UPDATED: Spotlight investigation to explore republican treatment of ‘abuse’ victim

BBC NI’s Spotlight programme tonight investigates the republican movement’s handling of sexual abuse allegations against a suspected IRA member.

Maíria Cahill has waived her right to anonymity to tell how the republican movement responded to her allegations by first investigating them, then burying them and imposing a code of silence to protect the movement.

She is from one of the republican movement’s most famous families. Her great uncle was Joe Cahill, one of the founders of the Provisional IRA and a long-time ally of Gerry Adams.

At the age of 16, she alleges she was sexually abused by a suspected member of the IRA.  Her alleged abuser denied this and was later acquitted.  But after the alleged abuse ended, Mairia Cahill was summoned to a meeting, she says, with the IRA.

That was the start of, the only word I have for it is interrogation because that’s exactly how it felt,” she tells Spotlight.

After more than six months of questioning Maíria Cahill says that in early 2000, she was brought face-to-face with her alleged abuser in a kangaroo court session that was supposed to determine the truth.

They told me that they were going to read my body language to see who was telling the truth”

The programme will examine what the IRA did following the forced confrontation.

Maíria Cahill also tells Spotlight about a meeting she had, only months later, with the Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams about her abuse allegations.

Maíria Cahill, Gerry Adams

Maíria Cahill, Gerry Adams

The programme will also look at what happened when Maíria Cahill eventually told her story to police and named the IRA’s investigators.

In a statement, Gerry Adams told Spotlight that he co-operated with the PSNI in the course of their investigation.

Spotlight, Tuesday October 14, BBC One Northern Ireland, 10.35pm

, , , , , , ,

  • Jag

    So, alleged victim makes complaint to police.

    Police investigate, and suspect is charged but is acquitted in court of law (am assuming that this is what is meant by “Her alleged abuser denied this and was later acquitted.”)

    Non-police organisation then supplements judicial system by holding its own inquiry.

    Non-police organisation rejects accusation.

    Alleged victim has a grievance about the nature of the non-police organisation investigation.

    And for all the “allegeds” in Fireman’s piece above, he doesn’t qualify the pejorative “burying” of the allegations/investigation by the IRA. Isn’t the “burying” alleged too? And isn’t it really tantamount to “rejecting” which is a far less loaded term?

    Anyway, forget about all the “allegeds”, this will be regarded by a certain audience as an actual (rather than “alleged”) rape victim, a child no less, being doubly-abused by a cruel IRA investigation and whitewash; any objective analysis of the matter shows that isn’t the case.

  • bellefast

    The non-police investigation happened long before the police investigation. The shameful “internal” investigation happened at the time, and she was told to keep quiet after the abuser was allowed to “escape”. She found the courage to go to the police in later years and they didn’t bother to contact key witnesses. Maybe you should watch the programme before you make your judgements, your psychic powers notwithstanding.

  • Michael Henry

    Maybe you should watch the programme also bellefast before you make judgements -( God knows what your new excuse is going to be after we actually see this programme- unless the witness pulls out like she did in court )-

  • Jag

    @Bellefast, I concede I haven’t seen the programme, have you?

    I was just going by Fireman’s piece above, the presentation of which suggested a chronology of police investigation followed by non-police organisation (yes, the IRA, but I was trying to make the issue more objective) investigation.

    I don’t claim to have psychic powers, but having said that, your initials aren’t JOL, are they?

  • bellefast

    Sorry no, don’t know who JOL is. I inferred your psychic powers from your “objective analysis of the matter” – despite not having yet had the matter fully presented to you.

  • bellefast

    I don’t believe the witness did pull out in court. Perhaps you know better – were you there? I will be watching the programme. Anyone who has the courage to stand up to any organisation that wields a lot of power and will unquestionably be vilified for doing so deserves to be heard.

