Sharp exchanges over Sinn Féin handling of sexual abuse charges
Jan O’Sullivan accuses SF of putting onus on abused to come forward
Jan O’Sullivan: ‘It’s about time you and your own party took responsibility in all of this.’
There were sharp exchanges in the Dáil over how Sinn Féin members have handled allegations of sexual abuse by republicans in the ongoing controversy following a BBC documentary.
Minister for Education Jan O’Sullivan accused party deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald of putting the onus on people who had been sexually abused to come forward.
Ms O’Sullivan said Ms McDonald was also putting the onus on other authorities. “This is clearly absolutely avoiding the responsibility that you and your own party have,” the Minister said during a tense leaders’ questions.
She said she believed Sinn Féin and the IRA conducted their own investigation into child abuse “and I understand there are about 100 cases. I think it’s about time that you told what people around you know”, she told the party’s deputy leader.
Ms McDonald had said that Paudie McGahon, who alleged sexual abuse by a senior IRA member and was the subject of a BBC Spotlight documentary, “had put it most eloquently when he said ‘nobody should be afraid to come forward’”.
She said Sinn Féin members “routinely bring forward information to the statutory authorities as a matter of course”.
And she defended party leader Gerry Adams, whom she said had given information to the gardaí.
But she told the House that one thing “that we cannot do and will simply not do is carry out the functions and role of An Garda Síochána or the PSNI in the North”.
She added, “Anybody who rapes a child forfeits the right to call themselves a republican.”
She said she fully understood her responsibilities and those of Sinn Féin. Speaking directly to republicans she said there was an onus “on every last one of us to ensure the safety of our children, to ensure that where there has been an injustice done to anybody that that is corrected for”.
But Ms O’Sullivan, taking leaders’ questions for the first time, told Ms McDonald “it’s about time you and your own party took responsibility in all of this, rather than putting it on people who were abused and putting it on providing a smokescreen in relation to a North South intervention”.
Commission of inquiry
Ms O’Sullivan said they could consider such a proposal but it would take time to establish and it was urgent that information available now should be given by Sinn Féin, of what she understood were 100 cases of abuse.
Ms McDonald repeated that “anyone within Sinn Féin or anyone anywhere else, who has information on these issues, on any child who may be in danger or at risk, has since 2012 a positive legal obligation to bring that information forward”.