The Dáil's speaker, Sean O Fearghail, has explained the circumstances which led him to write a reference for a convicted sex abuser in his constituency in 2006.
Mr O Fearghail, re-elected as Ceann Comhairle last Thursday, has come under fire in recent days for writing a reference for Joseph Dempsey, who was jailed for six years for the rape and 15 counts of indecent and sexual assault against his nephew Shane, who waived his anonymity.
Shane and his sister Emma-Jane have been calling in recent days for an apology from the Ceann Comhairle and for an end to politicians writing references for people in such circumstances.
But they have rejected Mr O Fearghail's statement saying it “lacked any apology” and accused it of being “self-serving”.
Speaking to the Irish Examiner, Shane said: “Speaking about my abuse was hard enough but to be confronted by this TD writing a letter in support of my abuser was a slap in the face. I am not even really looking for an apology, but I just want to show people the impact this has had and to ensure this does not happen again.”
“An apology would have been nice, but it has gone past that for Shane,” Emma-Jane said.
The statement was self-serving from our point of view. This came up while a convicted paedophile was looking for a lighter sentence.
"Who writes a reference for the victims? So we are hurt."
In a statement issued in response to online queries, Mr O Fearghail said his writing of the letter was not done to seek a lesser sentence for a convicted paedophile, but to provide a reference as requested.
“I wish to state categorically that I did not then, nor do I now, condone rapists and inferences to the contrary are unspeakable and untrue.
“I cannot begin to imagine the devastation, destruction and horror experienced by those who are abused by the wrongdoing of paedophiles. The actions I took were not done to seek a lesser sentence for a convicted paedophile but to provide a reference as requested,” he said.
In his statement, which he said was “strongly caveated,” Mr O Fearghail said: “I stated that I knew him [Dempsey] to be a member of a very large, well known and well-respected local family.”
“I stated that I had been acquainted with the person through my constituency work and by also being a local resident. I also said that during those contacts I had never had any reason to question his decency or integrity,” he said.
“I added that, while I was not at all familiar with the circumstances surrounding the crimes of which he had been convicted, I knew that they were grievous in nature and I offered the testimonial not to in any way condone what had happened but simply to illustrate his standing in the community,” he added.
The Ceann Comhairle said he did not attend in court on behalf of the individual convicted in order to provide a character reference during the case.
He said he never wrote to the court asking for leniency and he said he acknowledges that the victim in this case has suffered horrendously.
“I am sure it would be impossible to measure the scale of the damage done to the victim in these proceedings,” he said.
Full Text of Sean O Fearghail's response to online queries today: