A Character Reference


From top: Seán Ó Fearghaíl (left) and Joe Dempsey; Emma-Jane Dempsey and her brother Shane Dempsey; Emma-Jane today

Yesterday morning.

Siblings Shane and Emma-Jane Dempsey, from Rathangan, County Kildare, spoke to Clem Ryan on Kildare FM about the abuse they suffered at the hands of their uncle Joe Dempsey.

Joe Dempsey, of Togereen, Monasterevin, Co Kildare, was found guilty of one count of anal rape and 15 of indecent assault on Shane Dempsey on various dates between 1984 and 1993.

He was jailed for six years in 2004 and after unsuccessfully appealing, he subsequently served three years.

After Joe Dempsey was convicted but before his sentencing, a character reference written by then Fianna Fáil TD Seán Ó Fearghaíl, who is now the Ceann Comhairle, was read out in court.

Shane and Emma-Jane are now calling for Ó Fearghaíl to resign and for an end to the practice of elected representatives providing character references for people charged with child sexual abuse crimes. They are asking politicians to support this appeal they have called “Shane’s Promise”.

Clem Ryan of Kildare FM sought to interview Mr Ó Fearghaíl but the Fianna Fáil politician declined the invite. After the interview, Mr Ó Fearghaíl had a letter [below] hand-delivered to Shane Dempsey yesterday evening.

In the letter (above), Mr Ó Fearghaíl states:

“I did not seek clemency or leniency for the perpetrator of these horrendous acts.”

But Emma-Jane and Shane don’t believe this to be a “credible claim” and they are now calling on Mr O’Fearghail to resign, writing:

“Shane Dempsey is calling for the resignation of the Ceann Comhairle, Sean O’Fearghail for failure to help protect children. A response has come from Mr O’Fearghail that has now deemed it necessary to take this unfortunate but necessary next step.

“In 2006 Mr O’Fearghail wrote a character reference for the man who Shane had fought tirelessly to have convicted for the horrific abuse he suffered for over a decade.

“At the sentencing Shane was blindsided by a reference provided by Sean O’Fearghail, that was used, as all positive character reference are at that point, to help get leniency.

“In his response discreetly delivered this evening, Mr O’Fearghail said, ‘I did not seek clemency or leniency for the perpetrator of these horrendous acts.’ We do not believe this to be a credible claim.

“In the letter he had privately hand delivered Sean states he ‘unreservedly apologises’ to Shane but this has come days after his initial response which had no such apology and was circulated to numerous people online.

“The only request Shane had for Sean O’Fearghail was to help him make sure that no elected representative – as Sean was at the time – should ever provide a character reference to a person charged with sexual offenses against children.

“He has brought forward a plan to enact ‘Shane’s Promise’ where all elected officials, publicly, state they will not under any circumstances write a character reference for someone charged with sexual offenses against a child.

This is not legislation. This is not political. It’s to prevent any child from feeling separated from their commmunity and feeling like they are in the wrong as Shane was made to because of Mr O’Fearghail’s cruel actions.

“In his letter Mr O’Fearghail rejects an offer to help in anyway stating his role as Ceann Comhairle prevents him from doing so. Because of this, we believe the time has come to demand the Ceann Comhairle’s resignation.

“This was not the outcome Shane was seeking but unfortunately Mr O’Fearghail has given us no alternative. There are questions still to be answered in this situation like who put so much pressure on Mr O’Fearghail to write such a reference at that time. In his letter he states it has been given ‘on foot of repeated requests’. This is consistent to the behavior of the people who have been attempting to protect Jospeh Dempsey from scrutiny.

“In a new era of 2020, Shane Dempsey requests that all elected officials take it upon themselves to voluntarily make a public statement that they will accept Shane’s Promise and will denounce the actions of Sean O’Fearghail.”

Meanwhile, from yesterday’s interview…

Clem Ryan: “I’ve two very special guests in studio. One indeed that I’ve had a working relationship with in the past, Emma-Jane Dempsey. Good morning to you, Emma-Jane.”

Emma-Jane Dempsey: “Good morning, Clem.”

Clem: “And we worked on the radio…”

Emma-Jane: “We did…”

Clem: “Many, many moons ago, once upon a time and that. And also, we’re joined by Shane Dempsey, your brother, or her brother, Emma-Jane’s brother. Shane, good morning to you.”

Shane Dempsey: “Good morning, Clem.”

