Pat Carey steps down as Fianna Fáil's director of elections
Pat Carey has stepped down as Fianna Fáil's director of elections, following reports that a former minister is facing child abuse allegations.
Mr Carey issued a statement through his solicitors last night, in which he said he did not know whether he is the former minister at the centre of the claims, but said he was aware of "rumour and innuendo".
"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," the statement said.
A number of people have given statements to gardaí, claiming that they were abused in the early 1990s.
The news has sent shockwaves through Fianna Fáil, which just last month appointed Mr Carey as its director of elections for the forthcoming General Election.
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.
More recently, the 68-year-old played a key role in the marriage referendum, during which he came out publicly as a gay man.
The statement released by Eames Solicitors in Dublin described Mr Carey as a "respected person and entitled to his good name".
It continued: "However, in order to allow the good work of the organisations that 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 of many community and church-related organisations," the solicitors said.
The statement added that Mr Carey does not know if the allegations being investigated relate to him but he felt - "given the unfounded speculation" - that he needed to issue a statement "of his own volition and with a heavy heart".
Gardaí launched their probe after a woman in her 30s came forward to claim that she was abused in the early 1990s.
Officers have now spoken with a number of people, who have given similar statements, alleging abuse in Dublin and the 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 are enough similarities in the statements they have taken to warrant a full investigation.
The investigation, which is being headed up by the Garda National Protection Services Bureau, is likely to move slowly and officers do not expect to speak with the former minister until the New Year.
Sources in Fianna Fáil have told the Irish Independent that they are "stunned" by the allegations.
When Mr Carey was appointed director of elections last month, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said he was "respected throughout the organisation".
In a statement last night, a spokesman for the party confirmed that it had been notified of the former TD's decision to step aside.
"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," the spokesman said.
Mr Carey lost his Dáil seat at the 2011 general election but has remained active in politics.
He was widely praised for speaking publicly about his own life as a gay man during the marriage referendum earlier this year.
In interviews, he revealed that he had been openly gay for the past four years but had never "come out" as such. He has had a partner since mid-2011.