The Taoiseach: “I will ask them the question that the Deputy will not answer.”

There was a clear attempt at political revisionism this week, as the Sinn Féin president, Gerry Adams, TD, sought to, as Anthony McIntyre put it, “claw back lost ground” following an “unprecedented” Leaders’ questions in the Dáil on Wednesday 22 Oct – aided and abetted by interventions from the legal representative of four of those accused, and acquitted, in the Maíria Cahill case. [added in-line link]

This is the position the Sinn Fein president attempted to end the week with

“I further understand that Peter Madden has today confirmed that his clients see no point in meeting with An Taoiseach, at this stage.

“Although it is a matter for the individuals concerned if they want to meet with Mr Kenny, I am not surprised that these individuals do not wish to meet him given his public assertions and judgements about them.

However myself, Sue Ramsey and Jennifer McCann MLA have written to An Taoiseach seeking a meeting.  We have yet to receive any confirmation from Mr Kenny that he will meet with us, as he said he would in the Dáil. [added emphasis]

Except that, he didn’t.  Despite Deputy Adams’ repeated efforts at securing such a commitment at the time, the more adroit, the more capable, [more clever? – Ed] cleverer, Enda Kenny neatly side-stepped the offer of providing Sinn Féin with a photo-opportunity after emerging, apparently unscathed, from a future meeting with the Taioseach.  With an added sucker-punch.

Here are some relevant extracts from the exchange in the Dáil on 22 Oct.  You can pick up the entire transcript, from the beginning, here.

The Taoiseach: Let us not forget that the central issue here is that a young woman was raped, sexually abused and required to go before her abuser and three other men from the IRA. The Deputy’s deputy leader does not believe this. She has blind allegiance to the Deputy as leader of the party while a young woman with courage and bravery is not afraid to speak out. In the past week she has had numbers of others belonging to the same organisation come forward to her having contacted her about similar stories. I hope these people have the courage to speak out as well.

In putting his next question, the Deputy might confirm whether he knows, as leader of his party and Uachtarán Sinn Féin, whether Maíria Cahill was required to attend in a room with three men and her abuser, all members of the IRA, that a second meeting took place some months afterwards, and in the intervening period she was not allowed to go to the PSNI or to the police. The Deputy might confirm from his information from associates who were members of the IRA whether he is aware of any people who were moved down to this jurisdiction to Donegal or to Louth who were involved in sexual abuse of women in Northern Ireland and who are still in this jurisdiction. He might indicate to the House whether he knows anything about any of that because I think the story Maíria Cahill has to tell is not just powerful but will have serious consequences.

Deputy Gerry Adams: I am not making snide comments. Let me get to the point. The Taoiseach has made accusations against members of Sinn Féin and some of these were subject to court proceedings. Will he meet those people? Will he meet with me? Will he put to me the assertions that have been put?

(Interruptions).

Deputy Gerry Adams: I ask the Taoiseach to listen because he has not listened.

Deputy Regina Doherty: He has.

A Deputy: He asked the Deputy a question.

Deputy Regina Doherty: Will he answer it?

An Ceann Comhairle: Thank you, Deputy. We are over time.

Deputy Gerry Adams: I have already refuted the allegations made. I do not know who is not listening here. It is a very simple proposition. The Taoiseach has heard Maíria Cahill’s story. All those from Sinn Féin who have met Maíria Cahill accept and acknowledge she was abused and traumatised. She then put a particular version of what occurred.

Deputy Regina Doherty: The Deputy is shameful.

Deputy Gerry Adams: These are not nameless, anonymous people. These are decent people. Will the Taoiseach meet them and listen to their version of the story, and then make a judgment on these matters?

Deputy Timmy Dooley: Did the Deputy bring in the clergy when making allegations about it?

The Taoiseach: I find it absolutely unbelievable that Deputy Adams would come into this House of Parliament and say a man who raped a woman, who sexually abused her, is a decent person.

Deputy Gerry Adams: I did not say that. The Taoiseach should not dare say that. The Ceann Comhairle should do his job.

An Ceann Comhairle: I am doing my job and I do not need the Deputy to tell me to do so. This is a debate. Allegations are made across the floor and I cannot judge on every allegation made.

Deputy Gerry Adams: I did not say that. It is misrepresentation.

An Ceann Comhairle: The Deputy should allow the Taoiseach to continue. He had his chance.

Deputy Gerry Adams: I did not say that.

Deputy Timmy Dooley: The record will show what the Deputy said.

Deputy Gerry Adams: The Taoiseach knows precisely what he is doing.

The Taoiseach: Let me be quite clear: there are very many decent people in the Sinn Féin Party.

