Maíria Cahill was sitting in the public gallery — positioned where she could stare directly down at the man she claims put her “through further trauma” by refusing to accept her claims that she was subjected to a “kangaroo court” inquiry about her abuse at the hands of a senior IRA figure.
Up to this point, she had maintained a steely expression as the Taoiseach, the Tánaiste, the Fianna Fáil leader and other TDs stood up to deliver powerful speeches which detailed her own harrowing ordeal when she was abused at the age of 16.
It was a debate which was “brought about by her courage” in coming forward, according to the Taoiseach, but one that was decided “on a whim” by the Government parties for “electoralism” according to Mr Adams whose party is showing an unstoppable rise in popularity in the South.
With an underlying message that people should stop and think about supporting what the party that the polls show could be the most popular, the Taoiseach challenged the Sinn Féin leader to provide information on the movement of “their ejects and undesirable” out of the North so they could “prey on our women and children” in the South.
“Tell us where they are and what they do. Because of they are a risk to any family or society, we need to know and we must act to protect them,” he asked bluntly.
Fine Gael backbencher, Regina Doherty, then went on to describe how she had information about eight such men – alleged abusers who were “facilitated” by Sinn Féin to move out of the North to the Republic.
“To be honest, I am too afraid to name them here today,” she said. “So I have exercised by duty by making an appointment with my local sergeant for Friday morning to hand over that information to An Garda Siochána and report these men.”
The Meath TD accused Mr Adams of leading an internal investigation “in which he identified in excess of 100 victims of sexual and physical abuse at the hands of Sinn Féin or IRA members.”
She asked: “What did it uncover? Did he report and of the 100 or so cases to the gardaí? Will he tell us why a senior press director of Sinn Féin was briefed to prepare a damage limitation exercise and instructed to prepare a media strategy in the event of knowledge of that investigation ever being leaked?”
She then turned he focus sharply to the party’s shining star in the South and key part of its popularity, Mary Lou McDonald. Directly addressing her across the floor, she accused her of “naked political ambition” and a “cheap power grab” who would “so cheaply sell her integrity for political positioning.”
How, she asked an unflinching Ms McDonald, could she continue with her “fake support” for victims of symphysiotomy, survivors of the Magdalen Laundries and other victims.
“For all her rhetoric about women’s rights, she did not know how to respond appropriately to Maíria Cahill’s allegations,” she said. “Maybe I am being too harsh because perhaps, like the rest, she is afraid of the real Belfast leadership.”
Joan Burton got to her feet and urged Sinn Féin to “call off the dogs of war against Maíria Cahill.”
It was then Mr Adams own turn to speak, casting himself the victim of a “smear” by the opposition parties and the media who overlooked due process to throw charges against him without any evidence.
The more he spoke, the more Ms Cahill shook her head in disagreement.
He portrayed it as a family — rather than party or institutional — matter, pointing out that “the alleged abuser and rapist, Maíria’s uncle, seems to have been forgotten about”.
He did not make any eye contact with Ms Cahill, or look at her as he described the “compassion and understanding” he has shown towards her.
At this point, she simply buried her head in her hands in exasperation.
Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams has denied he was involved in moving sex abusers across the border and accused other parties of abandoning due process to make this charge against him.
He said sex abuse victims in the North were failed because “large sections of the population did not trust or engage with the RUC” at the time.
Many nationalists turned to the IRA “to perform a policing role it was ill-equipped to perform,” he said because of a “climate of fear and alienation”.
During a three hour Dáil debate on the handling of sex abuse allegations by members of the republican movement in the North, Mr Adams said: “IRA volunteers were ordinary men and women.”
He said: “They had no training in dealing with criminality and no resources, legal or judicial or penal, to help respond or to investigate allegations of antisocial behaviour, car theft, robbery, death riding, sexual abuse and rape or any of the other criminal actions that a normal police service deals with every day.”
Mr Adams said it was a matter of public record that the IRA “punished offenders” when warnings or community interventions failed.
“Some criminals, including alleged sex abusers, were shot and expelled,” he said. “Anecdotal evidence suggests that some went to Britain,” he said.
“What is clear, whatever the motivations of those involved, is the actions of the IRA were inadequate and inappropriate in seeking to tackle criminality and we cannot change that. I have acknowledged the failure of the IRA to deal properly with these difficult issue and, for that, I have apologised.”
Turning on the Government parties and Fianna Fáil, he said they were exploiting the case of abuse-victim, Maíria Cahill, in order to “smear” him and the Sinn Féin party.
“We have been accused of cover ups and moving the abuser about. No evidence whatsoever has been produced to corroborate these claims,” he said.
“They are untrue. I am sorry to say that the Taoiseach, the Fianna Fáil leader — this is a matter of genuine disappointment on my part — have no interest in due process or in truth when it comes to me personally or Sinn Féin generally.
“After decades of abandoning people in the North, today their main worry is electoralism. The real focus of all of this is on the outcome of the next general election.”
Mr Adams went off script to speak “personally and on behalf of my wider family” to criticise comments during the debate about the handling of allegations of abuse against his brother.
“We deeply reject the continuous taunts and offensive commentary by some here about what was for our family a deeply traumatic episode in our family life,” he said.
Gardaí are to receive details of eight sexual abusers linked to the Republican movement who were allegedly moved by the IRA to the south of Ireland.
Fine Gael TD Regina Doherty said she will give her local gardaí in Co Meath details of the alleged abusers tomorrow as Sinn Féin faces calls to reveal where abusers who were moved here are now hiding.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny yesterday led the allegations against Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams during a special Dáil debate as abuse victim Maíria Cahill looked on from the visitors’ gallery.
Other cases of alleged abuse by members of the Republican movement were also raised during the debate.
Mr Kenny condemned how Ms Cahill was, after her horrific rape, subjected to cruelty by being forced to attend an IRA ‘kangaroo’ court which investigated criminal actions by members.
He said Sinn Féin and the IRA had put themselves and power first: “They covered up the abuse; moved the perpetrators around so the untouchables would remain untouchable.”
He reiterated his demand that Mr Adams and Sinn Féin must tell authorities here where other abusers were hiding and what they did.
“The abused have not gone away you know. Nor will they.”
Ms Doherty questioned why Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald was still backing Mr Adams when he had told “an untruth” about his brother’s own abuse of his niece.
Ms Doherty said the TD had failed victims for a “cheap power grab.”
Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin raised the case of two brothers from Louth who were allegedly raped by a Republican leader. He said victims had come to him asking for cases to be raised. Sex abusers had been sent across the border or to Britain, he claimed.
Only a legally empowered inquiry could investigate the claims, he argued.
But Mairia Cahill’s abuse case was also just one of many, TDs were told.
In 1992, a boy was raped by an IRA man who used his family’s home in Louth as a safehouse, he said. A decade later, the victim discovered his brother was also raped by the same man.
The brothers were summoned to a meeting with a Republican man who was also in charge of Mairia Cahill’s case. They were told their abuser could either be exiled, beaten or executed, Mr Martin outlined.
He said the man who held the meeting with the victims had held a “senior position” in Sinn Féin.
The rapist was exiled from Ireland in 2002, he said.
Mr Martin said these cases were the tip of the iceberg.
Up to 28 victims of similar abuse were now discussing what to do, he told TDs.
“There is no doubt that there was and remains a cover-up within the Provisional movement.”
Tánaiste Joan Burton asked Mr Adams to address claims that there had been 100 cases of abuse the Republican movement had investigated.