TD apologises to gardai in row over drunken 'threats'
FINE GAEL TD PJ Sheehan last night apologised to gardai who he had allegedly made drunken threats to outside the Dail when they stopped him driving home.
The 77-year-old TD also expressed his regret at the "embarrassment" he caused to his party, constituents and family.
Mr Sheehan was keeping a low profile in his west Cork constituency yesterday as the controversy raged over the incident earlier this summer.
Last night, Fine Gael issued a personal statement from the Cork South-West TD, but the party did not say if he would be disciplined any further.
Mr Sheehan was in a back-room of his family's grocery shop and newsagents on Main Street in Goleen at lunchtime yesterday when the Irish Independent called, but he declined to come to the shop counter to deal with media queries.
The TD is understood to be retiring at the next General Election.
Coming so soon after the furore over Taoiseach Brian Cowen's interview debacle, the revelations are damaging to Fine Gael.
A female garda has claimed that, at 1am on July 8, Mr Sheehan was very intoxicated as he approached his car outside Leinster House.
TDs were leaving the Dail following the last session before the lengthy summer recess.
When the female garda tried to prevent him from using his car, Mr Sheehan is alleged to have threatened that her actions would damage her future career.
In an official garda report, it is alleged that Mr Sheehan told the garda she would never get promoted. "When we get into power you will get nothing," he said.
In his statement last night, Mr Sheehan said he wished to offer "a full and unreserved apology for my behaviour on July 8 in the environs of Leinster House.
"This behaviour was totally out of character in my 30 years in politics. In particular, I offer my deepest apologies to the gardai on duty that night, who were carrying out their duty in exemplary fashion.
"I also deeply regret the embarrassment this incident has caused the Fine Gael Party, its leader, my colleagues in the party, my constituents in Cork South-West and my wife and family. I intend writing a letter in the morning expressing my deep personal apologies and regrets to the gardai in question," he said in the statement.
Fine Gael did not say if Mr Sheehan would be disciplined following the incident
"The work and conduct of gardai in Leinster House has always been exemplary. The incident referred to here is entirely a matter for the gardai," a party statement said.
It is alleged that Mr Sheehan was so drunk at the time of the incident that he required assistance to remain upright.
Mr Sheehan has acknowledged that an incident did occur on July 8 -- but he has vehemently denied that he "threatened" or had any physical contact whatsoever with the garda involved.
The veteran TD claimed the allegations were being made to "belittle him" in the Dail by people who were jealous of him.
"The matter is null and void now as far as I am concerned -- it is over with. That's it," he said.
The garda sergeant on duty that night outside Leinster House later spoke to Mr Kenny as he left the Dail campus and is said to have been told to "ignore what Mr Sheehan had said".
However, the garda sergeant later told his superiors that he was "shocked" by the treatment meted out by an elected representative to the female garda who was only doing her job.
Mr Sheehan remained in west Cork yesterday despite the fact that Cork were playing in the All-Ireland football final.
His son, Cllr Dermot Sheehan, was manning the shop counter -- and referred all media queries to the national Fine Gael press office.
Several locals admitted they had met the TD in the family shop yesterday morning and expressed surprise that he was not travelling to Croke Park for the Cork-Down All-Ireland final.
Mr Sheehan is a huge supporter of Cork Gaelic football, and rarely misses even west Cork club matches.
However, most locals in Goleen refused to comment about the allegations.
"I have nothing to say -- this should be a private matter," one woman said.
Another man said he found the timing of the allegations a bit suspicious, coming so soon after the controversy over Taoiseach Brian Cowen's 'Morning Ireland' interview. "He is a great worker for west Cork and for Goleen," he declared.