Rape victim Maíria Cahill said she brought her case to a number of politicians in the South because she felt "so guilty" that her abuser had access to other children over the years.
The 33-year-old said the protection of children was her only motivation in highlighting her case since speaking to a BBC Spotlight documentary on how she was abused by a senior IRA figure in 1997 when she was 16, and later subject to a kangaroo court inquiry.
She described lying awake at night crying “worried about the screams of those children” who were abused by others within the Republican movement in the North who, it’s claimed, were in some cases moved across the border or to England.
Ms Cahill dismissed suggestions that her case has been turned into a political football, or a stick to beat Sinn Féin with, and the suggestion that it should not have been subject to a Dáil debate.
The politicians she has met in recent weeks including the Taoiseach, Fianna Fáil, and Labour leaders have treated her with a great deal of sensitivity, she said.
“People don’t see the meetings that happen behind closed doors. They don’t see how Micheál Martin was moved to tears. They don’t see how sincere Enda Kenny was when he sat and listened. They don’t see how Joan Burton made a point of giving me a hug and seeing was there anything she could do,” she said.
The decision by politicians to meet her will help other victims and help more resources to be focused on rape crisis centres, she believes.
“I don’t regret for one minute meeting any politician or anybody else on this matter. It has changed things for the better for other victims,” she said.
Sinn Féin deputy leader, Mary Lou McDonald, denied Ms Cahill’s accusations that she had “smirked” at her outside the Dáil chamber following Wednesday’s three and a half hour debate on how abuse claims were handed within the republican movement.
Ms Cahill, who sat in the Dáil’s public gallery throughout the debate said yesterday that Ms McDonald’s treatment of her was “an absolute disgrace”.
“While she was in the Dáil uttering about how she felt that victims’ rights were paramount, she had a victim sitting right a few feet away from her in the public gallery. She sat on her phone halfway through the Dáil debate, she laughed on some occasions and she smirked at me outside the Dáil chamber,” she said.
However, Ms McDonald told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland that it was “not in my character to smirk at people or in any way belittle a very serious topic”.
The Sinn Féin deputy leader said: “I came across Maíria, our paths crossed momentarily. I smiled at her. Anybody who has ever met me in any set of circumstances knows I smile easily. If that was interpreted by Maíria as a smirk I apologise for that.”
She insisted she has been respectful in all her commentary and actions about the recent controversy surrounding sex abuse allegations. Ms McDonald said Wednesday’s debate was “all about political rhetoric, all about political positioning”.
Leo Varadkar, the health minister, said he doesn’t believe Gerry Adams’ claims that he has no knowledge of Republican sex abusers being moved from the North to the Republic.
“I think it’s high time that Sinn Féin started telling us the truth about their past, about the present and about the future.”
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