Fitzgerald says ‘scale and scope’ of cross-Border sexual abuse inquiry unknown

State considering cross-Border inquiry into claims of sexual abuse by IRA members

Minister for Justice  Frances Fitzgerald:  It is important to know “who was moved where” and if “children were put at risk”. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald: It is important to know “who was moved where” and if “children were put at risk”. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

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Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald has said the “scale and scope” of a potential cross-

Border inquiry into claims of sexual abuse by members of the IRA is not yet known, but denied such an inquiry could take years to establish.

Ms Fitzgerald and her Northern Ireland counterpart David Ford discussed a possible inquiry at a meeting of the North-South Ministerial Council in Armagh yesterday.

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, as well as the names of well-known republicans suspected of rapes and other sexual assaults being handed to gardaí.

But both Ministers said a possible scope for the inquiry had yet to be established, with Mr Forde maintaining that potential criminal processes must proceed.

Protect victims

“It’s important that we don’t lose any evidential opportunities and any work that may be done around an inquiry that doesn’t cut across the real need to protect victims and ensure the perpetrators are punished,” he said. “What I want to see at the moment is children protected. I want to see those who were victims in the past given proper support.

“I want to see the criminal processes carried through in order to see that perpetrators are prosecuted where at all possible. The issue then of what might be appropriate for a wider inquiry can only follow through on the basis of those three key factors.”

Criminal investigations

Ms Fitzgerald said it is important existing investigations continue and said it is “too early at this stage” to say what scope an inquiry could take. She also denied it could take years to establish any inquiry if criminal investigations are proceeding.

“As we get more information, as the scale and the scope of these issues hopefully emerge in the coming weeks, then other decisions may be taken but we have asked our officials to look at the quite complex issues – the practical issues, the legislative and constitutional issues – that would arise in terms of taking the inquiries further,” Ms Fitzgerald said.

The Minister also said it is important to know “who was moved where” and if “children were put at risk”.

“We’re saying let’s see what the scale and the scope of what emerges right now and it could be that you could say, concurrently, this does require some other mechanism. We’re open to that.”

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