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"It's not a question of regret": Xenophon responds to Dempsey

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Nick Xenophon is standing firm in his refusal to apologise to the priest he named in parliament as an alleged rapist, saying “it’s not a question of regret” but that the situation “was what it was”.

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Catholic priest Ian Dempsey broke years of silence on InDaily last week, when he said he “forgives” but “prays for truth and justice”, after Xenophon in 2011 used parliamentary privilege to air an accusation that he raped fellow student John Hepworth at the St Francis Xavier seminary in Adelaide in the late 1960s and early ’70s. The accusation was never substantiated.

Dempsey said Xenophon’s enduring popularity – which has hit fever pitch ahead of tomorrow’s election, and could see his fledgling party snare a handful of Lower House seats – continued to rankle with him, given the Senator’s refusal to apologise or acknowledge that he had been cleared by subsequent church, police and DPP investigations.

Xenophon yesterday told InDaily he was aware of Dempsey’s remarks but would “rather not comment on it”.

“I said what I said… he had the right of reply, which he has exercised,” he said.

“All I can say is I believe I [acted] in good faith… my primary concern was the way the Catholic Church failed to deal with longstanding allegations.”

 Catholic priest Ian Dempsey after addressing media in 2011. Photo: Sarah Malik / AAP

Catholic priest Ian Dempsey after addressing media in 2011. Photo: Sarah Malik, AAP

He argued that the subsequent and unrelated Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse “has exposed some real shortcomings in the way some institutions have dealt with allegations of abuse”, but strongly emphasised that this observation “is not a reflection on Ian Dempsey”, who was never accused of child sexual abuse.

“It was what it was,” he said of the episode.

Asked if he regretted it, he replied: “No, it’s not a question of regret.”

“I wish the church had responded differently at the time, and the outcome would have been different.

“What occurred is what occurred… Ian Dempsey has made his comments, as he’s entitled to.

“I don’t propose to revisit it or to mention Mr Dempsey again in the parliament.”

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