'It is never pleasant to watch human decency sacrificed on the altar of a political party's internal discipline… Harm was done to a girl of 16 on Gerry Adams's watch and his party is woefully incapable of dealing with the implications of the injustice done to her - not just in 1997 when it happened, but now... All of them are damaged by their unswerving support for Adams. But the most blemished is Mary Lou McDonald." The words of Martina Devlin, writing in 2014 for the Irish Independent, what Una Mullally contemporaneously referred to on Twitter as a "bang on" piece about my case.
Devlin described McDonald as having a "compassionate vacuum towards a woman who underwent the two ordeals of sexual abuse and speaking publicly about it. That's not going to be forgotten about anytime soon", she said.
Fast-forward to February 2020, where Mullally was quoted in Reuters as saying that McDonald had positioned herself as a "progressive feminist, female leader who is very much chiming with the times".
Really? My view of feminism is standing up for women. Mary Lou McDonald did not stand up for me. In fact she sat down, in the Dail, when she refused to leave her seat over a row in the chamber at the height of publicity around my case. Some accused her of deliberately trying to deflect from my issue with dramatics - which she denies. She wasn't long wrapping up her protest when I tweeted that I would go and sit in the Dail myself until Sinn Fein started treating me properly.
While no one could doubt Una Mullally's feminist credentials, and she has called out my treatment in the past, the level of cognitive dissonance within other sections of Irish feminism in general is astounding at times, none more so than the platitudes afforded to McDonald during the election campaign, and in its aftermath. There is no doubt she is capable and intelligent, and can deliver a rehearsed speech aimed flawlessly at the jugular, but is this enough to make her a feminist's feminist?
The National Women's Council, Ireland's greatest (funded) feminists, tweeted on February 9: "Congratulations Mary Lou on your outstanding election to the 33rd Dail and for your leadership as the first woman president of SF in this historic election that is set to change the political landscape in Ireland. #Femgen #ge2020."
Hashtag "Femgen"? Don't make me laugh.
Separately, with the exception of good organisations, such as the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre, Foyle Women's Aid, the Cork Sexual Violence Centre, and Reclaim the Night Belfast who supported me throughout, there are other individual feminists who rush to be appalled on a #metoo hashtag, yet sidestep the issue of Sinn Fein and its questionable treatment of victims. There are acceptable abuse victims whom they all readily support, and then there are the inconvenient ones.
''Women's rights are human rights'' does not extend, it seems, to this woman. My rights were taken on a sofa in Ballymurphy 23 years ago, repeatedly. They were taken again in 2000 (after the Good Friday Agreement) when the IRA forced an investigation and brought me face to face with my abuser to read our body language to determine who was telling the truth. They were again stripped from me with an instruction not to talk about it. From 2010-2014, my rights were sidelined when those who could have provided evidence to help convict my abuser didn't, and when those who could have cooperated with the police wouldn't. And, when I eventually waived anonymity and the weight of the entire republican movement came crashing down on me, some feminists who hated rape, but supported Sinn Fein, managed to deftly look the other way. No #metoo solidarity there. No SF denouncing the graffiti which appeared in huge letters about me in the area that I was raped; no attempt to curb the deliberately planted whispers and rumours; no disciplining those in the party who maligned my character on social media; no suspension of those former IRA people turned SF activists who ran a kangaroo court into my rape.
There were no Shinner feministas calling out the politicians from the party, including its current and past presidents, on their response to this rape victim when she went public.
A week after I waived anonymity, Sinn Fein held a public meeting in Belfast, with a specific invitation to media, where Gerry Adams was given a round of applause for, among other things, saying the following: "I am very conscious that a young woman is at the centre of this…" and further stating that the assertion (which had been made by some, including by me) that Sinn Fein had engaged in a cover-up of abuse was "a vile slur on the thousands of decent upstanding republican people right across this island". He outlined a Sinn Fein position that was directly in contrast to my IRA allegations and I saw this as a further attempt to publicly smear my credibility. Mary Lou McDonald sat in the front row and clapped that particular speech. There's feminism for you.
For four years they reiterated the "we believe she was abused but we don't know anything about the IRA" line. Four years. And then came the Ombudsman investigation which turned up intelligence from 2000 that the IRA had indeed investigated my abuse. And out came Mary Lou McDonald - not to apologise for the way she and her party treated me, but for there not being "processes in place at the time". What the hell does that statement even mean?
And the woke feminist brigade said: "Sure isn't she a great woman for apologising to her? Good old Mary Lou, that's it all sorted now."
Except it was not, and it is not. Sinn Fein treated a rape victim appallingly in public, and some of their online brigade continue to do so. Some people have short memories. I don't.
Ironically, it took a male feminist to shame them. In 2016, Eamonn McCann tweeted: "The number of Shinners still spitting bile at Mairia Cahill for coming forward about rape compounded by paramilitary abuse is sickening."
There is no wriggle room for those who consider themselves feminist when it comes to Sinn Fein, or those who succumb to the fashionable Mary Lou bandwagon. Those who vote for them lose any agency or authority when it comes to calling out violence against women, if they have never called out SF's response and withdrawn support over their continued treatment in plain sight, of this woman. What's that Martin Luther King once said about injustice anywhere being a threat to justice everywhere?
I await with interest those writers and women's rights activists who ignore this point, and trip over themselves to tweet platitudes at Sinn Fein; yet turn up with their banners as next weekend's International Women's Day approaches. By their hypocrisy, ye shall know them.