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Fianna Fáil TD says he 'deeply regrets' writing letter for CAB target brothers

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‘Not a character reference’: TD Joe Flaherty, left, pictured in 2016 with Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin. Photo: Steve Humphreys

‘Not a character reference’: TD Joe Flaherty, left, pictured in 2016 with Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin. Photo: Steve Humphreys

‘Not a character reference’: TD Joe Flaherty, left, pictured in 2016 with Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin. Photo: Steve Humphreys

A Fianna Fáil TD has said he "deeply regrets" writing a letter to a court on behalf of three brothers whose homes were this week raided as part of a major Criminal Assets Bureau (CAB) investigation.

In a statement, the Longford-Westmeath TD Joe O’Flaherty said writing the letter on behalf of the men during a violent order trial was an "error of judgement".

"As a newly elected TD for the area I provided a letter detailing an ongoing feud of which these people were involved and the blight this feud has had on our town," the new TD said. "I acknowledge that writing this letter was an error of judgement and one which I deeply regret," he added.

The comments followed criticisms by former Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan who said it is "dangerous" for TDs to try "influence judicial decisions" as it "potentially blurs the clear constitutional lines", which separate the legislature and the Judiciary.

Mr Flaherty said he agreed with Mr Flanagan that "no political representative should ever seek to influence the Judiciary". "Indeed this is something I expressed in the letter," he added.

In June, Mr Flaherty described Thomas (40), Denis (39), and Willie Hannafin (35) as "extremely capable, very sharp and more than familiar with hard work" during a trial in Longford Circuit Court.

The men were given suspended sentences for an attack which resulted in an 18 year old receiving a knife wounds.

On Monday, the homes of all three men were among 12 residential properties, three commercial premises and one business raided by gardaí. CAB seized €110,000 and £14,000 (€15,570) in cash along with three caravans and 11 vehicles including a Mercedes, Skoda Kodiaq, Isuzu D-Max, Ford Ranger and a Toyota Land Cruiser. Two Rolex watches were seized, as were designer handbags and shoes.

In the letter, the Fianna Fáil TD said he was "deeply disappointed" by the actions of the three brothers and said local feuds were having a negative impact on Longford.

Mr Flaherty said he knew the men before the court and "many members of their family".

"Ordinarily, they are likeable men, very committed to family, and I am aware that a shadow of tragedy has hung over them in recent years,' he said.

"All three men are extremely capable, very sharp and more than familiar with hard work. I would like to think and hope that the actions before the court are not likely to happen again but, unfortunately, feuding has been a huge problem and stigma for Longford town," he added.

Mr Flaharty previously insisted he was not a "character reference" and said he was not trying to influence the outcome of the case. The letter was written on the TD’s personalised headed note paper and listed his Dáil address.

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