Clem: “Right. We’re talking about a case that happened back in 2006. You had been abused by an uncle, Joseph Dempsey. You’re from Rathangan, both of you…”

Emma: “We’re from Rathangan, yeah.”

Clem: “Now, we’ll just, everything will come into perspective here, during the course of the interview. But I had come across a tweet by Emma-Jane recently where she was expressing general outrage and disappointment, amongst other feelings, in regards to the fact that Seán O’Fearghail who currently is the Ceann Comhairle, still of course, technically a TD for Kildare South, had, back in 2006, written a character reference for an uncle of Emma-Jane and Shane who had abused both of them, sexually.

“Shane, thank you both for coming into the studio, first of all. And Shane, give me a background to what had been happening to you for a number of years. How young had it started and take me through the course of events.”

Shane: “Well, it started in 1984 to 1983, sorry 1984 to 1993.”

Clem: “What age were you then? In ’84?”

Shane: “I was three or four years of age.”

Clem: “OK, up until I was about 13 years of age. I’d kind of got a bit hardier in myself to stand up for myself then. It went on for years, for years. The court case, we had 16 charges brought against him in the courts by the guards. At the time, the guards would have had to sit down and go through everything with me from day one forward so, out of it all, they picked 15, 16 in total charges, stemming from rape down to indecent assault that they could use in the court, that they could fight with.

“A lot of other incidents they wouldn’t have been able to use and whatnot, it was time, time and things like that. And we proceeded to take him to court with the help of the guards here in Naas.”

Clem: “Now, just to go back a small bit and tell me the context in which this abuse was happening. Was it happening in your own home? Was it happening in other areas? How did the circumstances arise?”

Shane: “In Joe Dempsey’s home, down in Monasterevin where I was very close to a son of Joe’s. We were very good auld pals, myself and himself. And we would alternate weekends, go to each other’s houses and what not. So the abuse would have stemmed, would have happened in Joe Dempsey’s house down in Toghereen in Lackey in Monasterevin and again at home when we lived in Lackey ourselves, only down the road from him.

“And then when we moved to Rathangan then, the abuse followed on…”

Clem: “OK. And during that time, did you tell anybody?”

Shane: “Back then, I didn’t. I didn’t, it was a very…”

Clem: “And why not?”

Shane: “It’s a very strange situation to be in, being that young, I had been nearly reared into it because I couldn’t remember myself as to when it started. It always kind of had been there.

“The man in particular himself, Joe Dempsey who abused me, was a very, very intelligent man, a very, very manipulative man. He would have his ways of keeping you to keep stuff quiet, to yourself. And, you know, it just broke out of me then as I got older. You know, that what happened had been wrong.”

Clem: “So you were three or four only when it happened. And when did you eventually go for help or when did it eventually, if you like, people become aware of what was happening to you?”

Shane: “Well it was about 16 or 17, I first told a friend of my dad’s what had happened to me. At the time he was, he was just dumbfounded, he was an absolute gentleman. It was very, very hard for him to, to kind of take in at the time. He struggled with it himself because at the time I’d even told him that I had told my mam and dad and I asked him just to keep it away from my mam and dad, that it was very upsetting for him. So he, of course, held his secret for me for the year, year and a half, until I came out with it when I hit 18.

“And it’s a thing I’ve always regretted because it was very, very hard on him, when he found out that my parents didn’t know and then of course that was the start of it then, once I hit 18, I told my parents what happened and I said ‘I’ve been thinking about this over the last few years and I wanted to go to the guards about it and have something done.”

Clem: “But it’s more than a few years, you’re talking about a 14, 15-year period.”

Shane: “Oh, yeah, yeah, all my childhood…”

Emma-Jane: “That’s how this works…”

Clem: “The sustained pattern of abuse. I’ll come back to you in a minute, Shane. Emma-Jane, were you abused by the same uncle?”

Emma-Jane: “Yeah, yeah, and I don’t remember when it started either. But the problem with something like this, this is a family issue, you know what I mean. They were protecting each other, there was an awful lot of involvement where it was being set up by his wife and things. So it was very manipulative and very strange.

“And because we were always part of this big, lovely family that had cousins and aunts and uncles and everything. And by the time you realise what’s actually happening to you is wrong, it puts a totally different twist on what you think your life is, what you think that you are. It’s absolutely devastating to your own personal self when it happens.

“And even just being able to tell somebody. Them knowing that you’re then, you are then threatening this big, happy family unit. The pressure that it puts on a little child brain is unbelievable. And because these people, they’re not, they’re very violent, they are very loud, very in your face.

“So there was an awful lot of intimidation down through the years, to try and stop us from reporting, an awful lot of intimidation. And Shane suffered it very badly. But Shane was the one who was brave enough, out of all of us to go forward for a prosecution.

“But there are so many more victims of this one particular unit. There’s so many more victims.”

Clem: “Are you saying there’s more people within the family unit…”

Emma-Jane: “Who have been…”

Clem: “…who have been abused?”

Emma-Jane: “Yes.”

Clem: “Then just the two of you.”

Emma-Jane: “Yes, yes”

Clem: “All right, let’s just deal with yourself at the moment. What age were you, do you know what age you were Emma-Jane when the abuse began?”

Emma-Jane: “When Joseph started, I have no idea. I have no idea because it was just alway there, I didn’t…”

Clem: “Or even how long it might have continued for?”

Emma-Jane: “It continued until I was about eight.”

Clem: “Right.”

Emma-Jane: “Eight or nine.”

Clem: “Then what happened?”

Emma-Jane: “I was in a campsite in Louth, I think it’s called An Tán, the bull or something. And I was up there with my family and Joseph used to go camping as well so he had his own camper. So I was there with my big sisters and Joseph came up to me and basically hinted, game me the look that meant ‘come on’ and I told him to ‘buzz off’ because I had just done, you know the Stay Safe programme in primary schools, I had just done that and I was all ready to deal with this so I told him to ‘buzz off’ and told him I wasn’t going anywhere and then he told me he was going to go after my sisters.

“So my sisters were walking up to the facilities building and then he literally turned and followed them and I remember just standing there, frozen, watching where he had been walking after my sisters and two minutes later he walked back again and I was ‘what happened?’

“Years later I found out that my sister saw him following them and said ‘what are you doing, you big weirdo?’ And stopped him from following them. And that’s how it stopped with me.”

Clem: “And did you tell anybody, did you tell your sisters?”

Emma-Jane: “Not back then, not back then. I waited, all the way along until after Shane’s trial. It was…I didn’t tell anybody until I was actually working here [Kildare FM]. I was 19 or 20 and I was working here and at the time I was still suffering a lot of the intimidation.

“One of the other uncles who abused me did not want me to come forward because at that point we had one who was already prosecuted and the other one knew that his reputation is teetering now because I could go at any stage. He didn’t know I wasn’t strong enough back then to go to the guards and follow it through.

“But they were showing up at my school, they were showing up at where I’d go with my friends. And I used to have a little job in the Riverbank Arts Centre in Newbridge and they’d show up there. And eventually I ran away from home when I was 15 or 16 I think, I can’t remember which. And Shane had to come and get me and it was half an hour before it was on the Six One News and he found me in a hostel in Belfast because I just wanted to get away.

“I was too scared, I was too scared of them all.”

Shane: “The intimidation then would have been just awful. You’re talking people following you, people in or around your house at night time…”

Emma-Jane: “Coming onto the farm…”

Shane: “Using their manipulative ways of, maybe you were going for a job or apprenticeships and stuff that I was going for at the time…”

Emma-Jane: “And they’d try and interfere with it…”

Shane: “They’d go behind the scenes and have me fired out of the jobs and they tried every which way to…”

Clem: “You’re talking about the abusers?”

Emma-Jane: “Yes.”

Shane: “Yeah and the family that protect them…”

Emma-Jane: “The family that protect them…”

Shane: “Which is worse again.”

Clem: “Which essentially were relations of yourselves…?”

Emma-Jane: “Yes.

Shane: “Yes, all relations, yeah.”

Emma-Jane: “The people that we used to…remember I was telling you that when I was little that big lovely family I was a part of, it was those people.”

Clem: “Shane, right. You went to the guards when you were 18.”

Shane: “I did indeed. At the time we couldn’t go to Kildare Garda Station because they had members of guards in Kildare that were good friends of theirs and stuff. Over the years they had always been hinting to me over it and hinting at me that I knew that they were members of this little militia that they’d put together against me.”

Clem: “But nevertheless while they would say that, it didn’t necessarily, it wasn’t necessarily true that the guards might have behaved or would have behaved that way?”

Emma-Jane: “Oh.”

Clem: “Or did they? Did you experience that?”

Shane: “I would have experienced…”

Emma-Jane: “There would have been nights out that I had with Shane and I wouldn’t have known that there was any issue with the guards or anything like that. And I’d have nights out with Shane and next thing you’d have, like, one example was a little female guard put out her chest, walked up to him and like, bumped off of him, was like ‘what are you doing here?, what are you doing here?’.”

