Abuse victim accuses the Sunday Tribune – and the Tribune’s reply

Update at 15 15 pm. Earlier today, Belfast solicitors issued a statement on behalf of an alleged child abuse victim accusing the Sunday Tribune of breach of trust ( see lawyer’s statment below the fold). This afternoon in the following statement, The Sunday Tribune stood by its story.

“Sinn Fein has claimed that the Sunday Tribune, in its coverage of the sex abuse cover-up in the republican movement, is engaged in a campaign to smear the party and its president Gerry Adams. This is simply untrue. We would pursue any political party and its leader with equal vigour given the information we have unearthed. In relation to last Sunday’s edition and Sinn Fein’s allegation of manipulation of one of two victims who spoke to our Northern Editor Suzanne Breen, we categorically stand by our story and our treatment of the abuse survivors involved.

It is being claimed by Sinn Fein and by one of the women, whose identity was not revealed in the Sunday Tribune, that Mr Adams did not know of the abuse she suffered as a child at the hands of a Sinn Fein elected representative. This is directly at odds with the information we were given and we have proof of this.” (statement continues below the fold)

“The Sunday Tribune was approached in the first instance by this victim’s brother who stated in writing that Gerry Adams had been personally informed about the allegations of sexual and physical abuse against an elected Sinn Fein member over two years ago. Ms Breen subsequently interviewed the victim at length in the presence of her brother and a photographer. The claim that Gerry Adams knew of the abuse was repeatedly made by both the victim and her brother at this meeting which took place on Wednesday January 5 2010.

The victim offered to pose for photographs and photographs were taken in front of a wall mural.

In follow-up telephone conversations before the publication of the article in the Sunday Tribune, the story, as it would appear in the newspaper, including the allegations against Gerry Adams, was read to both the victim and her brother. They both agreed it was an honest and accurate account of the interview.

Last Saturday, January 16 2010, the victim, through the solicitors Madden and Finucane, claimed she had never given permission for the interview or allegations to be used. Although consent was freely given by the victim, the Sunday Tribune respected her decision to withdraw consent for her identity to be revealed and ran the story without identifying her.

The other abuse victim, the grand niece of Joe Cahill, has issued a statement to the Sunday Tribune confirming that she was not manipulated into giving an interview. She said: “Sinn Fein has stated that Gerry Adams refutes the allegations I made. Gerry Adams first spoke to me about my case in August 2000. I had meetings with him at which I expressed my feelings on the way I was being treated until 2006. I eventually ended the interviews because they were going nowhere and I believed they were pointless.

“Sinn Fein has said it is considering suing the Sunday Tribune. If Sinn Fein is challenging the truth of my story, let them sue me. I thank the Sunday Tribune for interviewing me in a highly sensitive way – and for the support I received afterwards. To date, since my story was printed, no-one from Sinn Fein has contacted me to offer the same. I am also making a statement later today to the Rape Crisis Centre on this issue.”

Noirin Hegarty,
Editor, Sunday Tribune”

What now? Grounds for legal action or a complaint to the new Irish Press Ombudsman and Council or the UK Press Complaints Commission?

Below is the statement to which the Tribune has replied.

Media Statement on behalf of the victim of abuse by person named “X” by the Sunday Tribune:
“I feel very let down by the decision of the Sunday Tribune to publish my interview with Suzanne Breen on 17th January 2009. At no time did I give permission for any details of the sexual abuse I suffered as a child to be published. The editor of the Sunday Tribune gave me an assurance through my solicitors that I would not be identified as someone who has made allegations to the police regarding sexual abuse.

Due to the publication of the Sunday Tribune article I have been easily identified within my local community as being the victim of sexual abuse. I have suffered immense hurt, upset and distress as a result of the publication, and I feel that I have been manipulated by the newspaper. My legal protections of anonymity under the criminal law and my right to private life under the European Convention on Human Rights have been flagrantly breached. Neither my local community nor my family were aware that I was a victim of sexual abuse before the publication of the Sunday Tribune article.

My primary concerns are for the well being of my children and immediate family and that justice against my abuser is able to take its course without any interference”.

C/o Michael Madden
Madden & Finucane Solicitors

Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London