Paramilitary punishment attacks on over 500 children ‘must be examined’

Paramilitary punishment attacks on more than 500 children — including 250 by republicans — should be included in a proposed North-South commission of investigation into child sexual abuse by IRA members.

Queens University academic Liam Kennedy also said the hierarchy of Sinn Féin — including Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness — “absolutely” knew about the attacks.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin is expected to push the issue at a special Dáil debate tomorrow on issues raised by the Belfast woman, Maíria Cahill, who said she was raped at age 16 and subjected to an IRA interrogation.

In a report, They Shoot Children, Don’t They? Prof Kennedy said more than 500 children were physically and psychologically abused by paramilitaries between 1990 and 2013, including 251 attacks by republicans.

According to PSNI statistics, this involved 73 reported shootings and 178 reported beatings, mainly by the Provisional IRA.

This breaks down to 66 shootings and 143 beatings of 16-17 year olds and seven shootings and 35 beatings of children aged under 16.

Prof Kennedy said many children were forced to move across the border.

He said Sinn Féin “collaborated with the IRA in attacks on children” and claimed Sinn Féin offices were used as co-ordinating centres for punishment.

He said the larger context of child abuse should be included in the investigation. “We are talking about more than 500 other cases of very serious physical and psychological abuse. Absolutely, they should be incorporated and the remit should be expanded.”

Mr Martin is expected to call for a “two-module” investigation in tomorrow’s debate, with the first strand focusing on what his party describes as “the cover-up and movement of child sex offenders from the North into the South”, with a second strand looking at “the systematic punishment beatings of children who were then forced to move into the South”.

He will propose this is headed up by a dual co-chairperson role of a judicial figure from both North and South. It would be independent to protect the integrity of its investigations.

Prof Kennedy criticised Mr Adams’s use of the words “rough justice” to describe the actions of the IRA.

“Given the severity of these beatings and shootings and particularly given we are talking about children, to use the term rough justice is a euphemism too far.

“It is neither rough in any meaningful sense nor is it justice.”

He called on Sinn Féin’s female TDs to break the “military-style discipline” on party decisions.


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