Shane: “I would have…”

Emma-Jane: “‘Go back to Rathangan’. And I was a baby journalist. So I was standing there going ‘what is this?’. So I went down to the Garda station. I was like, ‘excuse me but what is this? why is my brother being treated like this?’ And they couldn’t. They never gave me an answer. And there was a couple of different times when that happened.

“And then it got to the point where there was an issue in the Garda station, there was a guard in Kildare who’d ring me and say ‘you need to come over here because they’re going to try and arrest your brother’ or do something. And I’d have to go over and get him out of the Garda station.”

Shane: “So what we did was, we got advice to move out, as far as Naas Garda Station which is what we did and we got in touch with a guard at the time who was…”

Emma-Jane: “Ciarán…”

Shane: “Sgt McCarthy, an absolute pillar of the Garda community I have to say and he took, he took all that, as I called him, the little militia they put together to come after me. He took the brunt of their…”

Emma-Jane: “All of it…”

Shane: “…of their actions so he did. He had them threatening him in Garda stations and what not. From the day I went to him, sat down and went through everything, I think we were a day or two in the Garda station writing down everything that had happened over the years and what I remembered and who I knew that was there and whatnot and Sgt McCarthy took on the whole lot of them.

“And we pushed forward until we got a conviction.”

Clem: “It eventually went to court.”

Shane: “It did indeed, the High Court in Dublin.”

Clem: “The High Court?”

Shane: “We did yeah and…”

Clem: “And what year was that?”

Shane: “That was in…”

Emma-Jane: “The first time, no the first time was in 2003.”

Clem: “Right.”

Emma-Jane: “And he was prosecuted…”

Shane: “And we got him on all charges. We got him…he was done on all charges and unfortunately the way, a member of the jury, when they were reading out the verdicts at the end of it, they had used…”

Emma-Jane: “Reasonable doubt. They’d mentioned the words ‘reasonable doubt’…”

Shane: “Which gave my uncle and his legal team and option to go for appeal, so they went for appeal and got it…”

Emma-Jane: “No, got convicted again.”

Shane: “Sorry, got convicted and then…”

Emma-Jane: “And then at the sentencing…”

Shane: “At the sentencing it came on to a second court case again…”

Clem: “And that was nearly three years later?”

Shane: “Three years later…”

Emma-Jane: “Yeah, 2006.”

Shane: “And then the DPP [Director of Public Prosecutions] got in touch with me and they asked me ‘look, Shane’, they said, ‘look we really want to go after this man, we have no doubt in our mind that he’s still doing the things he does’.”

Clem: “The DPP told you that?”

Shane: “Yeah.”

Clem: “Director of Public Prosecutions.”

Shane: “That’s right yeah. And he said would I be, would it be in me to go again, let’s do this all over again. So I said I would.”

Emma-Jane: “So basically, we won the first case. Then he appealed it. Then we won the second case. And now we were at the sentencing for that second case and that’s when the letter…”

Shane: “This letter of reference was brought up…”

Clem: “And the letter in question was that Seán O’Fearghail apparently had been approached to provide the letter of reference for Joseph Dempsey.”

Shane: “The character reference for him, yeah.”

Clem: “Now, he issued a statement. I contacted Seán O’Fearghail directly from my phone, my mobile phone to Seán O’Fearghail’s mobile phone yesterday…”

Emma-Jane: “Oh thanks Clem.”

Clem: “So that, rather than through the station or anything else, I was hoping to speak to Seán. So I could say, ‘look Seán, we need to address this situation, it’s extremely serious. I think people need to hear, not I think, people need to hear’, this was my view now because I didn’t get to speak to him.

“I said, ‘listen, I would appreciate if you would be available tomorrow to deal with this issue that’s arising’. I got a phone call yesterday evening around 5pm I would say from a lady who described herself as Seán’s parliamentary assistant. He is Ceann Comhairle now. And she said that Seán had asked her to ring me, to say that he had nothing to add to the statement he had already issued.

“I said ‘what statement is that?’ She said the correspondence that had been between him and The Irish Examiner. I indicated, ‘look, I would have done a straight one-on-one interview with Seán’. I didn’t, it wasn’t necessary that he would be in the same studio at the same time as Shane but, and that I was prepared to do that. I was told, ‘no, he won’t be saying anything further’.

“I then said, as a professional courtesy, I want to tell you, you need to tell Seán, I will be covering this in the morning, where we are now.”

