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Listen: Kildare Siblings Call For An End Of Submission Of Character References By TDs For People Convicted Of Certain Offences.

: 02/27/2020 - 18:30

Two Kildare siblings are calling for a formal end to the practice of TDs writing character references for people convicted of certain crimes.

In 2006, now Ceann Comhairle, Seán O'Fearghail, submitted a character reference for Joseph Dempsey.

Joseph Dempsey was jailed for six years for the rape and 15 counts of indecent and sexual assault against his nephew Shane Dempsey.

The letter was submitted in the period between Joseph Dempsey's conviction and sentencing.

Shane Dempsey, and his sister, Emma Jane Dempsey, are both survivors of child sexual abuse.

They have contacted Deputy O'Fearghail, seeking an apology.

He declined an invitation to interview, but did issue this statement, an excerpt of which is read now by Kfm's Clem Ryan on this morning's edition of Kildare Today.

thursclemevening.mp3, by Ciara Plunkett

Shane Dempsey, speaking to Kildare Today,  says, if the TD had apologised, they could have worked together to formally end character references by deputies in such cases.

thursshanevening.mp3, by Ciara Plunkett

That's a view echoed by his sister, Emma Jane Dempsey.

thursshanevening.mp3, by Ciara Plunkett

 This morning's interview, in full, is available here:

Deputy O'Fearghail's statement, in full: "You contacted me in response to a recent campaign, conducted on social media, in respect of a character reference written by me 14 years ago.  You and others have communicated your views in relation to the provision, by me in 2006, of a character reference. The fact that I wrote the character reference is true, but there are a number of caveats to my actions that are not in the public domain.  I wish to explain these issues, not in any way to validate my actions but to explain the reason and background to the action.  

Before detailing my actions, 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.  Apart from being a public representative, I am a husband, a father, a brother and an uncle.  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.

I provided what I regarded as a strongly caveated statement  TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN. Within that letter I stated that I knew him 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. 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.  I do not know if the character reference was ever presented to the Court.

I wish to make it clear that (i) I did not attend in Court on behalf of the individual convicted in order to provide a character reference during the case, (ii) I have never written to the court asking for leniency; (iii) I acknowledge that the victim in this case has suffered horrendously,(iv) I am sure it would be impossible to measure the scale of the damage done to the victim in these proceedings.

I trust that you will accept that the above information provides context to this matter and assures you that I did not and nor would I ever seek to provide protection or ask for leniency for anyone charged or convicted of such horrific offences.

And finally, since 2006 I have a policy in my office of never providing any correspondence in respect of individuals before the Courts except in certain cases of family home repossessions."

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