IRA chief's widow faces sex abuse trial
THE trial of a former Sinn Fein councillor and widow of an IRA commander for the alleged sexual and physical abuse of her stepdaughter begins tomorrow at Belfast's Crown Court.
Briege Meehan (66) faces eight charges, including gross indecency with a child, indecent assault and cruelty to a person aged under 16.
The accused, of Elmfield Street, Ardoyne, north Belfast, pleaded not guilty to all eight charges when she first appeared in court in May 2011.
Mrs Meehan was a Sinn Fein member of Newtownabbey Borough Council from 2001. She resigned from the local authority in 2010, citing ill health, but had been suspended from membership of Sinn Fein several months previously.
Her late husband, Martin Meehan, whose first wife died of cancer in 1977, aged 35, was the leading Provisional IRA figure in north Belfast in the early 1970s.
A native of Ardoyne, he served 18 years in prison and was the first person to be convicted of membership of the Provisional IRA. He escaped from Crumlin Road Gaol, and in 1980 staged a 66-day hunger strike in the Maze.
Briege Meehan is alleged to have abused Martin Meehan's daughter from his first marriage, Mary Meehan, between July 1979 and October 1980, at a time when her husband was in prison. Mary Meehan, who was aged 10 and 11 at that time, has waived her right to anonymity.
In 2011, a judge in Belfast dismissed an application by Briege Meehan's defence team, which had sought the imposition of reporting restrictions on the case.
Released from jail in 1994, Martin Meehan represented Sinn Fein on Antrim Borough Council for two years until 2003 and twice stood unsuccessfully in elections to the House of Commons.
A supporter of the Adams-McGuinness leadership and of Sinn Fein's involvement in the peace process, he died in 2007, aged 62.