“I’ll read out that statement which he issued and I know you’re familiar with this…”

Emma-Jane: “Yeah…”

Clem: “Because it’s a statement he has already issued elsewhere…”

Emma-Jane: “Yeah…”

Clem: “It said:

“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.”

Clem: “Ends the statement, Seán O’Fearghail. Currently the Ceann Comhairle. Two points arise for me. If you are asked to submit a character reference as I understand it. I have only one understanding and you can comment on this both of you. If you’re asked to supply a character reference for anybody whether it’s to the courts or to a job, it’s about putting a positive case for them.

“In the context of the court, that can be construed ‘I’m asking the courts to take a more lenient view’.”

Emma-Jane: “Absolutely.”

Clem: “Now, is that the way you see it, Shane?”

Shane: “That is, you’re 100 per cent there, Clem, 100 per cent. Even when you read through the, as you just read it out there, the statement that Seán O’Fearghail has submitted there. It is an absolute insult, an absolute insult.

We’re following Seán O’Fearghail now for 13 years now to try and get this sorted and get this fixed. From day one, I never had any malice or vengeance or revenge towards Seán O’Fearghail. I just wanted to get it fixed, that this could never happen to another victim of child abuse, like it happened to me.”

Clem: “That letter, to be clear, went in before Joe Dempsey was sentenced.”

Emma-Jane: “It did.”

Shane: “It did indeed. He wrote that letter when Joe Dempsey was convicted and was a convicted paedophile.”

Emma-Jane: “Between the conviction and the sentencing…why else would you write a character reference for somebody requesting it right after they’ve been convicted and just before they become sentenced.”

Shane: “Yeah.”

Emma-Jane: “It’s not like he was looking for a job, he’s a farmer all his life, you know what I mean?”

Shane: “He also said as well Clem, that he wrote the character reference but he wasn’t familiar with the circumstances surrounding the crime. Do you know, that is complete untrue.”

Clem: “You don’t accept that?”

Shane: “No, no, he knows this man very well. Everybody in the whole area knew it. If Seán O’Fearghail is the man of the people from the area he’s from, he knew exactly what was going on. It was common knowledge on the street. He knew exactly what he was writing.

“The reason I came with this to you now and why we are after this at the minute is, at the time, Seán O’Fearghail could have met me at any stage, at any time. We could have sat down, the two of us, and we could have worked together, making a law change or whatever is necessary, that this would never happen again to a survivor of child abuse like it happened to me.”

Emma-Jane: “Just to get through all the conviction and then finally be there on the day, when you get to see those handcuffs being slapped on after all your hard work…”

Shane: “That was everything to me, Clem. Having the handcuffs on him and having him stood accountable for what he had done…”

Clem: “He got six years?”

Shane: “He did, he actually got 66 years…”

Talk over each other

Shane: “In sentencing then, he was allowed serve concurrently then…”

Clem: “All concurrently, so it amounted to six years.”

Shane: “It amounted to six years.”

Clem: “How long did he serve?”

Shane: “And he was out in three. Now I know it sounds very harsh, it was a very harsh sentence to me…”

Clem: “He was out in three years…”

Shane: “He got away with it really. But in my mindset at the time, you know, the sentencing was nothing that I could do. It had to be by the courts.

“But what I did want is that I wanted him named and shamed. I never looked for compensation, I never looked for a penny from him. I just wanted to make sure that this never happens to anybody else and he never got to do this to anybody else.

“And then while I was receiving my bit of closure there, next thing up comes this statement, written by my local TD, a man I have watched now, his career progress on through the years until he’s Ceann Comhairle here in Dublin.”

Clem: “Was that letter presented in court?”

Shane: “It was indeed yeah.”

Emma-Jane: “It was read out in court.”

Clem: “Because O’Fearghail says, in his statement, he says something to the effect, ‘I don’t even know if it was presented to the court’.”

Talk over each other

Shane: “He also said that he didn’t know what the crimes were about, you know what I mean?”

Clem: “So his letter was presented in court?”

Emma-Jane: “It was, it was read out in court. I remember it because I was thinking about becoming a journalist, yeah I was in the court room it was read out and our whole family, after walking out, were just like ‘what is that?’.

“Because we were with Shane. We were Shane’s support system and then to have another external force come against him. It hurt us so badly because Shane deserved so much better from people around him and he deserved that support because he was the one of us who was brave enough and strong enough to go further with this, against all these horrible, nasty people.

