Willie Kealy: Pat Carey has had a week of 'rumour and innuendo'
Investigating sex abuse claims against an unnamed former minister could take months - let's not rush to judgement, says Willie Kealy
When Ken Foy, of the Herald, broke the story on Wednesday that the gardai had received a complaint from a woman alleging that she had been sexually abused as a child by someone who had been a government minister back in the 1990s, speculation went into overdrive.
We were told the allegation referred to a period prior to this person holding government office and was supposed to have taken place in the context of their previous working life. But the person at the centre of the allegations was not named and there was nothing in the article to enable anyone to identify that person.
Nevertheless, Leinster House is a small place and it seems the guessing game began immediately. Indeed it seems that within a number of parties there was speculation that it might have been one of theirs.
But with numerous people from different disciplines making their own enquiries, for some reason not clear to anyone, "rumour and innuendo" led to one name coming to the fore - that of Pat Carey, the former Fianna Fail government minister, junior minister, chief whip, and front man for Fianna Fail in the gay marriage referendum after sensationally coming out publicly in late middle age as homosexual. During all the early speculation, his name had not been on anyone's list. It was a shock. The logical thing to do seemed to be to ring up Pat Carey. Somebody did.
At that stage - and at this stage - the gardai had not spoken to the person against whom the allegation had been made. In fact they say it could be months before they do, if indeed they do at all. So naturally it came as a bit of a jolt to Pat Carey to be called out of the blue by a journalist in this context. He responded by saying:"I'm saying nothing at the moment, thank you." By Thursday night, he still had no official confirmation (and still hasn't apparently) as to whether or not he is the person against whom the complaint was made. So he issued a statement.
He said he was aware of the "rumour and innuendo" surrounding the publication of the story. And he was "distraught" to first learn about it in the media. He was "deeply upset" at being contacted by various journalists and did not know "if the allegations mentioned in the national press referred to him", and "has no knowledge of the actual complaints allegedly made".
He also was concerned by comments "allegedly attributed to the gardai in media articles". Well of course he was. Who wouldn't be if the most heinous allegation - short of murder - was being associated in "rumour and innuendo" with your name in political and media circles and maybe even seeping into the public mind. What could he say?
What he said about the substance of the allegation was that 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 also said he was stepping down as Fianna Fail Director of Elections and as a member of the party and from all other offices he held, locally and nationally, including his chairmanship of the Irish Red Cross "to allow any investigations take place".
Meanwhile, the Garda investigation will carry on. At some stage in the future the gardai may decide to interview the person against whom the allegation has been made. They may not. Not every allegation made to the gardai is, after full investigation, deemed to be sufficiently evidence-based to merit that step. In this instance we are told that the abuse alleged is at the lower end of the scale - whatever that means exactly. We are also told that a number of people - we don't know how many - are offering what is claimed to be corroborative evidence. That may prove to be true, it may not.
We are told that the person who made the allegation first went to the gardai with a complaint 10 years ago, but there was no follow-up. Now it appears there is no record of that complaint to be found in the Garda files.
Throughout Wednesday and Thursday there was understandable concern in Fianna Fail about the story. They had heard the "rumour and innuendo" linking its Director of Elections to the story. They met and talked about it. But it is noteworthy that there was no obvious attempt to circle the wagons. From what we know, nobody suggested this as a course of action and certainly it was not the approach taken by Mr Carey.
It is also worth noting that there was no attempt by Fianna Fail to demonise the person who made the allegation. There was no campaign of this type on social media. Not by Fianna Fail supporters. Not by Mr Carey. And the decision to step away from the party and his Director of Elections position and other offices, was "of his own volition and with a heavy heart".
Pat Carey is an innocent man. He is not even a person of interest who has been spoken to by anyone investigating anything. The gardai will work this case like any other, taking statements, talking to as many people as they think are relevant, and finally, maybe, talking to the person against whom the allegation has been made.
And it may transpire that they feel the allegation and whatever other evidence they can find, and the response to their questions by the person against whom the allegation has been made, should they feel questioning him is warranted, amounts to a case to send to the DPP, who will then decide if it is a case that has a chance of being successful in court. And if it goes to court, the person against whom the allegation has been made could be declared innocent or found guilty.
In the meantime the alleged victim will go through the same painful process that all such complainants do. And we, on the sidelines, will stand back and wait.
We cannot help but think about all this against the background of the child sex abuse experience in Ireland in recent years. And we also will undoubtedly think about how Pat Carey's name has come into all this - a decent, hard-working politician who has done sterling work representing Finglas and Ballymun for years, and a courageous man who came out in late middle age because he knew the cause of gay rights was bigger than his own desire for personal privacy.
And just for once we might suspend judgement and allow due process to take its course. What is important is that no effort is spared to ensure that whoever is telling the truth is fully vindicated at the end of the process.
Brendan O'Connor, Soapbox, Page 36