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'I'll Face Courts For My Sex Abuse Lies'

Woman offers to atone for terrible mistake
Irish Independent, April 29 2009 by Shane Phelan Investigative Correspondent

THE woman whose lies as a 10-year-old child led to a man being convicted of sexual assault says she will voluntarily return to Ireland if charged with making false statements.

Una Hardester (22), who now works in a New York university, said she "had no explanation" for the graphic statements she gave gardai 12 years ago which led to a jury finding Connemara man Michael Feichin Hannon guilty of molesting her.

Mr Hannon (34) was only cleared of the offence, for which he received a four-year suspended sentence, after she returned to Ireland in 2006 and admitted she made the whole thing up.

The conviction was finally declared a miscarriage of justice earlier this week.

Ms Hardester told the Irish Independent last night she was surprised she had not been arrested for wasting garda time or making false statements.

"I did expect to be charged when I came back to set the record straight, but I just wasn't," she said.

"If the State wants to charge me now with making a false statement then I'm willing to go back. There would be no need for extradition. I would go voluntarily."

Ms Hardester moved to the US with her mother, Katherine, a short time after the 1999 sexual assault case. The move followed the break-up of her parents' marriage.

She said she would have returned to Ireland to clear Mr Hannon's name much sooner, but had been stopped from travelling by her father, American actor Crofton Hardester.

The actor -- who had roles in 'Saving Private Ryan', 'The A-Team' and RTE's 'Fair City' -- had been involved in a dispute with the Hannon family, their neighbours in Cleggan, Co Galway, at the time she made the allegations.

"It was over land and my father's hotheadedness," she said.

However, she insisted the allegations she made against Mr Hannon were "all my own doing" and that she was not coached into making them.

"I don't even remember that much about it, so I have no explanation for why I did it," she said. "I wanted to come back six years before I did, but my father wouldn't let me leave the US. I had to wait to do it myself without anyone knowing. I also had to wait until I could afford it.

"I would have gone back as a 14-year-old if I could have done, but it wasn't possible.

"I spoke to Feichin's sister Maggie in person when I went back. She was understandably very angry with me. But his family know how sorry I am."

Ms Hardester said her mother had been very supportive of her decision to come clean.

"It is guilt I will live with for the rest of my life," she added.

"I'm being compared on the internet with the boys who killed Jamie Bulger. It is very upsetting to see that.

"I would expect people to understand that I was 10 years old at the time and made a terrible mistake."

Ms Hardester said she now had little contact with her father, who has retired from acting for health reasons.

- Shane Phelan Investigative Correspondent