The Government is considering a cross-Border inquiry into claims of sexual abuse by IRA members in the aftermath of Belfast woman Maíria Cahill’s allegations.
It comes as it has emerged that senior Sinn Féin figures have been co-ordinating the handover of names of well-known republicans suspected of rapes and other sexual assaults to gardaí.
A Government spokesman said allegations that sex abusers were moved by republicans from Northern Ireland to other locations were expected to be discussed when the North South Ministerial Council meets next week.
“The Government is looking at options in relation to a process to establish the facts around the treatment by republicans of alleged abuse victims, including the moving to other jurisdictions of their alleged abusers,” he said.
A senior Government source said it was understood that one of the options being examined was a North-South inquiry. While potential challenges to its establishment were acknowledged, the source described such an investigation as “potentially the most effective process to get at the truth”.
Ms Cahill alleges that she was raped by an IRA member in 1997 and forced to attend a republican-style court along with her alleged abuser. She also claimed child sex abusers were moved by republicans from Northern Ireland to locations south of the Border.
Fianna Fáil leader Michéal Martin called for an all-island inquiry last month. The Sinn Féin Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness has suggested 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”.
The North South Minister Council will meet on Friday, December 5th. Minister for Justice
and the North’s Minister for Justice and Alliance Party leader
met in Dublin last Friday.
The Government spokesman stressed that the protection of children was paramount. “Such information regarding [sexual abuse] should not wait for any process to be established.”
Letter reveals names
A report in The Sunday Times newspaper said former IRA prisoner turned Sinn Féin councillor in Co Meath
delivered a letter to a Garda station in Co Meath on behalf of a former IRA member with six names of republicans suspected of historical sex crimes.
The Irish Times understands there have been similar deliveries to other Garda stations containing further names of well-known republicans suspected of rapes and other sexual assaults.
The deliveries have been sanctioned and co-ordinated by senior figures in the Sinn Féin party. “This is far beyond one or two people in the party coming forward, it’s organised by the party,” said one source.
Senior Garda management has instructed officers to immediately forward any allegations made against republicans to Garda Headquarters. The information is being passed to the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation (NBCI) for investigation.
It has a track record in investigating historical clerical abuse cases. Much of the investigative work is being done by members of the Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Unit, which is within the NBCI. It was members of this unit who met Ms Cahill.
Garda Headquarters declined to comment on the investigation, but said: “An Garda Síochána would urge anyone with information in relation to such matters to contact us and all such allegations will be thoroughly investigated.”