Friday 22 March 2019

Sinn Fein is in breach of sex abuse guidelines

Coalition and Fianna Fail hit back at Adams and say SF must 'obey the law'

Fine Gael TD for Meath East Regina Doherty. Photo: Fergal Phillips
Fine Gael TD for Meath East Regina Doherty. Photo: Fergal Phillips

John Drennan and Ciaran Barnes

The row over Sinn Fein's compliance with sexual abuse protocols has intensified after a furious Gerry Adams branded Enda Kenny "despicable" for accusing him of being untruthful about the Paudie McGahon rape case.

In a blistering political attack in the US the Taoiseach said: "What are safe houses for? Are safe houses for raping people? Are they for interrogations? For kangaroo courts?

"Gerry Adams knows full well what they are for. He knows where they are. He knows the people that were involved in them.''

But in the wake of Mr Adams' counter-attack a united phalanx of opposition and Coalition politicians have claimed that Sinn Fein are not compliant with child protection guidelines.

A poll out today, taken in the period before and after last week's revelations, shows support for Sinn Fein has significantly dropped to 19pc.

Last week, in the wake of the Paudie McGahon BBC Spotlight programme, Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams and Deputy Leader Mary Lou McDonald urged victims of child abuse to come forward.

However, Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin and senior Government figures have rejected a claim by the Sinn Fein leader that he had fully complied with his duties.

One minister said: ''Sinn Fein putting the onus on victims to come forwards does not meet current child protection criteria. In this issue the onus is actually on Sinn Fein to own up.''

The Minister added: ''In the case of kangaroo courts the links are likely to be profoundly embarrassing when it comes to who knew what, but the obligation is on everyone to disclose.''

Minister for Children James Reilly also warned Sinn Fein: ''In regard to the range of alleged cases involving the Republican movement, those involved must assist the Gardai to properly investigate the cases as soon as possible.'

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''The proper course of action now is for anyone with information of child sexual abuse to come forward and to do so in a manner that does not add unnecessarily to the trauma already experienced by the victim.''

Micheal Martin also claimed: ''Sinn Fein is in breach of their legal obligations to be proactive in passing on information.

"Our legal advice is that Mr Adams is in breach of the child protection guidelines. You cannot be passive, you must be proactive - it is not enough to encourage others to come forward.''

One source close to the Cabinet said: ''There is a live obligation not just under Children First (the national guidance for the protection and welfare of children) but legally - under the withholding of information on serious crimes - to disclose.''

Concern is also escalating about the proposals by Martin McGuinness for an all-Ireland mechanism to help victims of sex abuse.

Senior Coalition ministers have also claimed that the proposals by McGuinness would hamper investigations into sexual abuse. One source close to the Cabinet said: ''We are not convinced by the bona fides of this proposal.''

One senior minister warned: ''Child abuse cases are not just historical issues, there are live, current investigations and future investigations.''

The sharpest attack came from Fine Gael TD Regina Doherty, who claimed last week that Sinn Fein had in 2006 undertaken investigations into 40 different cases of sexual abuse.

Amid mounting claims that a new abuse scandal involving a top IRA operative and a young teenager is poised to emerge, Ms Doherty claimed that Sinn Fein were ''looking to get an amnesty for sexual abuse''.

Another top-level Coalition figure said: ''It is almost as though Sinn Fein are looking for light-touch regulation when it comes to sexual abuse. Politicians and paramilitaries cannot be seen to be above the law.''

Sunday Independent

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