Allegations of sexual can be dealt with by the Garda and courts only, say Sinn Féin
‘Sinn Féin rejects outright that we have sought to minimise or cover up cases of abuse’
“Press statements and media opportunities are not appropriate places to deal with allegations of sexual abuse,” said Sinn Féin’s Pearse Doherty in a statement. Photograph: Alan Betson
Allegations of sexual abuse can be dealt with by the Garda and the courts only, and not by party political statements, Sinn Féin has said.
The party was responding to Fianna Fáil claims about a woman who alleges she was raped by a senior republican and has been subjected to a secret investigation by the IRA. Fianna Fáil subsequently accused Sinn Féin of putting its movement ahead of the needs of victims of abuse by republicans, leading to a dispute between the parties.
Justice spokesman Niall Collins said on Monday that there had been “a concerted effort to protect abusers at the expense of victims and that the Sinn Féin leadership would have been aware of this”.
However, Sinn Féin has hit back, accusing the Fianna Fáil leadership of politicking. “Press statements and media opportunities are not appropriate places to deal with allegations of sexual abuse,” Pearse Doherty said in a statement. “These are matters that can only be dealt with by the gardaí and the courts.
“Sinn Féin rejects outright that we have sought to minimise or cover up cases of abuse. We have mechanisms in place to deal with any allegation of sexual abuse made known to us. I want to repeat that if anyone has information about any case of sexual abuse they should bring it forward to the gardaí or PSNI.”
Last week, following the rape allegation, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said he was aware of other abuse cases that had allegedly been covered up by the republican movement to protect itself. He likened this to the Catholic Church.
Mr Doherty responded, saying Mr Martin’s claims were “unfounded and untrue”. According to a weekend press report, this prompted the rape victim to seek a meeting with Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams through a Sunday newspaper.
Mr Doherty clarified these remarks at the weekend, saying his remarks referred only to the comparison between Sinn Féin and the church and were not an outright rejection of all claims by victims of abuse.
“Last Friday, Gerry Adams, on behalf of Sinn Féin, said that he was available to meet with the individual . . . However, meeting with a public representative is not a substitute for the matter being dealt with by the proper authorities,” Mr Doherty said.
On his earlier remarks, he said: “I am very aware of the trauma that sexual abuse causes to victims and their families. I am sorry if any words of mine caused upset. Any victim has my support and solidarity in their fight for justice.”