FORMER Fianna Fáil TD Pat Carey has stepped down as Fianna Fáil's director of elections.
Mr Carey (68) issued a statement through a solicitor tonight in which he said he does not know if he is the minister at the centre of a garda investigation into child abuse. However, he admitted that he is aware of speculation.
A number of people have given statements to gardaí claiming that they were abused in the early 1990s, when he was a school teacher in north Dublin.
The news has sent shockwaves through Fianna Fáil, which just last month appointed Mr Carey as their director of elections.
He is to voluntarily step down from that position while the investigation is ongoing.
A statement, issued via Mr Carey's solicitor tonight, said:
"Our client Mr. Pat Carey, former Minister and a member of many community and voluntary organisations, has instructed us in relation to the rumour and innuendo surrounding a newspaper article published yesterday entitled ‘Former Minister investigated by Gardaí over child abuse claims’.
"Mr. Carey is deeply upset to be contacted by various journalists on this matter when he has no knowledge of the actual complaints allegedly made. He absolutely and unconditionally denies any impropriety in this matter or in his 30 years experience as a teacher; as a community worker and in his public life. He was distraught to first learn of these matters on the front page of a national newspaper. He is also concerned at comments allegedly attributed to Gardaí in media articles in the past 24 hours."
"Mr. Carey is a respected person and is entitled to his good name. However, in order to allow the good work of the organisations he is involved in to continue without controversy or distraction he will step aside from all such roles to allow any investigation to take place. This includes his role as Chairman and member many community and church related organisations. He will also step down from his role as Director of Elections for Fianna Fáil and as a member of the Fianna Fáil party."
"Mr. Carey does not know if the allegations in the national press relate to him but given the unfounded speculation that has arisen he is taking this action of his own volition and with a heavy heart."
"Mr. Carey will not be making any other public statement and the matter will be dealt with through his solicitors."
The Kerry native was a TD for Dublin North West from 1997 to 2011 and served as government chief whip from 2008 before becoming Minister for Community, Equality and Gaeltacht Affairs in 2010.
In the dying days of Brian Cowen’s government he also served as Minister for Transport, as well as Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources.
He lost his seat in the 2011 but has remained active in politics, most notably during the recent marriage referendum.
During the campaign the 68-year-old came out publicly as a gay man. He said he had been openly gay for the last four years but had never “come out” as such.
He has a partner since mid-2011.
Gardaí launched the probe after a woman, in her 30s, came forward to claim that she was abused by the man in the early 1990s.
Officers have now spoken with a number of people who have given similar statements, alleging abuse in Dublin and midlands.
It is understood that the allegations are at the “lower end” of the scale, with sources saying they will be difficult to prove.
However, gardaí feel there is enough similarities in the statement s they have taken to warrant a full investigation.
They will not speak with the ex-minister until they are satisfied that they have met with all potential witnesses.
Sources in Fianna Fáil say they are “stunned” by the allegations.
A Fianna Fáil Spokesperson confirmed tonight: "We have received confirmation of Pat Carey's decision to step aside from his role as Director of Elections and as a member of Fianna Fáil."
"He has outlined his reasons for this in his own statement released through his solicitors. An announcement on his replacement as Director of Elections will be made in due course.”
When he was appointed Director of Elections last month, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said Mr Carey was “respected throughout the organisation.”