Pat Carey, one of Ireland’s best known politicians, has resigned as Director of Elections for Fianna Fáil after allegations of pedophile crimes. He has denied all charges.

Carey, 68, came to national prominence during the gay marriage debate when he came out as a gay man after a lifetime of hiding the fact. His personal story of growing up gay in rural Ireland won him enormous sympathy.

Carey served in several ministerial posts and after he made several emotional speeches during the gay marriage referendum he attained enormous popularity for his honesty.

Now, however, a number of people have given statements to Irish police saying they were abused by Carey in the early 1990s in the Dublin area where he was a schoolteacher. The allegations have been made by both males and females.

Carey issued a statement through his lawyer denying all knowledge of the allegations and stated that police had not even been in touch with him. He stated he was aware of the speculation and had no alternative but to resign as Director of Elections, a key position. That election is expected next spring.

The news sent shock waves through Fianna Fáil and through Irish politics generally, where he had enjoyed a high degree of popularity.

Political colleagues shocked over Pat Carey allegations

— The Irish Times (@IrishTimes) November 12, 2015
The statement, issued by Carey's lawyer on Thursday evening read:

"Our client Mr. Pat Carey, former Minister and a member of many community and voluntary organizations, has instructed us in relation to the rumor and innuendo surrounding a newspaper article published yesterday entitled ‘Former Minister investigated by gardaí [police]over child abuse claims.’

"Mr. Carey is deeply upset to be contacted by various journalists on this matter when he has no knowledge of the actual complaints allegedly made. He absolutely and unconditionally denies any impropriety in this matter or in his 30 years experience as a teacher; as a community worker and in his public life. He was distraught to first learn of these matters on the front page of a national newspaper. He is also concerned at comments allegedly attributed to gardaí [police] in media articles in the past 24 hours.

Read more: After 35 lonely years a top rural politician in Ireland comes out as gay

"Mr. Carey is a respected person and is entitled to his good name. However, in order to allow the good work of the organizations 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. This includes his role as chairman and member [of] many community and church related organizations. He will also step down from his role as Director of Elections for Fianna Fáil and as a member of the Fianna Fáil party."

"Mr. Carey does not know if the allegations in the national press relate to him, but given the unfounded speculation that has arisen he is taking this action of his own volition and with a heavy heart.

"Mr. Carey will not be making any other public statement and the matter will be dealt with through his solicitors."

Carey was a member of parliament for Dublin North West from 1997 to 2011 and served as government chief whip from 2008 and became Minister for Community, Equality and Gaeltacht Affairs in 2010.

He also served as Minister for Transport, as well as Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources for brief periods.

He lost his seat in the 2011 wipe-out of Fianna Fáil but came back to prominence during the marriage referendum and has remained active in politics.