By Sean Ryan, Fiachra O Cionnaith, Juno McEnroe and Elaine Loughlin
Former Minister for Communications Pat Carey, 68, has stepped down as Fianna Fáil's Director of Elections for the forthcoming General election.
The former Communications Minister who lost his seat in the 2011 General election said that he ''did not know if the current allegations of sexual misconduct against a former Minister related to him and was disappointed to learn about it on the front page of a national newspaper''.
However in a statement issued to RTE through his solicitor Mr Carey said he ''was a respected person and entitled to his good name and absolutely and vehemently denied any impropriety''.
He also revealed that he is stepping down as Fianna Fáil's Director of elections and as a member of the party for the time being.
Yesterday Gardaí revealed that they are investigating claims of sexual abuse made against a former government minister. It is understood a number of alleged victims have come forward in recent months.
Their claims are now being investigated by a Specialist Child Protection unit. These allegations date back to the 1980s. Their claims relate to incidents in Dublin and one in the Midlands.
The statement added:
“Mr Carey is a respected person and entitled to his good name. 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.”
Given the unfounded speculation, the statement said, Mr Carey has also decided to step down from his public roles with communities and through the Church. He was taking this action of “his own volition and with a heavy heart”, it added.
A Fianna Fail spokesman said: “We have received confirmation of Pat Carey’s decision to step aside from his role as director of elections and as a member of Fianna Fail.
“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 Irish Red Cross, of which Mr Carey was made a chairman last May, did not comment last night.
Over almost a quarter of a century in politics, Mr Carey served as local councillor, minister, government chief whip, and most recently was appointed as director of elections for Fianna Fáil.
However, it was his central involvement in the Marriage Equality Bill that drew public attention and praise when he came out as a gay man.
He said it had taken him 65 years to “pluck up the courage and confidence” to speak about his sexuality.
Marriage equality will officially come into law after the weekend.
Gardaí have said they will not approach Mr Carey formally until they have finished the first phase of their investigation. Garda sources last night said the status of the investigation had not changed.