  • Michael Henry

    She refused to give evidence to a Judge with the power to jail because she says she was getting threats-now she is giving evidence to the BBC who has only the power to waffle-( have her made up threats been lifted all of a sudden )-she had not got the courage or did not want her so called attacker to suffer in jail and she knows that this BBC programme could hinder any future court case-

  • Ulick

    Bellefast, if you go back through the Slugger archives to when this case was first covered here (around same time as Áine Adams case came to light) you’ll find that Ms Cahill herself wanted this handled by the IRA and not police or social services. So it’s less a matter of “finding the courage to go to the police in later years” and more of being dissatisfied with how it was handled by the IRA. Unless the ‘Ra had a secret court and prison complex out in Spike Island or something, I’m not quite sure what she expected – a quick no questions asked bullet behind the ear, kneecapping or a beating?

  • bellefast

    I wonder if sometimes we make decisions as a teenager that we wouldn’t make with hindsight as an adult? Maybe that’s just me.

  • Ulick

    I’m sure we all have, but we rarely get a chance to take both options, as Ms Cahill seems to have gotten. Harsh to call it out so blatantly but at the end of the day, she’s had two investigations and is still still not happy. No doubt aunty Eilis will still be there for comfort and guidance.

  • bellefast

    So the case got to court, despite the notorious difficulties of bringing sex crimes to trial especially historic ones, and she was so sure the judge would jail him, again despite the woeful conviction rates in such cases, but at the last minute she decided to spare him suffering in jail? Ok. Or hang on, she didn’t have the courage to go through with the case, despite having fought it for years, when she got to the final hurdle? Ok. And her death threats were made up? You know this for a fact? Why, the BBC should have interviewed you instead for your apparent omniscience. Again, I’ll wait to watch the programme, insightful though your speculation is.

  • Jag

    Objective analysis of matter as presented by Fireman, but again, conceded I haven’t seen the programme, and am not sure I will, not comfortable with idea of BBC apparently appropriating to itself the role of an appeal court.

  • bellefast

    Maybe her concern is for other people who went through the same thing, and other children who weren’t protected because “alleged” perpetrators were allowed to go free. It’s a good thing those whose own claims of abuse that were “investigated” by the Church or the Police (the Saville case comes to mind) chose to come forward and expose what was happening. Not sure why this is any different.

  • Michael Henry

    There is a picture on this topic of a friendly innocent looking Maria seeming to be enjoying the company of Gerry Adams-she looks more than 16 in that picture- and she has made public that her so called attacker started attacking her when she was 16-

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Ah, the Palace of Righteous Justice that was the IRA. I’m sure the stenographer kept a full record of these august marsupial proceedings in the interests of transparent and open due process. I’m sure we’ll be able to ask the clerk of the court for it, or one of the other highly trained legal representatives present.

  • bellefast

    She looks older than 16. Hmmm. Where have we heard that sort of line before…? And what’s your point? She wasn’t allowed to smile ever again since it happened or else it’s not true?

  • Ulick

    The facts are, the IRA were in the middle of a war at the time, they didn’t have same capacity as the state for conducting criminal investigations, collecting evidence, conducting trials and punishing offenders. Those facts make the context for this very different from Saville. Yet still knowing all of these things Ms Cahill still chose for the IRA, SF or whomever to handle the investigation. At a later date she then received a full police investigation and prosecution. Not content with that she then goes to the BBC to smear the people involved in the first investigation. Maybe she is motivated by concern for others but that’s not how it is coming across.

  • bellefast

    Coming across from what? Internet speculation? I’m sure you’re aware there would be reasons why people from certain areas would not feel able to go to the Police at that time. And from what I can gather he “escaped” from their investigation. Would that some others being held by them could have found a way to escape. They didn’t seem to always be so negligent.

  • Jag

    Are you suggesting Michael Henry is a paedophile, because you hear that sort of line “she looked older” from people accused of having sex with minors. Perhaps you’re not.

