Sinn Fein deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald has said she would have referred Paudie McGahon’s child-rape allegations to gardai had she been aware of them.
Placing herself at odds with her leader, Gerry Adams, and then Louth TD Arthur Morgan who knew of the claims in 2009 but did not tell the authorities, Ms McDonald said she would have done “what needs to be done”.
It also places her at odds with Sinn Fein councillor Pearse McGeough who knew of the allegations as far back as 2002 and who was involved in the organisation of the IRA kangaroo court, as testified by Mr McGahon.
Mr Adams and Mr Morgan confirmed on Wednesday that they were made aware of Mr McGahon’s claims six years ago that he was raped by an IRA figure in the 1990s when he was a 17-year-old, but neither informed gardai of those allegations.
Speaking yesterday, Ms McDonald said that party guidelines at the time meant that as chairman of the party she was not required to be made aware of the allegations.
“Was I made aware of this allegation? I wasn’t and the reason I wasn’t was because the rules and regulations did not require that I would be,” she said.
“Let me reassure you, had I been made aware of these matters and if at any stage I am made aware of any endangerment to any child, I do what needs to be done.”
Despite not making her aware of the allegations in 2009 as party chairman, she said Mr Morgan acted correctly.
“Well no, the regulations and the way in which the party operated did not require him to do so,” she said.
“Arthur gave him the advice to go to the authorities. It was the correct advice, albeit belated.
“And when it is an adult, you have to respect the fact you are dealing with an adult, respect their wishes. You also have to urge them in the strongest possible terms to go to the authorities. Arthur did all of those things.”
She said the party updated its practice in line with HSE guidelines in 2010.
Ms McDonald said she took offence at any suggestion that she would have casually dismissed any allegation of child abuse or sexual violence made known to her.
“I take offence to any suggestion that I would be so indifferent or simply bat away any allegation of abuse or rape of any human being,” she said.
“At any stage in my private or political life where I have come across any instance of child welfare, child abuse or sexual violence I have always fully complied with the law of the land and reported it. That is my instinct. I am deeply sensitive to these issues, profoundly sensitive to these issues.”
In the Dail, during heated exchanges at Leader’s Questions, she said: “In my estimation, any-
body who rapes a child forfeits the right to describe themselves as a republican.”