Dáil debates

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Allegations Regarding Sexual Abuse by Members of the Provisional Republican Movement: Statements


1:40 pm

Photo of Michael KittMichael Kitt (Galway East, Fianna Fail)
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Before we begin, I must remind Members that, while all Members have absolute privilege under the Constitution in respect of anything they say in the House, they also have a responsibility not to name or identify and debate any person upon whom the reference may be perceived as an adverse reflection or as affecting his or her good name because such persons are defenceless against remarks made by Members under privilege. There is the long-standing rule that, even where matters are already in the public domain, Members must not repeat under privilege allegations made outside the House. Members should also be aware that allegations against any Member can only be made by substantive motion and not by innuendo or otherwise across the floor of the House. If allegations are made about named or otherwise identifiable persons by any Member in the course of the debate, I will stop the Member and ask him or her to retract the remarks. Any failure to do so is prima faciean abuse of privilege and will be treated as disorderly behaviour. I call the Taoiseach to make a statement.

1:50 pm

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Mayo, Fine Gael)
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A Leas-Cheann Comhairle, I wish to share my time with Deputy Regina Doherty.

Dáil Éireann meets today to discuss allegations made by Ms Maíria Cahill against the IRA and that organisation's handling of them. These are allegations of rape and abuse. Since Ms Cahill brought such matters to public attention, her testimony has been both chilling and compelling. It has been notably coherent, sanguine and consistent and above all, it has been sincere and dignified. In short, it has been the polar opposite of the Sinn Féin response, whether it be here in the Dáil, on television or radio, in tweets or blogs or in post-dinner remarks. There are some who would say that Ms Cahill opted not to proceed with her case before a jury of her peers and that she now seeks to have an assessment of the facts through Dáil privilege and the media. However, that logic does not apply in the context of the residual rule and culture involving bank heists, racketeering, secret courts, punishment beatings, mutilations, executions, pay-offs, community policing and, of course, republican relocation. Equally, Maíria Cahill is an intelligent women but she also was a terrified young woman, because she knew the price that could be either paid or extracted for daring to breach republican omerta. One must remember another woman who dared to offend republican sensibilities and who disappeared. She had succumbed to a reflex and instinct as a mother and if offering a cushion meant being disappeared with the attendant annihilation of the tender lives of ten young children, what then would it mean for a young woman to get into the witness box and volunteer evidence against the volunteers?

As Members are aware, Maíria Cahill's situation found its way to the IRA on how she was raped, abused and violated by one of their own, the men and women who had the delusion and the gall to refer to themselves as Óglaigh na hÉireann. To a small few she disclosed how, over months forcibly and against what we know now is her formidable will, she was ritually and habitually degraded. Moreover, Deputy Adams, contrary to that chat with you - the one which she not so much recounts as vividly relives - she as the victim did not give her manipulated consent, tacit or otherwise. She as the victim felt horrified and traumatised and when this shaken young women was obliged to face the unshakeable men of the IRA about this gross violation of her very person, instead of manning up and doing what real men would have done, which would have been to comfort her and reassure that yes, this was grievously wrong and no, none of this was her fault, they did the polar opposite. Drawing themselves up to their full political height and paramilitary weight, they objectified her, humiliated her and degraded her all over again. Moreover, with their kangaroo court and their pop psychology idiocy, they inflicted on a traumatised young women an extravagant, and for them exquisite, cruelty. Perhaps in retrospect, they can tell Members the body language for "I am distraught" or "I am terrified" or "I am repulsed". For any Sinn Féin Members, if the lexicon of such language is not to hand, they can look up into the Gallery and see one particular women with a body, mind and spirit that states, in its dignity and inner stillness, "you humiliated me once, you injured me once, you defeated me once but I will never give up and you will never win because I will never be silenced".