“And then it was like, at the last hurdle, it was like our own political structure around us was saying ‘we’re on their side’. That ‘you’re the problem, Shane’, ‘we’re gonna be on these people’s side’.”

Clem: “He served three years. I’m just looking at a text here which says ‘Had Seán O’Fearghail anything to do with getting Joe Dempsey on the board of Lackagh School. Was Joe Dempsey a member of school board of management?”

Emma-Jane: “He was, yes.”

Shane: “He was woven into the community. I always said even in the years and years of counselling I’ve gone through, I had a particular name for him and it wasn’t ‘a paedophile’, he was ‘the paedophile’. He could infiltrate Fort Knox.”

Clem: “So he was on the board of management of Lackagh School?”

Shane: “He was indeed.”

Clem: “Before he was convicted.”

Shane: “He was indeed and he organised educational field days and all the usuals that comes with it. He was indeed.”

Clem: “And just as, a quick question, where’s Joe Dempsey now?”

Emma-Jane: “Monasterevin.”

Shane: “He’s still living down in his farm in Monasterevin.”

Clem: “Ok, Emma-Jane. This was Shane’s day in court. You haven’t had a day in court?”

Emma-Jane: “Nope.”

Clem: “Did you look on these proceedings as ‘my day in court’ too?”

Emma-Jane: “I hoped not cause I always hoped that I’d get strong enough to be able to go up against himself as well but just the pure level of intimidation, I was just so scared all the time.

“I was so scared that I was just going to disappear and then they’d find me in the bog somewhere or you’d find me on the side of a road somewhere dead. And I didn’t want that.

“I was really scared aswell that, if I came forward, because one of the other paedophiles hasn’t gotten convicted yet that I would be the first one to brand him as that and he is petrified of that title.

“So this man, like, there’s been physical attacks, there’s been confronting my dad, there’s been Jeeps pulled up beside me with him driving them, just an awful lot of scary things, so…”

Shane: “It was, the level of intimidation that these used then was nearly military. The organisation in them, the way they do it, even down to sneaking down into the farm at home, trying to get me…”

Emma-Jane: “So scared.”

Clem: “Is this still happening?”

Shane: “…and assaulting my dad.”

Clem: “Is this intimidation or over the years has it…”

Emma-Jane: “The last time it happened would have been…”

Shane: “Last time probably would have been 2005, no 2006, 2008?”

Clem: “But there was excessive intimidation going on?”

Shane: “Oh, unbelievable, yeah…”

Clem: “Obviously, as you say…”

Emma-Jane: “Yeah, so I still want my day in court sometime. But…”

Clem: “Yeah, on that point, you want your day in court, you’re obviously very distressed, you were abused, as you have chronicled and it will take you to make that move Emma-Jane.”

Emma-Jane: “Absolutely, absolutely. But first I want to make sure that we get this problem solved. This is the last tail-end of Shane’s case.

“There’s still an amount of respect that Shane hasn’t gotten that he deserves for what he went through. And Seán O’Fearghail needs to be accountable for that.

“We gave him the opportunity to work with us to stop these character references for people involved in sex crimes with kids and that was his response. You know, you just read out his response. There’s been no apology to Shane.

“And my most important thing is is that everybody else in my family is OK. I’ve been through all sorts of ups and downs and everything with all of them. I need my family, besides me, to be absolutely safe and OK and on the right path and then I’ll worry about that.

“But this is the tail-end of something that…Shane is a quality human being, he is one of the best people. And even if I wasn’t his sister, I’d say he’s one of the best, most bravest people.

“To waive his anonymity so that everybody knew what a risk this man was. And then to have the political class go against him, that cut me. Especially for somebody so involved in politics. I’m one of the biggest politics nerds going, as you know.

“So that’s something final that just needs to be wrapped up here. And seeing him being re-elected again as Ceann Comhairle, it just means that there’s an opportunity here to heal, to help Shane and to stop this from happening again and the only person who’s stopping us from doing that is Seán O’Fearghail.”

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51 thoughts on “A Character Reference

  1. yupyup

    My god, this is shocking…. I mean I shouldn’t be surprised really but I’m actually dumbfounded reading this. Fair play to them for pursuing this and plaudits for waiving their right to anonymity. They are very brave indeed.

