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File photo - Pat Carey Leah Farrell/Photocall Ireland
Pat Carey

Gardaí apologise to Pat Carey over leaks from 2015 investigation into unfounded allegations

There was a settlement which included a payment of “substantial damages” to the former Fianna Fáil minister.

LAST UPDATE | 16 Jun 2023

LAWYERS REPRESENTING THE Garda Commissioner have acknowledged before the High Court that unfounded allegations of sexual abuse against former Fianna Fáil minister Pat Carey should never have been made public in 2015.

In November of that year, the Irish Independent published articles relating to an investigation into allegations of child sexual abuse involving a former minister. 

Carey was not named in the newspaper. He said at the time he felt he had to make a public statement because his name had become attached to the story in public circles and he wanted to reject the “rumour and innuendo” surrounding him. 

In the High Court today, it was outlined that a settlement between An Garda Síochána and Carey had been reached, with damages and costs being paid to the former TD.

He had sought damaged for breaches of privacy and confidentiality.

It is understood that the damages payment amounts to €250,000 to be paid by the State and An Garda Síochána. It is believed Independent News and Media will contribute some €75,000 to costs. 

In an apology, Garda Commissioner Drew Harris said that during the course of an investigation into allegations relating to Carey, “information in relation to that investigation found its way into the public domain”. 

He accepted that this “should never have happened” and acknowledged “that this was the cause of severe and wholly unjustified distress to Mr Carey and those close to him and damage to his reputation”. 

The text of the apology continued: “The disclosure of confidential Garda information in an unauthorised and uncontrolled manner in relation to investigations is damaging to the integrity of the investigative process and damaging to public confidence in An Garda Síochána. The public is entitled to expect that relevant policy and procedures in place are adhered to.” 

In his own statement, Pat Carey said that in November 2015 he was subjected to the “gravest allegations”, had his character vilified and his good name destroyed due to the “wrongful but deliberate acts of powerful people with vested interests”. 

He said he welcomed the end of a seven-and-a-half-year litigation battle and the “apology from the Garda Commissioner”. He also said he also welcomed the “vindication evidenced by the payment of substantial damages”. 

Carey, now 75, said he believes he was targeted because of his prominent position in public life but that he does not seek special treatment. 

“No citizen should have their fundamental rights violated as occurred to me,” he said. 

“The last period of time has been extremely difficult but I am fortunate in that I have had the support of those close to me, and the right thinking members of civil society who stood by me. I would like to thank them particularly for being there when needed.” 

Speaking to RTÉ’s News at One today, Carey said: “The sad thing about it is … the people who were, who still are, very loyal to me, their names have been tarnished as well. And I can come on programmes like yours and make an attempt to set the record straight. They won’t be in a position to do anything like that and that’s a real pity.”

Carey said he “totally supports” the right to free speech, but added that “some of the stuff that makes its way into the media currently … isn’t doing any good to the reputation of some of the media, not all of the media”.

He also said: “As far as I’m concerned this is closing that chapter.”

When asked if the damage done to him would have been lessened if the apology today came sooner, Carey said: “I think it would. I hate saying it but apologies tend to be dragged out of the other side. Apologies tend to be dragged out of the other side, that was the case with this apology as much as anything else.”

In May 2016, Carey launched a High Court action against the Garda Commissioner, the Attorney General, and Independent News and Media following the leaking of allegations to the media in November 2015. 

In August 2019, it was reported that Carey would not face any criminal charges in relation to the allegations. 

The action

In his action, Carey claimed that while he was not named in the media reports, he was identified as the person concerned, and consequently became the subject of speculation.

He claimed he was placed in a position of having to make a public statement dealing with allegations of which he had no knowledge and felt obliged to step aside from positions he held while any investigation was underway.

He claimed his constitutional rights to privacy and confidentiality, as well as his rights under the European Convention on Human Rights were breached.

He further alleged that the information in the reports published by the paper was disclosed to the media unlawfully by servants or agents of the Garda Commissioner, and he had sought aggravated and exemplary damages.

When the matter was previously before the courts, the defendants had admitted that the articles were published but had denied all the claims made against them.

The media defendants had argued that he was not identified as a result of the articles, and it was Carey’s own statement that identified him as being the former minister in question. The media defendants also published Carey’s denials of the allegations, and had claimed that the articles were in the public interest.

Political career

Carey, a former chief whip, became a TD in 1997 in the constituency of Dublin North West, but lost his seat at the 2011 general election.

He played a prominent role in the 2015 same-sex marriage referendum where he advocated for a Yes vote, after coming out as gay during the course of the campaign.

Carey also worked as a teacher for 30 years.

He stepped down as Fianna Fáil’s director of elections in November 2015 amid reports that a former Fianna Fáil minister was being investigated on foot of allegations of historical sex abuse. 

In a statement issued at the time, Carey said he “absolutely and unconditionally” denied any impropriety in relation to the allegations.

He also said he did not know if he was the person referred to in the articles but acknowledged his name had become attached to the “rumour and innuendo”. 

Carey also resigned from a role with the Irish Red Cross, and said he was “deeply upset” at being contacted by journalists about the matter.

In today’s short court hearing, Declan Doyle SC, acting for the Garda Commissioner and the State, read out the apology.

The case was struck out as terms of settlement had been agreed.

In a statement this afternoon, Mediahuis said they welcomed the conclusion of the matter and the fact that the proceedings against the Irish Independent have been struck out.

“In 2015 we published an article on a matter of public interest which was the subject of a garda investigation. It did not identify Mr Carey and was widely followed up by other media outlets who added additional details,” the statement read. 

“We subsequently reported the Director of Public Prosecutions’ decision in 2019 not to pursue any charges in the matter. We recognise this was a difficult period for Mr Carey.

“We take our duties and obligations as a news publisher very seriously and we will continue to publish articles that are in the public interest in a manner that is appropriate and responsible.

“We note that the Garda Commissioner has made a statement to Mr Carey in relation to the matters for which he, as head of An Garda Síochána, is responsible.”

With reporting by Aodhan O’Faolain

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