The North’s director of public prosecutions has apologised to three woman who accused an alleged IRA member of allegedly abusing them as children after a damning report criticised how his prosecution was handled.
The independent review by Keir Starmer was also critical of how prosecutors dealt with additional accusations made by one of the woman – Máiría Cahill - that she was subject to interrogation by the IRA in the wake of the alleged abuse.
The attempted prosecutions of Martin Morris for alleged sex abuse and IRA membership – and four others accused of IRA membership linked to the alleged republican cover-up – never got to trial because the three women withdrew their evidence.
Not guilty verdicts were returned for all five defendants – Morris, Padraic Wilson, Seamus Finucane, Briege Wright and Agnes McCrory – all of whom have strongly denied any wrongdoing.
DPP Barra McGrory QC apologised after Starmer found that the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) and prosecuting counsel had let the women down.
Starmer said the errors made it “almost inevitable” that the women would pull out of the process.
Mr McGrory said: “I want to take this opportunity to express as director of public prosecutions a sincere apology to the three victims in these cases. It is clear that our service to them fell far short of the standard that they – and indeed the PPS – would expect.”
The DPP said he was committed to ensuring the mistakes made would not be allowed to happen again.
He said he accepted “without reservation” the 10 recommendations made by Starmer.
The alleged abuse happened between 1997 and 2000 when all the women were children. They made statements to police in 2010.
After the three connected trials effectively collapsed last year, Starmer was asked by Mr McGrory to examine how the PPS handled the cases.
The controversy has shone a light on how the IRA dealt with alleged sex abusers during a time when co-operation with the police in republican communities in the North was extremely limited.
Ms Cahill, 33, a grand-niece of prominent republican Joe Cahill, said as a teenager in 1997 she was raped by an IRA member.
She claimed republican paramilitaries conducted their own inquiry and subjected her to interrogation before forcing her to confront her alleged attacker.
Ms Cahill has waived her right to anonymity.
Responding to the report's finding, Ms Cahill said she felt “vindicated”.
“The apology is welcome but it’s pretty upsetting you end up in this situation,” she said.
“So the apology is welcome but I think what would be more meaningful is that the recommendations are quickly taken on board and implemented.
“I met with Barra before I came here and I accept he is genuine in his apology.”
Ms Cahill, who told her story on a BBC Spotlight documentary last year, said she cried when she met Mr Starmer and Mr McGrory this morning to discuss the findings.
“For the last seven months (since the documentary) I have been repeatedly trailed through the media, my credibility has been called into question, people have said I wasn’t prepared to give evidence in a court of law, that the not guilty verdicts somehow presented some sort of reasoning or attack on my credibility and I think this report completely vindicates my position,” she said.