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