Mairia Cahill, who was raped by a senior provisional IRA member, has criticised Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams after he claimed the case did not involve a “cover-up” by his party because she knew the attacker outside of the organisation.
The Belfast woman said the comment was an attempt to “muddy the waters” and was akin to “re-abuse” after Mr Adams made the remark on two separate occasions at the weekend.
Speaking to reporters at the Carlow-Kilkenny byelection count centre on Saturday, Mr Adams was asked if he accepted the findings of the Starmer report, released on Friday, into how the North’s judicial system handled accusations by Ms Cahill and two other people.
The independent reportby the former director of public prosecutions in England and Wales, Kier Starmer, and Australian barrister Katherine O’Byrne said the trio were let down by the system after making the complaints of abuse between 1997 and 2000 in 2010.
While charges relating to sexual abuse and provisional IRA membership were laid, none of the trials had started by 2014, resulting in all three complaints withdrawing their evidence due to the court delays and not guilty verdicts being entered.
Mr Adams told reporters he did not “have any issue” with people raising the cases, “except when they accuse Sinn Féin of being involved in a cover-up or accuse members of Sinn Féin of condoning child abuse and covering that up”.
He said the claim was “patently untrue” and provided specific details about the man accused of repeatedly raping Ms Cahill when she was 16 in the late 1990s, saying the accused’s external connection to Ms Cahill meant the case was not the fault of Sinn Féin or the provisional IRA.
Mr Adams said that while “it doesn’t make it any easier”, rape and abuse “is not unique to one community, it affects all communities and classes and all sectors of society”. He added that the link between Ms Cahill and her abuser means “what is not true is Sinn Féin members were involved in a cover-up or that Sinn Féin is in any way soft on the issue of child abuse”.
The comment was made at the Carlow-Kilkenny count and repeated on an election special programme of RTÉ’s Claire Byrne Live.
However, responding to the remarks yesterday, Ms Cahill said there is no doubt in her mind that Sinn Féin and the provisional IRA covered up the case.
Mr Adams’ claim that Ms Cahill’s acquaintance with the man outside of the organisation absolved Sinn Féin of blame is an attempt to “muddy the waters”, said Ms Cahill.
“Gerry Adams continues to re-abuse me at every possible turn,” she said.
“He has sought once again to attack my credibility and using my sex abuse to do so. That is despicable.”
Ms Cahill has previously revealed that, after making her abuse known, she was forced to attend a face-to-face kangaroo court hearing with her abuser.
Opposition parties allege that dozens of these secret sex abuse hearings took place throughout the Troubles and up to the 2000s and that senior Sinn Féin personnel were aware of the failure to notify authorities of what happened.