So Spotlight brought us another look at how Sinn Fein and the IRA handled (and continue to handle) victims of sexual abusers inside their own organisation. In a sense the witness testimony of Paudie McGahan was far less charged than that of Mairia Cahill, and in some respects less shocking.
That’s probably because as the third major ‘witness’ we can now be pretty sure that Sinn Fein has an ongoing problem with the management of victims of child abuse at the hands of their own personnel.
Three aspects to McGahan’s interview are well worth highlighting:
- The choice of place where the IRA set its inquiry. Let alone was it in a house he no longer lived in, but was convened upstairs in the very room the alleged abuse occurred.
- The by now familiar choice given the victim: ie, we’ll nut him; we’ll let you nut him; or we’ll send him away. For anyone already traumatised by the original offence against the body, that’s no choice at all.
- The presence of an ‘IRA Psychiatrist’ in the room is a bizarre detail, but one that fits with the psychological manipulation of the victim to keep his counsel and perhaps, as a future incentive to making ‘the right choices’.
Although some of the details are new, the overall pattern suggests the real emphasis is on getting victims to remain quiet, whilst moving the perpetrator out of harm’s way.
Although as we noted at the time of the Cahill story, the story inside Sinn Fein is inconsistent on the matter. Peadar Toibin is in no doubt that this is exactly what the IRA, whilst Conor Murphy says he knows nothing about it. Or as the party president puts it, “if you don’t ask, you can’t tell“.
So what, if any, are the politics of this?
Well, one, the issue hasn’t gone away. This case has still to go to court. And it is in the hands of the Guards, not the PSNI or the Northern Ireland DPP’s office.
It also seems likely, given the pathologies of other, far less innately brutalist institutions as seen in Rochdale, Rotherham, the Savile case, that this problem goes much wider and more deeply than is currently on view.
So far the politicking has been relatively light, and mostly limited to compassion for the victims. But with each revelation not only does the modus operandi become clearer, so does the contemporaneous nature of the problem.
The involvement of the then Dail Deputy Arthur Morgan, firstly in the frisking of the victim for bugs and then delivery of the news that the exiled alleged abuser had returned as recently as 2009 (and Councillor McGeough’s failure to comply with party policy last year) suggest this is very much a problem of the here and now.
Politically, as Tommie Gorman pointed out on Morning Ireland this morning, the nature of the offences themselves don’t really sit comfortably even in that liminal space between the criminal and political the IRA found themselves.
Clearly, the news did not go down well with Sinn Fein’s Mid Ulster MP Francie Molloy:
— Derek Mooney (@dsmooney) March 11, 2015
The MP has since removed the tweet, and apologised:
In a statement this morning, Mr Molloy said; “I apologise for any offence my post caused to Paudie McGahon or any victim of abuse.
“I hope that justice is served and the appropriate support delivered to Mr McGahon.”
Mr Molloy added: “Sinn Féin’s priority is to support victims of abuse whether that abuse is historical or contemporary and we will support victims in their efforts to get truth and justice.
“There is a currently a Garda investigation into these allegations. These matters are best dealt with in the justice system rather than trial by television and it is my hope that justice will be done.”
Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty