Maíria Cahill calls on Dublin to examine abuse claims

Cahill abused by senior IRA man and later subjected to a ‘kangaroo court’

Maíria Cahill is calling for Dublin to appoint a legal expert to investigate the alleged cover up of the sexual abuse of children.

Ms Cahill was speaking at the Gerry Conlon memorial lecture entitled "Justice for Victims of Abuse" she delivered on Saturday evening at St Mary's University College on the Falls Road in west Belfast, as part of Féile an Phobail.

The festival event, chaired by SDLP MLA Alex Attwood, was organised to explore how victims can be let down by the justice system and their own communities.

Ms Cahill came to public attention during a BBC Spotlight programme where she alleged she had been sexually abused by a senior IRA figure and later subjected to a “kangaroo court” investigation by republicans.

The west Belfast woman, whose great-uncle Joe Cahill was one of the founders of the Provisional IRA, pursued the matter through the courts but the case collapsed when she withdrew her evidence after losing faith in the Public Prosecution Service.

In May, a report by Kier Starmer - former chief of the Crown Prosecution Service, now a Labour MP - concluded it was "almost inevitable" that Ms Cahill, and two other alleged victims decided to withdraw their evidence. Following the publication of the independent review the director of the PPS in the North, Barra McGrory, apologised to the three women.

“My case isn’t unique and I know this from speaking to people since I went public,” she told the Féile audience of around 100 people on Saturday.

“I am now calling on the Irish government to put in place, without delay, a person of legal standing to conduct a special investigatory report, more commonly known as a scoping exercise, to help uncover the IRA and Sinn Féin members actions when it came to the cover up of child sexual abuse.”

She added: “There are many victims of abuse who never make it to the media to tell of their experiences.

“Those victims hurt just as much and in some cases more by suffering in silence but when victims and survivors go public we know that, as in my case, calls to rape crisis centres increases and other victims feel compelled to speak out about their cases.

“We should always encourage them to do so.”

Ms Cahill was critical of the criminal justice system, Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams and other party figures, members of her extended family and elements of the republican community.

She claimed Sinn Féin could not speak with credibility on the issue of child sexual abuse until it went beyond addressing sexual abuse by republicans in general terms.

“They need to admit that the IRA investigated my abuse against my wishes,” she said.

“They need to confirm explicitly that I was brought into a room with my rapist and three individuals from the IRA and that is my bottom line.

“And until they admit that they can never speak credibly on the issue of child sexual abuse again.”

Ms Cahill spoke of a “cover up” and also said that before and since speaking publicly about her life experience she had been made aware of allegations of people being raped at gunpoint and threatened with death, as well as alleged abusers being “moved on without a thought for the next child”.

Following the event Ms Cahill told The Irish Times some IRA members were among the audience at St Mary's. "They kept themselves fairly quiet," she said. "They will bring it back again. That's the way it goes."

She also said speaking at Féile had helped “lay ghosts to rest” and brought her some comfort.

“It was important to do,” she said.

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