‘Secret SF probe into 40 cases of abuse’

Sinn Féin conducted a secret 2006 investigation into "40 different cases of sexual and physical abuse" by the Provisional IRA, and sent a memo to party media handlers "should the report ever be leaked," it has been claimed.

Fine Gael TD Regina Doherty made the allegation, which has been denied, as growing rape and abuse claims threaten to engulf Sinn Féin.

Speaking on RTÉ News last night, Ms Doherty claimed she has been told by credible sources that four “very senior members” of Sinn Féin led a 2006 investigation into “40 different cases of sexual and physical abuse” by Provisional IRA members.

She said a “memo” was later sent to the party’s press office seeking a media strategy “should the report ever be leaked,” and she was understood to be planning to provide the information to the gardaí last night.

While Sinn Féin said the claims are “baseless and without any foundation”, they added further weight to a growing scandal.

In a single 24-hour period yesterday, the party came under increasing pressure to explain a growing number of allegations from abuse victims, rival politicians, and the Government that it has knowledge of sexual assaults by the Provisional IRA.

They included claims the party discouraged abuse survivor Paudie McGahon from going to the gardaí in 2009 because the move could hinder a younger victim’s recovery; allegations it is aware of at least 100 more attacks; and calls for a state inquiry similar to those into clerical abuse.

Yesterday morning, Mr McGahon said he was told by then Sinn Féin TD for Louth Arthur Morgan and councillor Pearse McGeough not to go to the gardaí over his alleged rape in 1992, which was the subject of a subsequent kangaroo court hearing in 2002.

Mr McGahon alleged he was told this was because such a move would push a younger victim with “severe trauma” off “the wagon” of recovery, and despite the fact the Sinn Féin figures said they knew his attacker had abused other children.

Both Mr Morgan and Mr McGeough last night rejected the claim, and said they encouraged Mr McGahon to go to gardaí in 2009 if he felt this was the right move.

However, hours later, another abuse victim, Maíria Cahill, revealed she has personally provided the names of 35 alleged abusers to gardaí and the PSNI, and that the issue is far more widespread than publicly known.

Education Minister Jan O’Sullivan then revealed the Government believes Sinn Féin is aware of “more than 100” abuse cases which were effectively covered up.

Sinn Féin’s Mary Lou McDonald responded by issuing a direct message to supporters to come forward with information and that she was aware abuse victims can have “fear of not being accepted by their families”.

Labour TD Emmet Stagg said it was a fear “of being shot”.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin called for a state inquiry to be set up to examine the extent of the abuse.

In a statement last night, party leader Gerry Adams denied allegations “the party has investigated cases of sexual abuse”, as well as “the claim Sinn Féin is holding back information”.

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