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Mairia was badly let down by the legal system


Mairia Cahill

Mairia Cahill

Mairia Cahill

During the 2012 US election, the Women's Media Center issued a list of allegedly sexist or potentially sexist terms, which it insisted, should not be used to describe female candidates.

These included such obvious trigger words as "nag", "bitchy" and "cat fight", as well as less immediately objectionable ones, including "feisty", "spirited", even "complain".

Oddly enough, though, female politicians have no compunction about drawing attention to the similarly sex-specific characteristics of their male opponents. Take Sinn Fein deputy leader, Mary Lou McDonald, who has been known to complain of an excess of "testosterone" in Irish political and financial life.

What's the difference between putting men's failings down to their hormones, and dismissing women's similar weak spots as "hysteria"?

If she really is that bothered by macho behaviour in public life, Mary Lou doesn't have to look so far to find it. Sinn Fein is not exactly known for its sensitivity.

Last weekend, Gerry Adams exhibited many of the same traits of which Mary Lou purportedly disapproves, with an extraordinarily combative intervention on radio, as he lambasted the Irish media for daring to suggest that SF may still have questions to answer over the alleged cover up of abuse by republicans.

The interview has been taken down by RTE in light of legal concerns, but the basic gist of it was that SF has no case to answer in the Mairia Cahill case because Mairia was not raped by SF and that abuse is a problem which happens in all families. As indeed it does.

In most families, however, rape and abuse does not lead to a prolonged hostile investigation of the victim by a paramilitary organisation. It did so in this instance because the alleged rapist was in the IRA.

The timing of all this was deplorable. Adams's outburst came only a day after the publication of a report by former UK director of public prosecutions, Keir Starmer, into the collapse of the trial of Mairia's alleged rapist, which had resulted in an apology from the North's Public Prosecution Service (PPS) for its failure to do its job properly in her case and that of two other victims.

This was a hugely significant moment for Mairia, because the collapse of the trial has been thrown back in her face for months by bullies on social media, who use it to defend all those involved in the case on the IRA and SF's side, including her alleged rapist.The report showed clearly that she was a credible and reliable witness who was not to blame for the failure to get justice, and she received a fulsome personal apology from the head of the PPS, Barra McCrory, both in person and in a handwritten letter.

Sinn Fein, in turn, quietly issued a statement saying that it accepted the Starmer report in full, though, revealingly, representatives of the party could not even bring themselves to use Mairia's name.

Speaking on radio, Adams effectively sought to dismiss Mairia's ordeal as a messy family matter that had nothing to do with SF, and for which SF has no need to apologise. As usual, his logic was both specious and offensive.

Mairia was not raped by the PPS either, but the institution still took responsibility for its failings. Barra McGrory was not even involved in any of the decisions relating to the prosecution of Mairia's case, but he still made himself accountable for what the service, which he heads, did and/or failed to do.

SF and the IRA are not responsible for Mairia's rape. They are responsible for how they handled the matter subsequently, when they forced themselves into her life.

If Gerry Adams genuinely accepted the Starmer report, then he would act on it.

Last October, the SF president insisted that members of the republican movement who investigated the rape of Mairia Cahill were "decent" people who were badly wronged in being criticised for their role.

The Starmer report now shows that the accused was intending to rely in court on the evidence of those same people in order to get an acquittal. Adams and Mary Lou McDonald have said they accept that Mairia is a victim of abuse, so presumably this aspect of the case causes them disquiet. At least one of these people, when arrested, used a SF office as his bail address.

The Police Ombudsman in the North is now investigating that matter, along with other issues arising out of Mairia's case, a development with the potential to open a can of worms for Adams's party.

Mairia has a list of simple questions, including why Adams himself took so long to give a statement about what he knew of her case to the police. She also called on air on Newstalk for a face-to-face public meeting so that Mr Adams can finally clear up some of the issues which he has, since last October, been avoiding.

Instead of making himself available, Adams chooses instead to go on the attack. In so doing, he is, however unwittingly, facilitating the continued attack on Mairia by some of the lowest forms of pond life on the internet, who continue to mock and slander her.

The Starmer report did not halt them in their tracks for a second. They simply ignored its conclusions, and the apology received by Mairia, and went into a renewed frenzy on false pretences. Interventions, such as those of Gerry Adams, muddy the water and give these misfits sustenance.

Mairia's story has been deliberately misrepresented, but at heart it is very simple. At the age of 16, she was abused. Because the man she accused was in the IRA, she and her family were forbidden to go to the police. SF then strung out the process for years in the hope that Mairia would give up and go away. When she did finally go to the police, SF not only did not help, but actively sought to thwart her in the attempt to get justice, all of which contributed to a series of failings which ended up collapsing the case.

Republicans continue to belittle and disparage Mairia, and all because they're too pumped full of paramilitary machismo to admit they behaved badly. Now that, Mary Lou, is too much testosterone.

Sunday Independent