    It seems to me that Michael is saying that, judging by her apparent age, it would appear that even after the alleged attack and possibly after the IRA investigation, she was still on smiling terms with GA. Michael seems to be suggesting such apparently cordial relations between the alleged victim and GA belies the sense of grievance being broadcast today. But that’s just conjecture on my part.

  • bellefast

    No I’m not suggesting he’s a paedophile. It’s a terrible thing when people make false accusations, such as liar for example. Also a paedophile is someone who is attracted to prepubescent children, so the difference between 15 and 17 is largely irrelevant. I’m making the point that making assumptions of how old young women are on the basis of how they look is not always a foolproof method of deduction. I have no way of knowing how cordial her relations with GA were before, during or after the abuse, as I’m sure neither does Michael. I’m sure one picture tells the entire story though, I mean the camera never lies at least, right?

  • Jag

    ” It’s a terrible thing when people make false accusations, such as liar for example.”

    Or rapist, would that be another example?

  • Dec

    I seriously doubt there’s much against GA in the documentary – otherwise that would have been it’s selling point and the newspapers and certain websites would have devoted multiple coulumns/threads to the topic by this point. But ‘m genuinely confused about the timeline here. The case went to court, and the accused was acquitted despite Ms Cahill being adamant he abused her. Yet, by her own testimony, it was the IRA (allegedly) who kept the investigation alive. It seems it was the manner of the IRA’s investigation that was the issue here.

  • bellefast

    Making false allegations of rape is of course terrible. Is anyone saying Ms Cahill did that? Would be hard to see exactly what benefit you’d get from spending the best part of 20 years trying to make such an allegation, especially when there are people lining up to shame you for casting aspersions on beloved establishments. I’m not sure why people are so secure all of a sudden in the infallibility of the justice system, “internal” means of justice, the irreproachable behaviour of humans just because they are affiliated with a particular organisation or political party or whatever. Still, if it helps you sleep to think not a rapist has ever walked free, that beloved institutions have never protected those who were known to abuse children, and anyone making such claims must have nefarious aims of one kind of another, then who am I to argue? Sweet dreams. I’ll bow out because what disturbs my own sleep is the knowledge that there are those who will choose to believe this case isn’t true, even if they have no idea of the facts and might even choose not to watch something that presents the facts, because to accept otherwise might lead to some uncomfortable reprocessing of beliefs.

  • Jag

    Hi Bellefast,

    I haven’t the foggiest notion about the details of this case, save as presented in outline here.

    I do believe crimes should be dealt with through the courts and the BBC is not some court of appeal.

  • Reader

    ‘made up threats’
    Actually, if you try to take Provos to court, ‘threats’ are exactly what you would expect, whatever the content or merit of your accusations. You needn’t doubt the threats, even if you insist on doubting everything else.
    (I was under the impression that card-carrying republicans would be far more receptive and sympathetic to claims of victimisation and abuse than us Neanderthal huns. Apparently not. That’s Omerta, I suppose.)

  • chrisjones2

    Michael

    Are you an elected member of SF?

  • Tacapall

    “or did not want her so called attacker to suffer in jail”

    So called attacker – So why did the IRA put him out of the country ? Once again MH your talking balls.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Non-police organisation then supplements judicial system by holding its own inquiry.
    That’s a rather interesting euphemism for the IRA’s kangaroo court system backed up by threats of mutilation and death.

    I suppose you could say that when they robbed the Northern Bank they were merely engaged in a programme of supplementing their income via external means.

    The story here to me is the hypocrisy. Republicans agitated for decades about how the RUC and the army could never be fair because they conducted their own internal investigations and never found anyone guilty. It is now clear that the IRA operated on similar terms. The only time the IRA’s internal disciplinary unit operated effectively was, ironically, when it was being run by a British agent.

  • Comrade Stalin

    you’ll find that Ms Cahill herself wanted this handled by the IRA and not police or social services

    We are talking about a 16 year old from a republican family who would have had some faith in the organization’s ability to police itself.

    So it’s less a matter of “finding the courage to go to the police in later years” and more of being dissatisfied with how it was handled by the IRA.

