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'This is a bid to discredit me -- I won't be broken'

DANA Rosemary Scallon has defended her brother from allegations that he sexually abused their niece which emerged in the course of a legal action in America that divided her family.

The unproven claims against Dana's brother, John Brown, were contained in transcripts of the case heard in an Iowa court in 2008. He was accused of abusing the daughter of Susan and Ronald Stein, who were in a legal dispute with Dana. Mr Brown, who was supporting Dana in the case, denied the allegations in a sworn statement.

Dana said: "All people are hearing are allegations within a very contentious court case."

In an interview with the Sunday Independent, she said her brother was one of a group of family members who had worked on her campaign. She said had returned to be with his family in the UK but added: "He is not one to run from this kind of scurrilous attempt to discredit -- I think primarily me -- but also him. He is not one to run," she said.

She said the claims were "malicious lies": "How do I know that they were malicious lies? Because they only surfaced in a family dispute where a lot of money was involved. . . That's maybe four or five years ago and nothing was done. They only surface now in the middle of my campaign," she said.

Dana said for legal reasons -- she had signed a non-disparagement clause -- she couldn't discuss the details of the US court case. It concerned music rights and royalties, relating to the Heart Beat record label, which distributed Dana's music in the US. On one side were Ronald and Susan Stein, who live in the US. And on the other, Susan's sister, Dana and her husband, Damien Scallon. According to court transcripts published yesterday, Ronald Stein claimed that John Brown admitted abusing his daughter over a 12-year period in a telephone call in 2005 and apologised. The Steins raised the issue to query the credibility of Mr Brown during testimony. Mr Brown denied it in depositions.

What began as a private and acrimonious family row has exploded on to an already volatile and heated presidential election campaign. Dana had warned that "false and vile" allegations were about to break during the Prime Time presidential election debate last Wednesday. She revealed on Friday that they were of a sexual nature and related to a family member.

They finally surfaced in a newspaper yesterday, along with a letter from a lawyer for the alleged victim. Jeffrey Tronvold said he represented a 45-year-old Iowa woman who has been identified as being sexually molested over a number of years."

He said his client reserved the right to take action against anyone who repeated claims that her allegations were "false, malicious or otherwise" -- which Dana has claimed all along. Dana spoke to the Sunday Independent on Friday. She sat in the roomy salon of a period house on Harcourt Terrace in Dublin (owned by supportive friends) and seemed tougher than she appeared on Prime Time.

Dana linked her current troubles to a spate of recent "hate mail". At 3.08am last February, she received an anonymous email. The tag line read: "Dana -- Music.com goes down in flames" and the message: "Ding Dong the witch is. . . you know the saying. Which witch? The wicked witch."

She heard nothing more until last Saturday, when she was in the middle of her presidential campaign. At 9.25pm, she got another email: "HAHAHAHAHA -- the bitch finally gets what she deserves." She was already trying to deal with her US citizenship row. (She was accused of concealing her US citizenship in 1997's presidential election, but in fact obtained it in 1999). Dana said the email threatened to release further stories about her: "I knew there was something in the offing."

A journalist approached her on Wednesday, prompting her to put together the statement that had audiences scratching their heads later that night on Prime Time.

The following day, she cancelled her engagements and hunkered down with family and legal advisors in Dublin. "I needed to speak with my children, my husband, and we needed to get legal advice on our situation. I wasn't upset. I was determined that this new attempt to undermine my character and my campaign would not succeed," she said.

She said: "I spoke with as many family members as I could. It's perfectly clear that somebody raised a malicious accusation and falsehood, first in a court case and and second in a campaign with the hope of undermining my credibility and integrity. Nothing has ever been done over a period of 35 years. People are not stupid and they can see."

Had she spoken to John Brown about these allegations? "Of course I did and he absolutely denied them." He is one of "a group of family members who are helping my campaign", she said.

She said her lawyers are investigating the source of the anonymous emails, which were traced to the US.

Dana said she was devastated by the family row reaching the public domain; her liquid brown eyes welled up but she never actually cried: "I won't be broken by lies, intimidation, bullying or blackmail. That's a message I've consistently given to the Irish people . . . There is a strength in the Irish people and they won't let that kind of treatment break their spirit."

On the phone from the campaign trail in Galway yesterday, she said she stood over all she had said but would say no more. "I am leaving this right where it is. I am not making any more comment because the most important thing now is how crucial this campaign is."

Sunday Independent