McGuinness calls for all-island sex abuse victims support body
Government source says letter sent by SF Deputy First Minister to Taoiseach a ‘political manoeuvre’
The Northern Assembly’s justice committee arising from the Máiria Cahill (pictured) case has decided to hold an inquiry into how the North’s criminal justice system dealt with sexual abuse within the republican community. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire.
The Sinn Féin Deputy First Minister, Martin McGuinness, has written to Taoiseach Enda Kenny and DUP First Minister Peter Robinson calling for the creation of an all-island body to “deal with the issue of support for those who were victims of sexual abuse during the conflict”.
Mr McGuinness wrote that such an “all-island process” should be created through the North-South Ministerial Council and fully resourced by the Northern Executive and the Irish Government.
In response to the letter, a spokesman for the Taoiseach said: “What Martin McGuinness, Gerry Adams and the republican leadership need to do as a matter of urgency is to make known all the details in relation to people suspected of abuse being moved to the South or to another jurisdiction.
“That is the starting point. The question posed by the Taoiseach about where people were moved remains unanswered,” he said.
Mr McGuinness said the objectives would be to support victims of abuse in all communities; ensure greater access to counselling and other supports for victims; and facilitate victims and survivors in accessing the justice system and making official complaints.
“Survivors must be empowered to access these services and all parties should do everything possible to ensure those survivors who want to come forward feel safe in doing so,” said Mr McGuinness. “Victims and survivors have a right to truth and justice.”
Mr McGuinness’s letter comes as the Northern Assembly’s justice committee, arising from the Máiría Cahill case, yesterday afternoon voted to hold an inquiry into how the North’s criminal justice system dealt with sexual abuse within the republican community.
Sinn Féin motion
The three Sinn Féin members of the committee – Raymond McCartney, Seán Lynch and Chris Hazzard – abstained on the motion. Instead, Mr McCartney proposed a second motion that the inquiry should deal broadly with how the justice system acquitted itself in dealing with the general issue of sexual abuse. This was rejected by the other members.
The DUP committee chairman, Paul Givan, said that following the BBC Spotlight programme on the allegations that Máiría Cahill was raped by an IRA member and then had to face an IRA inquiry into her claims, there was now an issue “around public confidence in the criminal justice system”.
The Alliance Minister of Justice, David Ford, had written to the justice committee expressing misgivings about such an inquiry in the current circumstances.
He cited the fact that the North’s Director of Public Prosecutions, Barra McGrory, has asked for an investigation into how the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) dealt with the Máiría Cahill case, and the fact that the Police Ombudsman, Dr Michael Maguire, is also investigating how the PSNI handled her abuse and “interrogation” claims.
SDLP member Alban Maginness said he was sure Mr Ford was “advised properly”, but nonetheless the committee had an important role in the matter.
“We do have a duty to investigate and we ought to start that process as soon as possible,” he said.