The IRA did all of this simply because it could. Its members did this because they had all the power and no responsibility. They did it because as a secret organisation, they had their own logic, sensibility, system and rules. Above all, they had its own enthralling vision of what constituted crime and what constituted punishment. Since they both had and were their own private army, they could be judge, jury, banisher and executioner and none of the people moved have appeared before any court in this jurisdiction on these charges. Like any other institution with its arcane rules and logic and law unto itself, it is clear that in the case of Maíria Cahill, Sinn Féin and the IRA put the institution first. The allure of power and influence was just too much. They covered up the abuse and moved the perpetrators around in order that the untouchables would remain untouchable. It did not matter what terror they might cause or what damage they might do in these unlucky and unsuspecting communities. But who cared about victims once the institution, the organisation, in all its power and all its glory remained intact? It was a kind of unholy collusion. I refer to republicans who thought so much of this Republic that they would honour us with their rapists and gift us their child abusers. Under that elite, so-called republican dispensation, Northern Ireland could be scoured, secured and sanctified while down here and incognito, their rejects and their ejects, their undesirables and their exiles could live with and even prey on our women and children. We do not know who these men are. We do not know what they have done since they arrived among us in their banishment but we need to know and we need to find out. Today I say to Sinn Féin that if its members want to rescue any sense or semblance of credibility from these events, they will tell the legitimate authorities exactly who are these people, be they volunteers or decommissioned. They will tell us where they are and what they do because if they are a risk to any family in our society, we need to know and we must act to protect them. However, as its members do this, they should please spare us the Sinn Féin torture of language and of stretching of credibility, the republican equivalent of mental reservation. Deputy Adams should remember the words of Maya Angelou, "there is no [more] agony than bearing an untold story inside you". Down here, you buried the dangerous living along with the discarded dead. At this point, I wish to state that I welcome the letter I received from Deputy First Minister McGuinness, in which he suggests setting up a support mechanism for survivors of rape and abuse through the North-South Ministerial Council. I agree that the perpetrators of such abuse should be subject to the law and survivors are deserving of acknowledgement, support and justice. Since he at least had the courage to admit he was a senior member of the IRA, I ask him - and ask Deputy Adams to ask him - what knowledge he had of this case or others and if, in keeping with the spirit of this letter, he would be willing to share that, as indeed he has a duty to do. Indeed, I wish that all members of the Sinn Féin party would share his view on how victims like Maíria Cahill should be treated. I can but hope that their savagery - a particular savagery unleashed online towards Maíria Cahill - self-illuminating as it is, turns out to be as self-devouring as is deserved.

Deputy Adams asked me to meet four named individuals who were connected with the interrogation of Maíria Cahill. I offered to do so and they declined. Now he wishes me to meet other individuals. I regard this as being diversionary and will not deflect from the issue at hand. What I cannot accept is the attitude of Sinn Féin to Ms Cahill or to the families of the country because unlike you, Deputy Adams, and unlike you, Deputy McDonald - your usually seismic rage and righteousness about victims now, it appears clearly to me, a pathological loyalty, your compulsive denial of a cover-up in the matter of Ms Cahill - how can you state categorically there was no cover-up of the knowledge of sexual abuse?

3 o’clock

How can the Deputy categorically state that sex abusers were not moved to safe houses, particularly when her party's leader is involved in a case where a family member was denied that information for so many years? Sinn Féin has reneged on Ms Cahill, as a woman. It has let her down.

The abused have not gone away, you know. Nor will they. There will be other programmes and court cases, other whistleblowers who will need to be protected. The latter will not be dealt with in the way in which the IRA dealt with them in the past. I am of the view that the children of the Republic should not be obliged to live with the risk posed by the IRA's misfits, predators or outcasts. Unlike Sinn Féin, I will not allow our children to be imperilled on foot of a delusion on the part of any organisation which believes itself - uselessly at this stage - to be above the law. Whether they are rooted in ancient conclave or modern conflict, this Government has given them a very clear message, namely, our children and their lives are both previous and inviolate. Never again will the rape and torture of these children be ignored or blindly tolerated in order to protect or preserve organisational power, standing or reputation.

In the past three years, this Fine Gael-Labour Government has done more to make our children safe than any previous Administration in the history of the Republic. People can be proud of what has been achieved. For the first time, the children of our country have a full, dedicated Cabinet Minister. A referendum was held in order to recognise the rights of children in our Constitution. We have legislated on adoption and begun what is a major programme of legislative reform in the long-neglected area of child protection. I refer, for example, to the Criminal Justice (Withholding of Information Concerning Offences Against Children and Vulnerable Adults) Act 2012, the National Vetting Bureau (Children's and Vulnerable Persons) Act 2012 and the Children First Bill 2014, which will place child protection on a statutory footing. In addition, we have established the Child and Family Agency, Tusla, to protect Ireland's children from all forms of violence, abuse and neglect. We have given this agency great powers and a massive task but we are also charged with great responsibility in the context of ensuring probity and accountability of every aspect of Tusla's operation in every area and at every level. In protecting our children, Tusla must adhere to strict and high standards, namely, the tough protection demands of Children First and those constitutional rights and natural justice and fair procedures set out in the court decisions of Justices Barr and O'Neill. In order to protect our children and support our families, those are the exacting standards by which this State and its agencies must and will be bound. I refer, in particular, to Tusla in this regard and to the challenges it will face in respect of its caseload. Those challenges will not least be caused by an increase in referrals as a result of the necessarily tough demands of Children First.

Transforming our child and family services will not occur by edict, by intention or by the speeches that will be made here today. As we are aware, the business of child protection is not sweet and frequently involves the darkest and most disturbing aspects of our history and our humanity. Urgent is what our national response in respect of child protection must be. We take a different view with regard to the covering up of rape and abuse by IRA paramilitaries in order to protect the elite republication family. Our priority is the ordinary families of the Republic. With her revelations, Maíria Cahill wants to protect those ordinary families across this island, both North and South.

