Mairia Cahill ‘frustrated’ after meeting Mary Lou McDonald

SF leader says she reiterated apology to sex abuse victim who has criticised party’s handling of case

Sexual abuse victim Máiría Cahill has said her first direct meeting with Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald about the party’s handling of her case has left her frustrated and disturbed.

The pair met for an hour on Tuesday in Dublin, during which time Ms McDonald apologised and acknowledged a lack of fairness in relation to some matters.

However, Ms McDonald did not accept some of Ms Cahill's serious allegations surrounding the existence of an IRA inquiry into her case, and also her contention that Sinn Féin treated her badly when she went public with the allegations on the BBC Spotlight programme.

Ms Cahill alleged she was sexually abused at the age of 16 by a prominent IRA member in Belfast.

Speaking after the meeting, Ms Cahill said the start of the meeting was cordial but both women left the room “probably frustrated”.

"It was not particularly pleasant. I am not actually saying she was unpleasant but the meeting was not helpful," she told The Irish Times. "To be quite honest I told her specifically that some of her responses were bullshit."

Asked had the fact Ms McDonald had agreed to a meeting made any difference to her, Ms Cahill, an SDLP councillor and former Labour senator, replied that she did not think “there was any benefit”.


In a statement following the meeting, Ms McDonald said: “We had a lengthy and candid conversation. I listened carefully to what she had to say and I reiterated my unreserved apology and deep regret that procedures of the mandatory reporting of abuse allegations were not in place at the time.”

She continued: “I acknowledged the hurt and pain that Máiriá has been through and I stressed to her that robust procedures for the handling o abuse allegations are now in place...I reiterated to her that allegations of a criminal nature must be dealt with by the statutory authorities with responsibility for doing so.”

Ms Cahill said she put a number of issues to Ms McDonald including the dispute over whether an IRA investigation into her case took place.

“Ms McDonald said she did not know. I said to her some of those (involved in the IRA investigation) are prominent members of your party and you are the party leader, so why don’t you ask them?

“I said ‘why have you gone out over and over again and given statements on this when you haven’t even bothered asking these people? You should go and ask them now’.”


Ms Cahill said that Ms McDonald replied that if it happened, it was wrong.

“I was never going to get comfort from Mary Lou McDonald, that is the base point,” she said. “Ms McDonald said she was happy to retract the line that she said when she said I had slurred the Sinn Féin party.”

Ms Cahill said she did not believe Sinn Féin had cooperated with police in relation to her case but that Ms McDonald told her the party had.

“She said those people who first knew of the abuse should have gone to the police straight away,” Ms Cahill said.