      1. italia'90

        Call me a cynical old bar steward, but after reading the news earlier this morning,
        I was thinking that today would be a great day to release bad news, if I was a political
        operative or government department head, in the style of Malcolm Tucker from
        The Thick of it

        Then I read about the courage of Shane and Emma-Jane Dempsey here now, in contrast to the cowardice and disgraceful words and actions of our current Ceann Comhairle, I’m sickened tbh

        I hope they get all the support they need and deserve after being through such a harrowing ordeal

        If Seán O’Fearghail does not resign before the next sitting in Leinster House, there’ll be more than Snickering Shinner’s with boxes of Maguire & Paterson ‘Safety Matches’ willing to torch the place I’d bet

    1. Chimpy

      It really is and I’ll bet its just the tip of the iceberg. Can you imagine the “Actual” amount of families effected by this kind of thing in our country?

    1. Brian

      RTE obviously don’t consider it to be and issue either as they still have Donal Og on the Sunday Game, despite him providing the same service for convicted pedophile Tom Humphries. It is another example of how official Ireland is willing to turn a blind eye to child abuse.

      1. V

        With all due respect
        There were plenty other media outlets that turned a blind eye to Humphries prowling underage camogie
        His own employer bloody published it FFS

        And then got uppity when anyone even mentioned it

        Jesus don’t get me started on that one
        Bodger won’t sleep for a fortnight

      1. SydneyT

        Ah Cian. Predictably selecting a Shinners example. But hardly one of comparison.
        This conversation and Shane’s promise is about providing character references for people “charged with sexual offenses against children”.

        1. Cian

          It was an example of a TD giving a character reference.

          I think no TD should be asked for, or should give, a character reference for anyone accused/found guilty of any crime.

          1. GiggidyGoo

            Remember Mickey Noonan and the Grace case? You’re a right one to point out poor judgement (to put it mildly). FFG seem to have a penchant for particular types of, let’s say, ‘people’

    2. GiggidyGoo

      But not all Irish people are members of the Dail, and not all write letters to judges. But you’re fairly accurate though I suppose.

  2. Spaghetti Hoop

    Heard the RTE interview by Drivetime’s Philip Boucher-Hayes on Wed 26th. Which is, by the way, the one that Seán Ó Fearghaíl is responding to with his letter dated 27/02 above, not the Kildare FM interview.

    The general conclusion is that the reason why character refs are submitted to the court IS to procure leniency in sentencing. Ó Fearghaíl is shockingly digging a hole here. Well done to the Dempseys in bringing this to light.

  3. Andy

    Seán Ó Fearghaíl “wrote that letter when Joe Dempsey was convicted and was a convicted paedophile” unbelievable.
    Seán Ó Fearghaíl wrote a character reference for a paedophile who was convicted by the Irish courts twice – how would he not know this is completely unacceptable. He has no business as Ceann Comhairle and is only turning people away from politics.

  4. Daisy Chainsaw

    This is a great initiative. Coming from “a good family” is not a mitigating factor in ANY crime.

    I hope Shane and Emma Jane live happy, contented lives after this horror.

    1. Chimpy

      Well thats never going to happen is it? The scars run deep. I feel so sorry for them. I know if it was my family I would go to prison to get justice for my children, if you know what I mean.

  5. 01101101 01100011

    I clearly have much to learn
    I knew that some of them were ropey on property, money and the like but I wasn’t aware that TD’s stooped to this kind of thing
    fupping hell!

  6. Slightly Bemused

    I heard both interviews on KFM yesterday and today. Very powerful, and huge kudos to the Dempsey siblings. Whatever his other failings, Clem Ryan has always been a champion for those in similar situations, giving them both airtime, and fair hearing, but it was the two (Stephen and Emma Jane) who really made the interviews the powerful pieces they are. I do recommend a listen to those interested – available on their website.

    Clem also offered to Seán O Fearghaíl to come on air and have his say, but he has so far not taken up that offer.

    1. Liam Deliverance


      I would hope that there is zero ambiguity on the rules that gardai operate under today, that behavior from AGS as described above is considered gross misconduct resulting in instant dismissal and charges being brought for aiding and abetting child abuse.

  7. Dr.Fart

    nearly every story of abuse from that era involves gardai helping to protect the abuser. to have the knowledge of what that person’s done, and to go and wilfully intimidate the victims is utterly soulless and spineless. to think none of them said “no. i wont protect a paedophile” is bizaare to me, and i wouldve thought to most people.

  8. Cian

    Firstly, I don’t think that TDs should be expected to write these letters NOR should they write letters (unless it is a close friend/family member).

    The other side of the coin is that (I presume) if these letters are churned out by TDs that the judges basically ignore them? They aren’t worth the paper they are printed on.