Deputy Gerry Adams: The Taoiseach does not need to tell me that.

The Taoiseach: I asked the Deputy a question.

Deputy Gerry Adams: I answered his question. I refuted that allegation.

The Taoiseach:I asked him to confirm whether Maíria Cahill was required to attend—–

Deputy Gerry Adams: I refuted that allegation.

The Taoiseach:—–a meeting with three gentlemen and her abuser. The Deputy says these are included among the people who are decent. Deputy Adams needs to clarify that. He also needs, without laughing about it—–

Deputy Gerry Adams: I am not laughing.

An Ceann Comhairle: We are over time.

The Taoiseach:—–to clarify for people down here whether his associates in the IRA, when it was in formal session, knew of people who were guilty of sexual abuse in Northern Ireland and were moved from there to this jurisdiction to so-called safe houses in this city and south of here, and also in Donegal and Louth, because of fear of publicity. Are those people still here? Is this true?

Deputy Gerry Adams: I do not know.

The Taoiseach: Does the Deputy know any of the activities they are involved in now? These are the most serious matters for everyone. Sexual abuse was rampant in many sectors in Irish society, not alone in paramilitary organisations, but the Deputy has responsibility for this and we need to know the answers. I will facilitate a comprehensive debate in the House in the best way possible and we can look at the opportunity for people to have their say.

Deputy Gerry Adams: Will the Taoiseach meet the people he is accusing?

The Taoiseach: I will meet the four people to whom the Deputy refers, who are named.

Deputy Gerry Adams: Good man.

The Taoiseach: I will do so but I will not stand in judgment on them. I will ask them the question that the Deputy will not answer. [added emphasis]

The legal representative of four of those accused, and acquitted, in the case issued a statement the same day, and on the 24th, An Phoblacht reported his advice to his clients

“An Taoiseach concluded his comments in Dáil Éireann by saying that he would meet “the four people . . . who are named” and that he “would not stand in judgment over them”.

“He has already passed judgment on them.

“Dáil Éireann is not a court of law, neither is the media.

“I am seriously concerned that in the course of the parliamentary debates some will seek to hide behind ‘parliamentary privilege’ and conduct their own ‘kangaroo court’.

“I am advising my clients not to meet with An Taoiseach, at this stage, while the reviews and processes detailed above are ongoing.

On the 28th October, the Irish Times reported the effect of that advice, “The Government has said the onus is on Sinn Féin to arrange the meeting it requested between the Taoiseach and the four people named as having carried out the investigations into the sexual abuse allegations of Maíria Cahill.”

Notwithstanding a direct request in the Dáil by Mr Adams for the Taoiseach to meet the four, and Mr Kenny’s agreement to a meeting, the prospect of such a meeting was firmly ruled out by Peter Madden, the solicitor representing the four people Ms Cahill said interrogated her.

In a statement late last week, Mr Madden contended the Taoiseach had set aside the judicial process and the findings of a court of law. In a response to the Taoiseach saying he would not stand in judgment on the four, Mr Madden said: “He has already passed judgment on them. I am advising my clients not to meet the Taoiseach at this stage.” He noted that reviews and processes were continuing.

Mr Adams had called for such a meeting a number of times during last week’s debate, asking Mr Kenny to facilitate a meeting with those against whom Ms Cahill made allegations. “These are not nameless anonymous people. These are decent people. Will the Taoiseach meet them and listen to their version of the story and then make a judgment on these matters?” he asked.

The Taoiseach’s spokesman said last night that Sinn Féin and the IRA still needed to respond to the question posed by Mr Kenny last week. “Mr Adams admitted the IRA moved people South. Where are they now? It’s a child-protection issue.

“Gerry Adams said he had no knowledge of that matter. Given his story has changed significantly on Maíria Cahill, the Taoiseach has said it is simply not plausible to say ‘people were moved South but I don’t know who they are or where they are’,” the spokesman said.

On the following evening, 29th October, an RTÉ report on Taoiseach Enda Kenny writing to Gerry Adams, seeking further details about the proposed meeting with “the four people”, drew a shrill reaction from the Sinn Féin president – on the same night.

…following last week’s Dail exchanges, I wrote to the Taoiseach to set up a meeting. The Taoiseach’s Department acknowledged that letter.

“Separately two other Sinn Féin members named in the Spotlight programme also wrote to Taoiseach seeking meetings with him. The Taoiseach’s Deparment also acknowledged their letters.

“The Taoiseach has yet to confirm a meeting with any of us.

“According to RTE News the Taoiseach is “calling Gerry Adams’ bluff”.

