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Mairia Cahill: Sit up and notice before another child is abused


Mairia Cahill

Mairia Cahill

Mairia Cahill

It is five months since I waived my right to anonymity on the BBC Spotlight programme. I agonised over this decision. At the time, I said that if even one person was helped by my disclosure, it will have been worth it. Now, Paudie McGahon has come forward to tell of his rape by his alleged abuser, and his treatment at the hands of Sinn Fein and the IRA. Instead of being relieved that someone else has come forward, I am horrified that anyone else was put through a similar experience to my own.

I am sick. Sick physically after an exhausting week. Sick of Sinn Fein denials. Sick to my stomach that the IRA had the self-imposed authority to re-abuse the abused. Sick that as a result, abusers are God knows where, doing God knows what to other people's children. And sick that Sinn Fein have seemingly learned nothing when it comes to matters of child protection. For them, protecting themselves alone is more important.

Before I went public, and since, I have become aware of other cases like mine. I decided, after Sinn Fein denials, to actively try and uncover more detail, to seek out people to talk to, and to agree to requests to speak to people who wanted to bring forward information. All of the information I received I passed to the relevant authorities. It made me sick, too.

I learned of people who the IRA moved to safe houses, who then went on to abuse children. Of young children who made allegations against prominent republicans of unwanted sexual contact, who were told they were lying by family members to stop social services being told because it created an embarrassment for the IRA.

I heard first-hand of allegations that victims were raped at gunpoint, or threatened with being killed so they wouldn't disclose their abuse.

I was told of people who went "on the run", who attacked children, and who were then moved on and attacked them again. And, rather than reporting those who confessed, to save other children, these men were moved on - without a thought for the next child that they would sexually abuse.

Of people who admitted abusing children when investigated by the IRA, who later appeared in jobs working with young people, in youth clubs, in schools, and in one case in a university.

Of house parties where senior republicans were present when young children disclosed abuse at the hands of a man related to a prominent Sinn Fein person, who was later sent for "help", and never reported to the authorities.

I learned of men who used their positions within the IRA to frighten sexual abuse victims into silence. Women, too.

Of 'Courts of Inquiry', now more commonly known as 'kangaroo courts'. In my own case, the first Court of Inquiry took place for approximately six months. In other cases, it was a matter of days. The lasting damage, and the fright placed on to the victims was the same. The IRA acted as the authority, and they re-traumatised the vulnerable victims in front of them, as they sought to protect their organisation, and the Sinn Fein party. Sick.

There is no shadow of a doubt that these processes existed. Adams has already admitted the IRA dealt in their way with suspected sex offenders. What he neglected to tell you was that when an allegation was made against a high-ranking member, or someone who could have caused embarrassment to the republican movement, every effort was made to keep this silent, to cover it up - to move the problem somewhere else.

Sinn Fein is engaged in a live cover-up of wide-scale proportion. How do we know that? We know, because so far, Sinn Fein has not admitted that some of these Courts of Inquiry took place in its constituency offices. Some of them were convened because people disclosed their abuse to Sinn Fein representatives, as in Paudie McGahon's case. They haven't told you either that many of the people who conducted these kangaroo courts are now current Sinn Fein members. The ludicrousness of this situation is that while Adams and McDonald are calling for people to come forward with information, all they have to do themselves is call some of their own representatives and activists who were involved in these courts, who have heard allegations of abuse first-hand, who know the perpetrators, and the victims, and who, at the minute are going about their daily business, knowing that their leadership are trying to hoodwink the general public by feigning no knowledge of this.

When you do not admit it, you are still covering up.

How many kangaroo courts were there? Who knows?

We know that, at the very least, over 30 took place because over 30 names of suspected abusers who had been investigated by the IRA have been passed to the authorities. The real number is much higher than that again. We could be looking at hundreds of courts since the 1970s to the mid 2000s.

Multiple sources, all telling the same story. Victims. Republicans with bona fide credentials within the movement. Social workers, and those who worked in rape crisis centres, who had dealt with cases over the years. Politicians who had victims come to them, and who, unlike Sinn Fein, did the right thing and reported to the gardai. Journalists with their own sources. Are we all lying? No, we are not.

Look at Gerry Adams's track record over the years, and see who is being economical with the truth. We've come to expect it from him. But, at this stage, I am hitting my head in frustration that those around him who do not share his past, are content to blindly defend him. To protect him over and above the rape of children. To be prepared to put victims through more grief and suffering by denying what happened to them in order to put the party first at all costs.

Re-abusing the abused all over again in the public domain.

Haven't we suffered enough already?

The time has long passed for Sinn Fein to do the right thing. It is now up to its members and the public to place them under the scrutiny they should. Withdraw your support for them until they admit their shameful handling of child rape and abuse. Do not accept their excuses. They don't wash, and they are not true. Tell them you want proper answers and admittance, and when they are not forthcoming, tell them again.

If you don't, you are just as complicit by your silence as they are. If you don't, you are allowing them to continue to put your children at risk.

The IRA (with Sinn Fein's help) unleashed perpetrators into society and told no one about it. No child deserves to be placed at risk because a perpetrator who has never been reported has access to other children now. No child deserves to be abused because the IRA saw fit to move their problem on to somewhere else.

I have told you. Paudie has told you. Others are telling you. Sit up, and take notice before another child is sexually abused by someone who the IRA moved near you.

Sunday Independent