    1. yupyup

      Correct, it’s madness, this character reference craic has always been a sticky one for politicians anyways…there’s been plenty of other examples down the years.

    2. Dr.Fart

      “(unless it is a close friend/family member)”
      really, Cian? So if your uncle sexually assualted children, then its fine to give them a character ref? because.. let me try understand your mind .. because .. family above all else? even the safety of a child. family rep comes first?

      i never liked you. but now you turn my stomach. you’re priorities disgust me.

      1. Cian

        No. I was talking about TDs giving character references in general – not specifically on child abuse cases. I think that they should only give a character reference to someone that they know.

        And people (be they a TD or not) should only give a character reference if they are happy to stand behind the accused/guilty party.

        As for the rest of your rant- well it depends. Yes I would consider giving a character reference for my 17-and-one-day old uncle who was accused of the statutory rape of his 16-and-364-day old girlfriend who consented to sex… but not to my 57-year-old uncle that abused a child. Context is important. Sweeping statements are worthless.

        1. Dr.Fart

          then by that logic, you are fine with Sean O’F giving a character ref to that paedophile. Even if that wasn’t clear from your first comment. Which it was.

        2. Dr.Fart

          because you see, “references in general” includes for cases like this. otherwise you would’ve said “in general, but not for these kind of cases, for which I don’t think they should” .. the mask has slipped. Now i know just how governmenty you are. answer= very. well indoctrined into the twisted system. the time for politics like yours are gone. the young are changing it and have made great headway over the last few years. within our lifetime relics like you will be a horrible memory, and nothing more.

    3. Spaghetti Hoop

      Wait a minute… Ó Fearghaíl says he wrote the reference for the convicted man “to illustrate his standing in the community”. Nowhere does he say he was expected to write the reference or under pressure to do so.

      It was submitted to the court between conviction and sentencing, and from the local TD – so quite probably on the constituency letterhead. Whether the judge ignored it or otherwise is not the point here!

      1. Cian

        I am sorry if my post wasn’t clear – I wasn’t talking about this specific letter. To clarify:

        Firstly I don’t think Ó Fearghaíl should have written this specific reference. It shows incredibly bad judgement on his part.

        Secondly (my post was saying) I don’t think TDs should write these at all in their professional capacity. There shouldn’t be an expectation from their constituents that they do so. They should all stop it.

    1. Dr.Fart

      FG and FF wouldn’t let it go if it was. It would literally be all you’d hear from them. FF have a scary amount of form with protecting paedos. So much so, that experience in it must be a pre-requisite to join the party.

      1. GiggidyGoo

        Are you saying that loads of them are pedophiles, and that a certain SF TD wouldn’t be surprised at that?

          1. GiggidyGoo

            But she isn’t saying they are – is she? Just that she wouldn’t be surprised if they were.
            And she wrote that in a conversation about the leniency of sentences handed down for child sex abuse, or most sexual crimes.
            Actually there is one particular judge noted for lenient sentences

  9. 01101101 01100011

    y’know I’m reading his letter there again and it’s clear to me its not remotely in sympathy – he’s preempting getting exposed here and just trying to cover his reptilian arse. wowser that’s disgusting.

    can he be sacked for this?

    given he’s in the Dail for every debate etc. and is meant to be the arbitrator how is that tenable??

    1. Spaghetti Hoop

      And did you notice that he referred to the convicted man as ‘your Uncle’, indicating a fair bit of distance between himself and the paedo but not so much between the victim and he.

  10. V

    Very disappointed with him myself – I’m actually quite hurt by it all

    And if I do get the chance, and I’m sure I will, I’ll challenge him on it

    I would also add that it makes no difference what role he has in the Oireachtas, now or then
    We are all entitled to honest representation, accountability and unimpeachable probity from anyone engaged there

    How else can we demand better behaviour from the likes of Dara Murphy for example

    On a side note, once again we have another demonstration of how our Leaders refuse to empathise with the victims and survivors of abuse
    Or even act in anyway meaningful that promises that Ireland has actually changed

    This could be the 70s FFS

    1. LuvinLunch

      once again we have another demonstration of how our Leaders refuse to empathise with the victims and survivors of abuse

  11. LuvinLunch

    It’s no wonder children cant be heard when they allege sexual abuse in their family. This is who is in charge

  12. GiggidyGoo

    Has Rabbitte been interviewed about Tulsa’s attitude towards children being questioned by their alleged attackers?

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