Republic accused of sex abuse 'cover-up'

The Irish Government and judicial system conducted a ‘‘hideous cover-up’’ after a young girl was subjected to years of sexual abuse, it was claimed today.

The Irish Government and judicial system conducted a ‘‘hideous cover-up’’ after a young girl was subjected to years of sexual abuse, it was claimed today.

Ian Paisley Jr (DUP, North Antrim) told the Stormont Assembly that 24-year-old Sarah Bland and her mother have spent the last two decades battling in vain to secure justice.

They had come to him in a desperate bid to right a terrible wrong, he said.

He declared: ‘‘For as long as this gross injustice, known as the Bland case, remains unresolved, anything the Irish authorities may say about rights, about equality, about honour, about truth, should be treated with contempt.’’

Mr Paisley’s motion expressing concern at the failure of the Irish judiciary to resolve the case of Sarah Bland, the daughter of a British citizen, was passed unanimously.

He said the student and her mother, Trish, had given him a huge dossier on the abuse which began in 1980 when she was aged four and living in a stately home in the Irish midlands.

Mr Paisley insisted the matter should have debated in the Dail and taken through the courts in the Republic.

As the blonde student watched from the chamber galleries, the Assembly was told that the nightmare ordeal was compounded when her firm of solicitors began representing the person accused of abusing her.

Mr Paisley accused the Government of abandoning the girl and her mother when she needed help.

He claimed: ‘‘It has been brought to the attention of five former and one serving Taoiseach and to several TDs, including the current Foreign Minister, Brian Cowen, yet they together have done nothing, absolutely nothing to investigate or to address the terrible case of abuse that has been brought to their attention.

‘‘I believe the authorities know that to deal with this case in an open transparent case would expose the hideous cover-up in the court system of the Republic of Ireland where justice appears only to be possible where it is not going to damage a certain Dublin elite.’’

Sarah moved with her family to Canada in 1983 where they lived in hiding, he said.

But then Mrs Bland’s estate was sold and the legal expenses of over £432,000 were claimed and paid to the original solicitor’s firm who should have declared his conflict of interests and refused to act, Mr Paisley said.

‘‘Only in the north has her case been considered. First by the Northern Ireland Forum and today by this Assembly,’’ he said.

Sir John Gorman (UUP, North Down) told how was made aware of the case years ago.

Noting the conflict of interests by the law firm he said: ‘‘I have got a great deal of sympathy for Mrs Bland in relation to the solicitors in the past.

‘‘I think she’s gone rather excessively towards the rest of the legal system in the Republic which I think is not to be criticised in the same manner as that particular firm of solicitors.’’

Monica McWilliams (Women’s Coalition, South Belfast) outlined with dismay how sex abuse case conviction rates have dropped.

‘‘The depressing part of all of this is that the most recent studies are showing conviction rates are going down, reporting is going up,’’ she said.

‘‘That’s not peculiar to the Republic of Ireland, that is the case in the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland.’’

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