The position of Jennifer McCann as Sinn Féin junior minister was "now untenable" following the IRA rape and interrogation allegations made by Maíria Cahill, the Northern Assembly was told last night.
DUP Assembly member Paula Bradley said Ms McCann should stand down as junior minister over the allegations by Ms Cahill that she was raped by an IRA member in 1997 when she was 16 and subsequently had to face an IRA "kangaroo court".
Sinn Féin Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, during a heated and tense debate, accused the DUP of engaging in “gutter politics” over the matter. Ms Cahill was in the public gallery during the 90-minute debate.
The DUP motion, which was supported by way of an SDLP amendment, focused on comments made last month by Ms McCann who said she learned of Ms Cahill’s rape allegations a number of years ago.
The motion, tabled by DUP MLAs Sammy Wilson and Paula Bradley, noted that Ms McCann has "responsibilities in relation to policy relating to historical institutional abuse and children".
They called for a “full inquiry into the junior minister to establish any impropriety as well as any breach of the ministerial code of conduct”.
The amended motion was comfortably carried with just Sinn Féin appearing to oppose the motion.
Earlier SDLP MLA Dolores Kelly accused Sinn Féin of engaging in a filibuster during a debate on the Road Traffic Offenders (Additional Offences) Order to delay the Cahill motion.
Mr Wilson said this was designed to prevent the issue being broadcast on the main evening television news. Debate on the Cahill motion was due to start at 4.45pm but did not get under way until 7.25pm as the road traffic debate and votes went on for two hours and 40 minutes longer than anticipated.
Accused the IRA
Ms Bradley accused the IRA and Sinn Féin of covering up the alleged rape of Ms Cahill. She said rape was a crime that was carried out “by the most vile scum of our society”.
She said Sinn Féin by its reaction to Ms Cahill’s allegations had “reinforced that child abuse and rape is something to be tolerated within our community”. Ms Bradley said Ms McCann’s position as junior minister was “now untenable”.
Ms McCann said she would not cover up for anyone accused of sexual abuse. She said Ms Cahill approached her in confidence in 2005 with the allegations and she had tried to help her. “It was very clear to me she was quite distressed. I was concerned about her safety and wellbeing,” she added. “At no time did she indicate that she wanted me to report this.
“All I did was try to help someone. I have not covered up anything,” said Ms McCann who accused the DUP of using the issue for party political purposes.
She said had Ms Cahill requested her to do so she would have brought her to the PSNI or the statutory authorities to report the case.
SDLP West Belfast MLA Alex Attwood accused Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams of failing to address where other alleged IRA rapists and child abusers had been expelled to by the IRA. He said Mr Adams this week said he did not know where they went. "That is unacceptable and unacceptable to Irish democracy," said Mr Attwood.
Mr McGuinness said there was no basis for the claim that Ms McCann had breached her ministerial code. He said she had “acted at all times with care and compassion”.