O'Callaghan mention Tusla, and if he had, or if he had said to me he wanted a particular reference in that regard I would have included it. It would have been to my advantage to include it if I had been told about it, and if he had made it clear to me that Tusla should be included because "Prime Time" was covering it, I would have included it.

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