Social worker says she was not instructed by manager to visit home of whistleblower garda Harrison

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 Mr Justice Peter Charlton, is looking at contacts between gardaí and the HSE/Tusla relating to Garda Harrison, which he alleges amount to an abuse of power.

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

The tribunal heard that Ms 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," Ms McTeague said. "The inference is made that we abused our power, and that is not the case."

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

Ms Smith told the tribunal chairman she utterly refuted any allegation that she was "leaned on" by Sergeant Brigid McGowan to make the home visit.

Ms 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 Ms McTeague in 2014, Tusla closed the case, concluding that there was no risk to Ms Simms' children.

Earlier:

A social worker has told the Charleton Tribunal that she was not instructed by her line manager to investigate whistleblower Garda Keith Harrison and his partner or visit their family home.

Social worker Donna McTeague also said she did not tell Gda Harrison and his partner, Marisa Simms that she would not need to visit their home after an initial assessment with the couple following reports of child welfare issues in 2014.

Donna McTeague

Ms McTeague told the tribunal that she was satisfied there were no child welfare issues after meeting with Gda Harrison and Ms Simms in February 2014, but said that she would still need to visit the couple at home and see their children before closing out the file.

Ms McTeague, who was being cross examined by counsel for Gda Harrison, said she did not apologise to Gda Harrison and Ms Simms for having invited them to meet in her office.

"I didn't apologise for the work that I was doing, I didn't apologise for inviting them into my office." Ms McTeague said.

"I don't apologise for my role or for doing my job," she said.

Ms McTeague said she was not acting under pressure from superiors or An Garda Siochana at any time.

A garda complaint by Ms Simms in October 2013, which alleged that Gda Harrison threatened her in front of one of her children, was notified to the HSE (later Tusla) by Sgt Brigid McGowan. Ms Simms later withdrew the complaint.

Ms McTeague said that after meeting with Gda Harrison and Ms Simms in her office, she was satisfied "that they had insight and understanding into what had happened."

Mr Mark Harty SC, appearing for Gda Harrison, said that his client made no personal criticism of Ms McTeague.

The tribunal, which is chaired by Mr Justice Peter Charleton, continues this afternoon.


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