So the Ombudsman has delivered his latest report (or letter) to Mairia Cahill, not simply on the deficiencies of, first the RUC and secondly the PSNI in handling her case, but some damning news for Sinn Fein too.
The BBC reports:
…the RUC, Northern Ireland’s police force before the PSNI was formed in 2001, had information about allegations of child abuse by an IRA member 10 years before the complaints were made but failed to act.
He also found that there had been a very odd decision…
…to split the investigation across two units, one with expertise in terrorist cases and another specialising in dealing with victims of sexual assault.
But he rejected allegations that “anyone was protected from prosecution” or that the investigation was “subject to adverse political interference”.
Be that as it may, the decision to split the investigation in two is highly questionable. However, the major controversy of the day lay with SF. According to the Telegraph, the Ombudsman also noted that…
…Sinn Fein did not act when Ms Cahill originally made her allegations to senior party figures in 1997, instead waiting for three years to suspend her alleged attacker.
Whilst the Chief Constable delivered a face to face apology, this morning the party refused all requests after Ms Cahill made it clear that she also wanted one from them. The party told the press north and south that it was considering its response.
Meanwhile, Newstalk Cahill revealed:
…what isn’t contained in the press release today, is that other intelligence was received in 2000 to say that Sinn Féin had suspended this particular man as a party member because he was suspected of abusing children.
Now what is crucial around that… is that I first disclosed my abuse to senior Sinn Féin members in 1997 and 98 while it was still happening – and it took then till August 2000 to do anything about it.
She added more detail in a piece for the Belfast Telegraph…
At no point in the last four years since I went public did Sinn Fein admit that my abuser, as well as being an IRA man, was also a Sinn Fein party member.
Nowhere did it state that senior Sinn Fein members were aware from 1997 and 1998 that I was being abused by this man, but that they didn’t ‘suspend’ him from the party until 2000.
Think about that for a second. Sinn Fein repeatedly stated that it has never been involved in a cover-up of abuse.
Not only did they not tell the public that they allowed a child sex abuser to remain in the party for three years after becoming aware — but they didn’t even admit that he was a member of their party. If that isn’t cover up, then, well…
Sinn Fein’s response finally came about lunchtime, and given the gravity of the charges against was pretty thin on detail:
Sinn Féin has robust procedures in place for mandatory reporting of abuse. I deeply regret that these procedures were not in place at the time of Mairia Cahill’s disclosure. For this I unreservedly apologise.
Writing back in 2014, Fianna Fail’s Jim O’Callaghan noted four common traits in Sinn Fein’s handling victims, the final one being…
…[the] most important characteristic of the Sinn Fein response is to get the story off the news agenda as quickly as possible. They succeeded in this with Eamon Collins, Robert McCartney and Joe Rafferty. People have forgotten about those heinous murders that were committed after the conflict concluded.
The rape of Mairia Cahill, however, is not going away as quickly as the leadership had hoped. The Sinn Fein leadership has portrayed itself as seeking to represent the weak and the victimised in society.
Its response to Mairia Cahill, however, reveals that it is prepared to let the story stay in the news rather than doing the responsible and decent thing which would be to stop protecting its own and start believing credible victims.
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