Taoiseach Enda Kenny has said it is his understanding that there are “more cases to follow” of alleged cover-ups within Sinn Féin and the IRA of sexual crime.
In his harshest criticism of Sinn Féin to date over the manner in which it dealt with rape victim Maíria Cahill, the Taoiseach described the conduct of Sinn Féin as “utterly despicable”.
Last week Ms Cahill, a grandniece of IRA leader Joe Cahill, told a BBC Spotlight investigation she had been raped by a senior member of the IRA in the late 1990s and that the paramilitary organisation had later interrogated her about the incident.
She said she had also spoken to Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams about the case in 2000. There is now a clear conflict between her account of the meeting and that of Mr Adams.
Over the weekend, Mr Adams wrote an article for his blog in which he conceded the IRA had investigated allegations of sexual abuse and assault.
He accepted that in many cases victims were left without the necessary social service support, and abusers were left without supervision. He accepted the system put in place by the IRA failed the victims and the community alike.
Responding to the developments today, the Taoiseach said: “I think there has been despicable, utterly despicable, conduct by Sinn Féin to discredit Maíria Cahill over the last period.
"Is this another part of an attempt to discredit a young woman who's telling a story from the inside and my understanding is that there is more to follow," said Mr Kenny.
The last comment was taken as a reference to Ms Cahill’s comments that she is not an isolated case and she is of the belief that more victims will come forward to describe how their cases had been covered up.
Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin also castigated what he described as a belated attempt by Mr Adams and Sinn Féin to acknowledge the issues raised by Ms Cahill.
“After instigating a vicious campaign of vilification against Maíria Cahill over the course of the last week, it is of course welcome that Gerry Adams has belatedly acknowledged that his organisation did carry out internal investigations of sexual abuse allegations.
“However, it is deeply disappointing that even as he abandons a key claim, he fails to do the right thing by Ms Cahill,” he said.
Mr Kenny is due to meet Ms Cahill at Government Buildings later this week. The Belfast woman is also meeting the Northern Ireland First Minister Peter Robinson today.
In her own response to Mr Adams’s blog, Ms Cahill said this morning she welcomed the admission the IRA had conducted inquiries into allegations of rape and sexual assault by its own members.
“After a week of continuously saying this and after years of being vilified for trying to raise this issue to protect vulnerable children, Gerry Adams is finally admitting that yes, it happened and yes, the IRA did carry out internal investigations into sexual abuse.
“The most disgusting thing actually is that while he admitted it happened in that blog, he is still denying it happened to me,” she told RTÉ.
Over the course of the weekend, a number of prominent Sinn Féin representatives have said they accept Ms Cahill’s account of having been abused but have denied any cover-up by Sinn Féin.
The party’s deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald said: “Sinn Féin is not involved in any cover-up around child abuse. I want to make that absolutely clear. Much less are we withholding any co-operation from the police, as has been asserted by Maíria Cahill.”