First Minister Peter Robinson has expressed support for Maíria Cahill, the west Belfast woman who said she was raped by an IRA member when she was 16 and later "interrogated" about the alleged abuse by senior IRA figures.
Mr Robinson is to meet Ms Cahill this afternoon at Parliament Buildings in Stormont, as her story continues to raise serious questions for Sinn Féin about how republicans dealt with cases of alleged IRA sexual abuse.
“Maíria has been incredibly courageous in waiving her right to anonymity and publicly describing her ordeal,” the First Minister and DUP leader said. “Since making her case public, Maíria has become a source of encouragement for others in similar circumstances.”
“Whilst I could never fully imagine the trauma Maíria has had to endure, I will be listening to her story, supporting her campaign for truth and justice and providing any help I can,” he added.
“Maíria’s case is very similar to how some institutions sought to protect the organisation rather than give support to victims of sexual abuse. I will be assuring Maíria of my support and will work with her to ensure that victims like her are listened to and properly supported,” Mr Robinson said.
The SDLP West Belfast MLA Alex Attwood meanwhile said the "continued courage and resilience" of Ms Cahill was "in stark contrast to the code of silence by those who perpetrated and failed in their duty of care for her as a victim".
He said her stance demanded a “singular response – all should stand with her and with all others abused by terror groups.
“The continued denial and code of silence from people in and across the republican movement is as appalling as it is typical,” Mr Attwood added. “As Maíria Cahill has said, people in the republican leadership and in government have to admit to all that happened and was inflicted on her and others.
“Unlike before, on issues of abuse, Irish society and democracy must leave no stone unturned in support of victims of abuse,” he said.
There was a continued media focus in Northern Ireland on Ms Cahill and what the allegations mean for Sinn Féin throughout yesterday and since the broadcast of the Spotlight programme on Tuesday night. The North's two tabloid Sundays gave prominence to the story yesterday. The Sunday World carried a page of coverage while the Sunday Life gave over most of its front page to a picture of Ms Cahill with the headline "I will unmask IRA sex abusers".
Inside, in an interview with Sara Girvin, Ms Cahill claimed that Sinn Féin covered up sex abuse and moved abusers around the country. The newspaper also reported that Ms Cahill said she has passed on information about other alleged republican abusers to the authorities.
“There are other victims out there listening to all this and being retraumatised because of Sinn Féin’s refusal to admit what has happened,” she said. “If they will admit what has happened, if they will cleanse themselves, maybe people can get on with their lives. Right now Sinn Féin is putting victims through hell,” she added.
Of today’s meeting with the First Minister, Ms Cahill said: “I will show Peter Robinson evidence that Sinn Féin and the IRA internally investigated sexual abuse perpetrated by republicans, moved these people around the country, and in doing so put children at risk.”
Ms Cahill said her memory was “forensic about what happened to me”.