Sinn Féin and IRA investigated 100 cases of abuse, Minister says

Mary Lou McDonald: party routinely brings forward information to authorities

Minister for Education Jan O Sullivan said Sinn Féin was putting the onus on victims to come forward. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Minister for Education Jan O Sullivan said Sinn Féin was putting the onus on victims to come forward. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

 

Minister for Education Jan O’Sullivan has said she believes Sinn Féin and the IRA have conducted 100 investigations into child abuse.

The Minister accused Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald of putting the onus on people who were 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,” she said during a tense leaders’ questions in the Dáil.

She told Ms McDonald that “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”.

The Sinn Féin deputy leader had told the Dáil 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 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”.

She said that as a member of Sinn Féin that “we routinely bring forward information to the statutory authorities as a matter of course”.

She repeated the call by Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness to create a process, mechanism and climate that those who suffered abuse could come forward on the basis of north south intervention.

“I think it is now essential that we create that mechanism.”

Ms O’Sullivan said she did not have a problem with such an intervention “but that is not the point.

“The point is that there is information within your own party and with others you were associated with that needs to be brought forward.”

The Minister said 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”.

Ms O’Sullivan said the Dublin Central TD was ’firing missiles’ around the Dáil chamber.

Ms McDonald said it was not her intention to throw missiles but when the “political point scoring and grandstanding” was over there victims remained with their pain and suffering.

She said she fully acknowledged and understood the responsibilities she had as an elected representative and deputy leader of Sinn Féin.

Ms McDonald, 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 she said another 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 said Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams had brought information forward to the gardaí.

She said “anybody who rapes a child forfeits the right to call themselves a republican”.

Ms McDonald said it was “more than a mantra” to say that those with information must come forward.

Earlier Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said Sinn Féin and its associates had a legal obligation to provide any information they might hold to Tusla and to the gardaí to protect children who could potentially be exposed to further abuse.

He said a commission of inquiry could have some of its hearings in confidential settings, to shine light onto the issue.

“But the bottom line is in 2002 all of this was deliberately kept from the gardaí and HSE and it defies any credibility that senior people within Sinn Féin didn’t know what’s going on, given the circumstances of the case.”

He said the Sinn Féin leader knew in 2009 and didn’t refer it to the HSE or gardaí at the time and “no satisfactory response has come from Mr Adams”. They were “tired of the mantra ‘please come forward’” and it was time for a statutory inquiry.

Ms O’Sullivan said it was important that information that was now available should be given to the authorities.

She said information that was available in 2009 and before and after should be given to the appropriate authorities.