Minister refuses to quit over seeking early release of paedophile

Labour Affairs Minister Tony Killeen today refused to resign after it emerged that his Co Clare constituency office sent two letters to the Minister for Justice urging that a convicted child rapist be freed.

Mr Killeen insisted that he had only instructed his staff to write letters to the Irish Prison Service to draw attention to the poor health of his constituent Joseph Nugent, who was jailed for six years in 2002 for sex offences.

Another Clare TD, Pat Breen of Fine Gael was heavily criticised last October for making representations for an early release for Nugent in a Dáil question on behalf of Nugent's family.

Mr Killeen said today that his constituency office staff misunderstood his instructions and that he has since apologised to Nugent's victim over the issue.

He said: "I instructed the office staff to - as they generally would and as I would in cases of humanitarian issues - bring to the authority's attention the fact that his family and his family friends had been saying that he [Nugent] had been assaulted in prison and that he feared for his life and that there were major health issues and that would always have been my policy in relation to issues of a humanitarian nature.

"Unfortunately the office staff either misunderstood, or through whatever means also sought this prisoner's release," he told Newstalk Radio.

Mr Killeen said he didn't come forward at the time his constituency colleague Mr Breen was criticised for making representations because an administrative failure prevented him checking on any correspondence.

"At that stage I didn't know that the letters had sought his release and, when I checked with the constituency office staff, they didn't have the records as all the records had been deleted the previous November in a maintenance error.

He added: "There was no way of checking exactly what had happened but I was somewhat concerned and continued to follow up during Christmas when I had time to follow up and I did feel that there was some risk that they might have sought his release and on that basis I clarified the position".

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