Monday 20 May 2019

Fianna Fáil in turmoil as Garda launch formal inquiry

Pat Carey has stepped down from his position as director elections for Fianna Fail
Pat Carey has stepped down from his position as director elections for Fianna Fail

Kevin Doyle and Ken Foy

Fianna Fáil is in turmoil over how to handle the fallout from former minister Pat Carey's resignation as the party's direction of election.

Party leader Micheál Martin is in the firing line with parliamentary party members saying they were not consulted when Mr Carey was appointed to the position last month.

While they admit "nobody could have foreseen what has happened", the Irish Independent has learned that a number of TDs were unhappy with the choice at the time but decided to not to make an issue of it.

"A few of us were furious with Pat's selection because of his past involvement in Cabinet. He hung in until the bitter end while some of us where being castigated for speaking out against what was happening - yet Michael Martin brought him back in."

Other sources backed up this view, with one noting: "If there was a November election we would have been in the eye of the storm."

It comes as a Garda Chief Superintendent was ordered to launch an inquiry into how information that a former politician was under investigation got into the public domain.

The probe is reported to stretch beyond the force and could even see alleged victims questioned about possible contacts with journalists at this newspaper.

Officials from the Department of Justice and legal representatives may also be quizzed.

Mr Carey has said while 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 aware of "rumour and innuendo" linking him to the story.

Fianna Fáil rushed to appoint Cork North Central TD Billy Kelleher as the new director of elections yesterday.

In a brief statement, Mr Martin said: "I would like to thank Pat and acknowledge his work on the campaign to date."

However, several parliamentary party members have expressed unease at the way the situation is being dealt with by the leadership.

The party was not involved in the drafting of Mr Carey's statement on Thursday night but were notified that it was about to be made public as a matter of courtesy.

The garda investigation into allegations that an ex-minister was involved in abuse of children is expected to be a slow one.

It will be the New Year before the accused man is formally contacted by the Garda National Protection Services Bureau.

The probe began after a woman, in her 30s, alleged that she was abused in the early 1990s.

Since then, gardaí have approached a number of potential witnesses, some of whom indicated they had knowledge of abuse taking place.

While most Fianna Fáil parliamentary party members were aware of what Mr Carey has described as "unfounded speculation" that he is the ex-minister at the centre of the garda investigation, there was "shock" and "amazement" when he decided to release a public statement through his solicitor.

Friends of Mr Carey, who was a TD from 1997 until 2011, have told the Irish Independent that he is struggling to come to terms with the situation.

"It has happened so quickly. It's not something anybody could ever have prepared for," said one source.

Along with resigning from Fianna Fáil, Mr Carey said he will step aside from his roles "as chairman and member of many community and church-related organisations".

This includes his job as chairman of the Irish Red Cross.

The charity issued a statement last night, saying: "Irish Red Cross respects Mr Carey's decision to step down and the authorities must now be given time to investigate."

It noted Mr Carey took up the voluntary position in May while the "allegations relate to a period over 30 years ago".

"The Irish Red Cross's work at home and abroad is not affected," it concluded.

The Garda Press Office yesterday released a statement, saying: "An Garda Síochána wish to confirm that we are examining all the circumstances surrounding how information relating to an ongoing criminal investigation entered the public domain."

The investigation into alleged leaks is the third of its kind ordered by Garda Commissioner Noirin O'Sullivan in recent months.

One relates to the series of arrests as a result of the anti-water charge protest which saw Tánaiste Joan Burton trapped in her car in Dublin's Jobstown last year.

It was reported in the media that Dáil deputy Paul Murphy would be charged in relation to the incident before he was informed by gardaí.

Another investigation has seen a garda arrested on foot of information allegedly provided to the media during the high-profile case where a child was taken away from a Roma family in 2013.

The Department of Justice last night issued a statement on foot of reports that its officials may be interviewed as part of the latest investigation.

It said that it "wishes to make it clear that it had received no information on the investigation in question prior to its disclosure to the media".

Irish Independent

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