    Disillusioned that the IRA would cover up their own rapists would be another way to look at it.

    I’m not quite sure what she expected – a quick no questions asked bullet behind the ear, kneecapping or a beating?

    The minimum a reasonable person would expect would be that someone believed to have committed such a crime would be expelled from the organization. But it’s a farce anyway; the IRA would be no more inclined to discipline its own loyal troops than the British Army would. In any case, it sounds like senior republicans had no problems enjoying some of the “perks of the job” in the neighbourhood.

  • Comrade Stalin

    The facts are, the IRA were in the middle of a war at the time, they didn’t have same capacity as the state for conducting criminal investigations, collecting evidence, conducting trials and punishing offenders

    The middle of a war ? Wasn’t there a ceasefire on at the time ?

    When did the IRA ever seriously act against any of its own members for any reason other than disloyalty/being an informer ?

  • Comrade Stalin

    Michael, I’m surprised that even the most servile of Shinnerbots would question the likelihood that the IRA, or people close to the IRA, would make threats against people going up against them, given that they killed over 2000 people, wounded many times that, and have a long history of public and private threats.

  • Jag

    @Comrade, as others have suggested here, what would you expect in the middle of a civil war. Perhaps, bewigged ones engaging in rhetorical acrobats to bolster their case or undermine their opposition before a panel of august judges? In some wood-panelled chamber with adjacent cells and prison?

    This was rough and ready, shitty and bloody, what you get in the middle of a war.

    But as far as I can tell from the preview, the matter was investigated by police and progressed through the courts, though, ultimately, the suspect was acquitted. I might be wrong, but at this point, I’m not even minded to watch the programme tonight – the media, ex-post, double-guessing police and judiciary is rarely merited.

  • bellefast

    Rough and ready, shitty and bloody…yes, rape is usually a silent weapon used in war and it’s women and children who bear the brunt. They should just accept it and keep quiet I guess.

    As Comrade Stalin pointed out, the case is not necessarily about second guessing the Police investigation. The fact that an organisation essentially forbade people to go to the Police and promised to handle things themselves subsequently interrogated a young woman, allowed/facilitated the escape of the “alleged” perpetrator, and then told her to remain quiet. That shouldn’t go unspoken any more than the ritual cover up of abuse by any other organisation. How many other people did this happen to? And why are they less important than any other victim of abuse?

  • Comrade Stalin

    This was rough and ready, shitty and bloody, what you get in the middle of a war.
    And yet the same people who are denying justice in this case are demanding inquiries into various events that took place during that “war”. This is double standards.

    And the first inquiry into Bloody Sunday found that the soldiers had done nothing wrong.

  • Dixie Elliott

    Not a bit wonder you’re hiding behind a fake name Dec as most of you tend to do. You’re another of those fanatics who see nothing wrong with a so called organisation which is so far up the Brits holes that Shaun Woodward referred to Padraig Wilson in conversation with Mark Durkin as ‘Poor Padraig’ when he was in the dock.

    And if, as you say, the IRA kept the investigation going how come they let Adams bodyguard, McCullough, appear as a last minute witness for Morris effectively killing off the case?

    I’ll tell you why they did it. They did it to protect their leader and party’s name which once again would have been dragged through the mud had Maíria Cahill won the case.

    And did you hear Adams had suggested that some tended to enjoy the abuse? Naw because fanatics like yourself tend not to see or hear these things. In fact it’s attitudes like yours which help rapists and abusers…

  • Dixie Elliott

    To all the fanatics who’ll likely pop up hiding like spineless cretins behind fake names I ask….

    Clearly McCullough was sent in as a last minute witness on behalf of Morris to scupper the trial in order to protect the name of SF.

    Why else would they do it when they had offered to shoot Morris so they knew he was guilty?

  • Dixie Elliott

    Naw they shafted him after he was exposed as making fun of suicide victims online while hiding under that fake name. Well its actually his first and second names.