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Justice Minister: Cross-border inquiry into sex abuse allegations against paramilitaries could prove 'very challenging'

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The legislation is being brought forward by Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald

The legislation is being brought forward by Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald

The legislation is being brought forward by Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald

Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald confirmed that a cross-border inquiry into sex abuse allegations against paramilitaries is under consideration but warned it could prove "very challenging."

Ms Fitzgerald stressed that her priority is ensuring that those against whom allegations have been levelled do not continue to pose any type of threat to children either in the Republic or Northern Ireland.

The Dublin TD, speaking at University College Cork (UCC), confirmed that such a cross-border probe will be discussed at a North-South Ministerial Council meeting on December 5.

"It would be challenging but it is certainly under consideration," she told independent.ie

"The most important point is that if anybody has information about people who have abused children or who have travelled from one part of the country to another and are currently putting children at risk, we need to have those names."

"The Gardai need to be informed - both the PSNI and the gardai. I would appeal to people if they have information to give it to the gardai."

"They are the people who should have this information if we are to protect children."

Ms Fitzgerald refused to comment on reports that the IRA has now passed six names to the Sinn Fein child protection officer and that these have, in turn, been passed to the gardai.

"I wouldn't comment on the details of people who have given information. I appreciate there are varying reports in our media today but the point I would make again is that if people have information they ought to give it to the gardai."

She refused to discuss any sources for the supply of the names of suspected abusers beyond those publicly confirmed by two women.

"It is clear from Regina Doherty and Mairia Cahill...they have both publicly stated that they have given information."

Ms Cahill said she was the victim of an IRA abuser while Ms Doherty, a Meath TD, said she has information about eight IRA members who faced abuse allegations and were facilitated by Sinn Fein in moving to the Republic.

"Any information given to the gardai will be investigated. It will be a priority to investigate."

"The point is that if people have abused previously then there could currently be children at risk. We want to protect those children."

"But it would not be appropriate for me, as Minister for Justice, to comment on where information comes from whether it is a political party or an individual or people who were previously involved in paramilitary activity."

"But I would urge people with information to come forward and help protect children."

Ms Fitzgerald declined to indicate whether she supports such an all-Ireland abuse probe.

But she acknowledged that such a probe would involve enormous difficulties.

"What is important is that there is north-south co-operation - I met with (NI Justice Minister) David Forde on Friday and we had a detailed discussion in relation to this."

"We absolutely both emphasised the importance of reporting and that both police forces will respond immediately to information."

"There is already co-operation between our social services both north and south. We did not rule out the possibility of a north-south inquiry. But that would be challenging for legislative and other reasons."

"It depends where the (abuser) is at the time - clearly that is part of the challenge if there were to be prosecutions."

Online Editors