“It is clear that the Taoiseach is seeking to manipulate media reporting of this issue and is being entirely cynical and disingenuous.”

As the Irish Times reported on 30th Oct.

Mr Kenny’s letter was dispatched last night in response to a letter to him from Mr Adams following a tense clash in the Dáil last week over Ms Cahill’s allegations.

In his reply, the Taoiseach said in order for the meeting to take place the names of the four people involved in the IRA “investigation” needed to be forwarded to him.

A Government spokesman emphasised the Taoiseach’s letter specified his willingness to meet the four people named in the BBC Spotlight programme about Ms Cahill’s ordeal and not anybody else.

The spokesman said there had been attempts by Sinn Féin to “muddy the waters” about who might meet the Taoiseach but it was clear from the Dáil record that the invitation applied only to the people involved in the investigation. [added emphasis]

An Irish Examiner report on 30 Oct added

Mr Kenny’s spokesperson accused Sinn Féin of “scrambling” after the initial invitation and suggesting that figures other than the ones named by Ms Cahill as being involved in an IRA ‘kangaroo court” could meet the Taoiseach.

A solicitor representing the four people warned that they had been subjected to ‘trial by media’ following Ms Cahill’s allegation.

The rape victim said the IRA investigation into her attack forced her to confront the man who abused her for a year when she was 16.

Mr Kenny has said he has “no problem” meeting the people named in the BBC documentary and that he intends to confront them with Ms Cahill’s account of her experiences.

“The Taoiseach is reasserting his offer to meet with the four people once he has been facilitated with the details as to who they are so he can contact them,” the spokesperson said.

Also on the 30th Oct, the legal representative of “the four people” wrote again to the Taoiseach.  As this RTÉ report noted

In a letter to Enda Kenny today, Peter Madden said he wrote to him on 24 October to tell him that he had advised his clients – Padraic Wilson, Seamus Finucane, Briege Wright and Maura McCrory – against any meeting “given your (Enda Kenny) highly prejudicial statements and ongoing legal issues”.

Mr Madden said a spokesperson for the Taoiseach’s office had spoken to the media yesterday [29 Oct] with regard to a proposed meeting and said both the comments attributed to Mr Kenny and media reporting are “again highly prejudicial and inaccurate”.

He writes: “Given your approach to this matter, my clients have today confirmed that they see no point in meeting, at this stage, with you given your rush to judgement and your setting aside of the court finding and legal processes.

“On my advice they are declining to meet with you.”

An Irish Times report on 30 Oct has the missing quotes

In the letter, Mr Madden said he advised his clients Padraic Wilson, Seamus Finucane, Briege Wright and Maura McCrory against any meeting in the light of what he described as Mr Kenny’s “highly prejudicial statements” and the ongoing legal processes.

“I note that you, or a spokesperson for your office, contacted the media on Wednesday October 29th with regard to a proposed meeting. Both the comments attributed to you and media reporting are again highly prejudicial and inaccurate.

And on the same evening, 30th Oct, Gerry Adams issued another statement, which I noted at the start of this post.

“I further understand that Peter Madden has today confirmed that his clients see no point in meeting with An Taoiseach, at this stage.

“Although it is a matter for the individuals concerned if they want to meet with Mr Kenny, I am not surprised that these individuals do not wish to meet him given his public assertions and judgements about them.

However myself, Sue Ramsey and Jennifer McCann MLA have written to An Taoiseach seeking a meeting.  We have yet to receive any confirmation from Mr Kenny that he will meet with us, as he said he would in the Dáil. [added emphasis]

Except that, as I’ve pointed out here, he didn’t.

On the 31st October, the Irish Times reported

The offer by Taoiseach Enda Kenny to meet the four people who allegedly conducted the IRA investigation into the rape of Maíria Cahill remains open, according to a Government spokesman.

He was responding last night to the announcement that the four had declined to proceed with the meeting on the advice of their solicitor.

Gerry Adams made a request on the floor of the Dáil that the meeting should take place and that request was acceded to,” said the spokesman. “Like much else in this story the position keeps changing but the offer remains.” [added emphasis]

Anthony McIntyre draws back the curtain on the wider story…

The spin being put on the matter by Sinn Fein is that the party has never been involved in protecting child abusers. This is true to the extent that the party frowned severely on abuse and approved the sanctions employed against those engaged in it. What was being protected and covered for was the reputation of the party and the IRA. Much the same way that the Irish Catholic Church covered up and was rightly pilloried by Sinn Fein for having done so. The Church held a canon law internal investigation, remained silent about the findings, and relocated the offender – all in a bid to protect the reputation of the institution. Canon Law, IRA code: try getting a cigarette paper between them. [added emphasis]