Abused, vilified, used as political toy, but the public believes Mairia Cahill
MAIRIA Cahill was 19 when she wrote a letter to the Army Council, the governing body of the Provisional IRA which Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams never served on because he was never a member of the IRA.
The letter, which Belfast solicitor Peter Madden referred to extensively on RTE's 'Morning Ireland' yesterday, is heart-breaking.
In it, Cahill, who says she was raped by a prominent member of the IRA when she was 16, speaks of her life being "destroyed".
But the 14-year-old letter is not just about Mairia.
In the three-page, handwritten appeal, the teenager implores the Army Council to justify why her abuser had disappeared - but not in the traditional IRA sense of that haunting phrase - thereby posing a potential risk to other children.
"I can't accept that he is free to live somewhere, with access to other children," she told the Army Council, whom she accused of deliberately delaying a meeting with her.
Mr Madden, one of Northern Ireland's best known human rights lawyers, represents four people who deny being part of an IRA team that interrogated Mairia Cahill. And, as he correctly pointed out on RTE, Mairia Cahill did say in her letter that she believed that the army's intentions "were honourable".
But that sentence was heavily qualified: Cahill said she believed the army's intentions were honourable with regards to two women who dealt with her and one in particular whom she said had been of great comfort to her.
In fact, Mairia Cahill was highly critical of the Army Council, saying that she had "great personal difficulty with the people who's [sic] responsibility it was to make decisions".
You can almost hear the voice of the abused child cry out when she writes: "You [the army council] also changed my opinion with regards to how the army deals with things… I could have gone to the RUC and got the same result - at least he might have stayed in the country".
Far from undermining Mairia Cahill's consistent account of her abuse and the internal IRA investigation that followed, the army council letter corroborates her story.
Peter Madden told RTE's Gavin Jennings that the only place where Mairia Cahill's credibility can be tested is in a court of law.
The court of public opinion has already cast its verdict on Maria Cahill: it believes her.
The rule of law was under threat many times during the Troubles and led to parallel justice systems being operated by Republicans and Loyalists alike.
And it is a matter of enduring regret, for all parties concerned, that Mairia Cahill's allegations were never tested in an open court. But then, most known and suspected rapists - let alone those protected by the IRA - tend to evade the full scrutiny of the criminal justice system.
The landmark 2001 Sexual Assault and Violence in Ireland (SAVI) report revealed that only 1pc of men and 8pc of women reported their rapes.
And of these frighteningly small numbers who do have the courage to report their rape, less than one in 10 conclude with a conviction. That is a lot of complainants who never have their credibility tested in court.
Indeed, what is truly staggering is how long Mairia Cahill stayed the course, in defiance of the abuse she suffered; of her treatment by the IRA, the handling of her case by the authorities and the shattering of the Omerta that still surrounds the Republican movement's internal "justice" system.
The controversy surrounding Mairia Cahill's decision to go public has witnessed many peaks and troughs. And many have forgotten, during the maelstrom, that at heart we are dealing with a young woman who was - as even the Sinn Fein leadership now accepts - raped by Marty Morris, a high-ranking Republican who faced an additional two complaints that, like Cahill's were also withdrawn.
Mairia Cahill was not just subjected to sexual abuse. She has been re-abused, battered and vilified in the course of her decision to publicise her plight and has been tossed around like a broken toy in the political arena.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny's invitation to meet Mairia Cahill's alleged IRA interrogators, for example, bore all the hallmarks of a political brain fart. Having gained critical ground by denouncing kangaroo courts, Mr Kenny then fell into Gerry Adams trap by inviting the Cahill Four to attend one of his own.
Sinn Fein has maintained its obscene policy of toeing the party line and fortifying the permanent cordon sanitaire that surrounds the cult of Gerry Adams, despite the fact that he is now the party's biggest liability.
At the height of the Cahill crisis, Gerry Adams used his Twitter account to post an extract of a book with references to a "Neanderthal with a fragrant penis".
It is not the first time that Mr Adams has tweeted such creepiness. Last year, in the middle of another round of criticism of his handling of child sex abuse, the Sinn Fein leader posted a poem with the following verse: "Does my sexiness upset you, does it come as a surprise, that I dance like I've got diamonds, at the meeting of my thighs".
The tweet was posted five days after his paedophile brother Liam Adams was convicted of the rape of his [Liam's] daughter Aine Tyrrell.
And we act surprised when more than nine out of 10 abuse victims keep their rapes under wraps?