The girlfriend of a man jailed for sexually assaulting a woman in Co Kerry has said the fact that around 50 people queued up in court to shake his hand proves the esteem in which he is held.
Bouncer Danny Foley, aged 35, was found guilty two weeks ago of sexually assaulting a woman in Listowel on June 15, 2008.
The victim was discovered by gardaí in a semi-conscious state and naked from the waist down alongside a skip in a nightclub car park.
At his sentencing yesterday, around 50 people, including Castlegregory parish priest Fr Seán Sheehy who had given Foley a reference, shook his hand and hugged him tearfully.
Judge Donagh McDonagh during the subsequent hearing rejected Fr Sheehy's character reference for Mr Foley..
The Judge also described the woman's victim impact statement, in which she said she felt judged by the people of north Kerry for pursuing the case, but was not sorry for telling the truth, as one of "remarkable dignity".
He sentenced Foley to seven years in jail for the assault, with the last two suspended.
Fr Sheehy speaking this morning defended his actions, saying the mother of the convicted man had asked him to show his support, and he did.
Foley's girlfriend Michelle also speaking today said people know he is not capable of the offence for which he was convicted, and she and his family have received tremendous support.
"People are turning up in their droves to support the family," she said. "Everybody is devastated. Nobody who knows him can believe this of him."
"Danny has been of impeccable good character. He is held in the highest esteem, has no previous convictions… He has never been in any trouble of any description."
Meanwhile, Director of the Rape Crisis Centre in Kerry Vera O' Leary described what happened in court as "devastating" for the victim.