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Dublin: 12 °C Sunday 24 May, 2020

Amid the rumour and innuendo, Pat Carey's resignation was inevitable

Analysis: The former minister’s swift resignation as Fianna Fáil’s director of elections was always on the cards once his name began to circulate in the political bubble.

Pat Carey
Pat Carey

THERE HAS BEEN widespread shock in political circles to the linking of Pat Carey to allegations of abuse dating back to the early 1990s.

Once it emerged early on Tuesday that he was the politician linked to the front page story on the Irish Independent it was inevitable that he would have to resign as Fianna Fáil’s director of elections.

The party expected last night’s statement of resignation from both his important general election role and as a party member once Carey’s name began to circulate in the Leinster House bubble.

Politically, Fianna Fáil has had to deal with quite a bit over the last four years in the aftermath of its 2011 general election massacre, where Carey was among the over 50 TDs to lose their seats, but that pales into insignificance when compared to the seriousness of this story.

First, a number of people have given statements to gardaí claiming that they were abused by a man who later became a government minister. An investigation has been launched and is ongoing into what, in any circumstances, is an extremely serious matter.

Second, we have the extraordinary situation whereby Carey has not even been contacted by gardaí in relation to these allegations.

Yet he felt compelled to issue a statement through his solicitors last night having been the subject of “rumour and innuendo” – as he puts it – regarding the Irish Independent story.

New territory

Carey, 68, is, in his own words, “distraught” that he had to learn of his name being linked to this story through the media and then had to contend with journalists contacting him.

In his statement last night he admitted that he was aware of speculation regarding him, but said that he absolutely and unconditionally denies impropriety in relation to the allegations that have circulated in recent days.

This is new territory in Irish public life whereby before a person is even contacted by the gardaí in relation to serious allegations they have to go public and deny any link to them.

It’s troubling in some respects for the principle of innocent until proven guilty. But no media organisation would or should turn down a story of such importance and which is undoubtedly in the public interest. There may well be questions for the gardaí over how and why the story emerged.

The reason for the gardaí waiting to speak to the person at the centre of the allegations is a sound one. Gardaí reportedly began their investigation after a woman in her 30s came forward to claim she had been abused in the early 1990s.

Investigators have spoken to a number of people who have given similar statements alleging abuse. Gardaí want to make sure they are satisfied they have met and interviewed all potential witnesses.

But that will provide little solace to Carey, a former school teacher, principal and community worker, who had lived a life of quiet retirement from elected politics after losing his Dublin North-West Dáil seat in 2011.

Prominent role

That was until he emerged in February of this year to reveal that he was gay. He said his only regret was that he didn’t have “the courage or confidence” to come out earlier.

“When I look back it’s an awful pity I didn’t feel able to do that. Nobody stopped me, but I wasn’t sure how it would be received,” he told the Irish Times.

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He later drew widespread praise for an interview with Seán O’Rourke on RTÉ Radio where he spoke of coming out very late in life and of the loneliness of living with his secret.

Carey went on to play a prominent role in the same-sex marriage referendum and was heavily involved with the groundbreaking work of the Yes Equality campaign. He was one of the many happy faces at Dublin Castle on result day in May.

His new-found public prominence, likability and extensive political background and knowledge were among the reasons why Fianna Fáil made him the party’s director of elections for next year’s general election.

Now, in order to avoid any controversy or distraction, Carey has withdrawn completely from public life and Fianna Fáil must find his replacement.

For the party the extent of the political damage this causes pales into insignificance given the seriousness of the allegations of abuse.

But, for what it’s worth, this is unlikely to cause Fianna Fáil huge political damage. The story is likely to stay out of the news in the months ahead as the garda investigation continues.

Read: Amid speculation, Pat Carey steps down as Fianna Fáil’s election chief

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About the author:

Hugh O'Connell

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