How Sinn Féin’s past compromises its future

Opinion: ‘Will anything uncovered by the Mairia Cahill case – even the names of multiple sex abusers expelled to the Republic by the IRA – cause significant numbers of Southerners to decide not to vote Sinn Féin in forthcoming elections? I doubt it’

‘Gerry Adams, despite being a brilliant politician –  his success, with Martin McGuinness, in persuading the militarists of the IRA to end their violence for a largely internal Northern Ireland solution that was essentially on offer a quarter of a century earlier is testament to that –  has one major weakness.’ Photograph:  Dara Mac Dónaill / The Irish Times

‘Gerry Adams, despite being a brilliant politician – his success, with Martin McGuinness, in persuading the militarists of the IRA to end their violence for a largely internal Northern Ireland solution that was essentially on offer a quarter of a century earlier is testament to that – has one major weakness.’ Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill / The Irish Times

There are two separate elements in the Maíria Cahill affair: the tragic story itself and the political impact it has had in the South of Ireland. The two should not be confused. The first is a complex and still not completely clear account of how a courageous young woman, a member of one of the IRA’s “first families”, was raped and sexually assaulted over a lengthy period during her teenage years by an older IRA man. She was interrogated by a Provisional IRA “kangaroo court” and forced to confront her assailant. She decided not to press charges against the IRA people she alleged were concerned because of complicated legal barriers that were stacked against her, but did not withdraw them. And then, some years later, she went public about her appalling experience, and how she had told Gerry Adams about it, on a BBC Spotlight television programme.

The second is that this unhappy story has been caught up in the bitter struggle for power between the mainstream parties in the Republic – Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and Labour – and Sinn Féin. It terrifies them with its apparently unstoppable rise and ability to capitalise on Government blunders such as water charges to build its electoral support.

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