Fitzgerald casts doubt on IRA sex abuse probe

Mairia Cahill Photo: Mark Condren

Niall O'Connor

Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald has all but ruled out the establishment of a cross-border inquiry into the IRA sex abuse scandal.

Ms Fitzgerald has warned that such an inquiry would run into serious "legal obstacles" and that separate investigations in each jurisdiction is a more likely approach.

The admission will prove deeply disappointing to victims of IRA sex abusers and comes almost two years after the Taoiseach raised the prospect of an inquiry with powers to compel witnesses.

In the North, there are ongoing investigations into cases linked to allegations made by Labour Party senator Mairia Cahill, who was raped by a suspected senior IRA figure.

In the Republic, gardaí are investigating claims of sex abuse by more than 30 alleged IRA members.

Ms Fitzgerald said that both governments will work to achieve the "highest level of co-operation" possible in relation to investigating the movement of IRA sex abusers into the Republic. But she said this may take the form of two separate probes.

"What form that can take, I can't say at this point, but I think all the building blocks are there to have the highest level of co-operation, and as the information becomes available, we will continue to examine how best that co-operation can be developed," she said.

"Quite what form that can take remains to be seen but clearly there are legal obstacles. But you could have parallel processes that meet at a certain point in terms of information-sharing. I think there are possibilities," she added.

Ms Cahill said she believes an inquiry with powers to compel witnesses should be pursued.

"What is most important is the current protection of children across the island, which is why I have continued to work with the relevant authorities on the issue to identify suspected IRA abusers who were moved across the jurisdictions where they continued to have access to children.

"There are legal difficulties with a cross-border inquiry, and it is still at a very early stage in terms of disclosure. I am in favour of a scoping exercise initially, then graduating to a body with the powers to compel witnesses."