The Mairia Cahill story is back. The Ombudsman report like the Starmer report before identifies significant failings on the part of the state in bringing an IRA member suspected of gross criminal behaviour before the courts.
The Ombudsman has uncovered intelligence that Sinn Fein suspended the abuser in August 2000. The party first became aware of the abuse was in 1997 – while it was still onoing. His expulsion only came in 2000, when police records reveal the IRA was investigating child sex abuse.
As the leader in today’s Irish Times notes, the party did nothing to protect Ms Cahill, deferring instead to the IRA who dragged her to a house to be confronted face to face with the man she’d accused (a standard operating procedure for investigating informers).
McDonald maintained that Sinn Féin now has robust procedures in place for mandatory reporting of abuse and expressed regret that such procedures were not in place at the time of Máiría Cahill’s initial complaint.
What she failed to mention was that the republican movement did have a procedure to deal with such disclosures but it was a kangaroo court which operated outside the law. [Emphasis added]
Not only was the party not using the police to deal with this matters, but the illegal organisation it used to process these cases was also actively threatening victims families in similar cases with expulsion from Northern Ireland as late in as 2005:
Sinn Fein is still having to deal with a strange cocktail of personal (rather than political) issues from its willing association with the Provisional’s criminal past.
From 2005… 'his family have been threatened with expulsion from NI if they make a (police) complaint. pic.twitter.com/0Tjgvobo1R
— Mick Fealty (@mickfealty) September 16, 2018
There has never been an accounting for these activities, and given the hash the policing and justice system has made of these cases, there likely never will be. Such is just one small part of the enormous and ongoing human cost of the Peace Process™.
Ironically, the internal attitudes towards Ms Cahill and almost anyone who speaks out against their treatment at the hands of the party are more easily seen hidden in plain sight in the abuse they routinely get on social media.
Her own piece in the Sunday Independent yesterday opens with an example when she recalls how Micheal Martin was publicly traduced by Donegal TD Pearse Doherty who, a year before she went public…
…responded angrily when asked if he knew if the republican movement had investigated cases of abuse.
“The claims by Micheal Martin are a new low, they’re unfounded and they’re untrue,” he said. He accused Martin of throwing, “cheap political shots at Sinn Fein”. He was questioned further and said the claims were “disgraceful”.
Only Pearse knows whether or not he was deliberately “being economical with the truth”, or “just following orders…”
He has since been proven ‘mistaken’ and Martin right. However, every revelation of SF misconduct is followed by a short but intense online campaign of vilification and whataboutery aimed at isolating individual victims and/or warning journalists to stay clear.
Lastly, why did SF keep quiet on the name of the Presidential candidate who’d been chosen internally months ago? Ms Cahill was slated into RTE’s flagship radio news programme This Week yesterday but was told at the last minute they wanted to hear Liadh Ni Riada first.
Nice news management, if you can get it. That Irish Times leader makes the relevant point here:
Cahill has described the apology by the Sinn Féin leader as “woefully inadequate” as, she said, it failed to admit there was an IRA investigation followed by a Sinn Féin cover up. What made matters worse was that McDonald failed to address Sinn Féin attempts to discredit her over a long period. “They told everyone that I was a liar. Now, let’s hear them admit I told the truth,” said Cahill.
McDonald has been vociferous in her condemnation of the Catholic Church for its failure to deal properly with claims of abuse and its attempts to sweep them under the carpet. Those denunciations look particularly hollow in the light of the Sinn Féin leader’s continued refusal to come up with an adequate apology to Máiría Cahill for all that she has suffered over such a long period.
It’s not an apology Ms Cahill needs, but an explanation of how and by whom such a cover-up was managed, and what exactly is Sinn Fein doing right now to prevent any repetitions. But other cases suggest fobbing off victims and playing the media is just part the culture.
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