2:00 pm

Photo of Robert DowdsRobert Dowds (Dublin Mid West, Labour)
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Hear, hear.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Mayo, Fine Gael)
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By freeing this and coming generations from the darkness of the past, Ms Cahill views her revelations as a way to open for all of us a door into the light. That light is an all-island peace based not on secrets but on truth, open and declared. Crucially, it is a peace which relates not just to our geographical co-ordinates but which lives in the heart and soul of all who live on this island. As a people, we have been fractured and broken for long enough as a result of our national obsession with putting people, truth and reality out of sight. I refer to those who were incarcerated in the Magdalen laundries and who gave us blindingly white albs and snowy tablecloths, to the generations who slept on immaculate and guilty sheets and to the mother and baby homes, the industrial schools, the reformatories, the mad houses or other institutions with walls high enough to block from our common sight any reminder of our fragility, any vestige of our vulnerability or the intrinsic danger of our private selves, our hidden identities and our loneliness and longing.

As parents, we know that our children make us invincible and vulnerable. They remind us of who we are. It is the same, I believe, for our country - our nation. In the context of this debate, which has been brought about by the courage of Maíria Cahill and the allegations she has made in respect of the IRA and Sinn Féin, it is - and always must be - a case of children first. Deputy Adams has a duty, as uachtaráin of his party - as I understand it, the Deputy has never been involved in the IRA - to identify the people to whom these allegations relate and indicate to the authorities the locations to which they were moved. This sorry saga cannot be allowed to continue. I commend Maíria Cahill on her courage and consistency and for her ability to stand up to intimidation of many sorts. I hope that what brought about this debate will bring positive results for the children who were abused - those who might be in danger of being abused - by people who, we understand, were moved into this jurisdiction.

Photo of Regina DohertyRegina Doherty (Meath East, Fine Gael)
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I will begin with a quote:

Let me tell you what it feels like to be scared ... I remember the first fingers laid on me and what that felt like. My childhood wiped out in a split second. I remember the fright. The confusion. Being too afraid to open my eyes as the IRA man got a kick out of using me like a rag doll.
Those are the words used by Maíria Cahill to describe the sexual abuse she suffered. There are 166 Members of this House. By all accounts, at least 25% of us have had experience of sexual abuse in some shape or form during our lifetimes. Those who have know that the physical scars heal over time. They also know, however, that because of the insidious nature of rape or sexual abuse, the psychological effects last for decades. Those effects shape, inform and infiltrate the remainder of a victim's life.

There have been a great deal of discussion recently with regard to the well-intentioned people in the IRA and Sinn Féin. In my experience, such people help, support and listen. There are thousands of families throughout this country which are dealing in a well-intended but quiet manner with loved ones who have been sexually abused. They listen, cherish, support, counsel, and care about their loved ones. They want to help those who are victims. Those we are well intentioned do not interrogate victims in courts of inquiry for months on end. They do not threaten victims into remaining silence, nor do they enlist victims into deciding the options for punishment for their abusers. They do not place victims in the same room as their abusers in order to read their body language and discover if they are telling the truth. They do not threaten a victim's family and prevent them from going to the police, they do not threaten to sue victims for slander and they certainly do not publicly raise the profile of abusers in their republican propaganda newspaper. Those to whom I refer absolutely and fundamentally do not facilitate abusers to move from one jurisdiction to another, they do not give abusers money and cars to help them on their way and they certainly do not put other children at risk of abuse by the very abusers they are facilitating. These are not the actions of people who are well intentioned.

Deputy Adams recently wrote the following about the IRA on his blog:
Despite the high standards and decency of the vast majority of IRA volunteers, IRA personnel were singularly ill-equipped to deal with these matters. This included very sensitive areas such as responding to demands to take action against rapists and child abusers. The IRA on occasion shot alleged sex offenders or expelled them.
Given that reality has finally been accepted, let me ask the Deputy whether alleged abuser Martin Morris was facilitated by ill-equipped Sinn Féin-IRA in leaving Northern Ireland in July 2000? Was this individual given cash and a car to help him on his way?

Was the ill-equipped Briege Wright, who by her very own admission has years of experience working with sexual and domestic abuse victims in the Falls Women’s Centre and who states she has completed child protection training, well-intentioned when she saw fit to re-traumatise a vulnerable young rape victim by allowing her to be put in a room with her abuser in order that her body language could be read to see if she was telling the truth? Was Bobby Storey well-intentioned when he recently issued a memo stating that if Sinn Féin Party members were making comments about Maíria Cahill, they should only be made if they were measured and rigorously accurate? With glee over recent weeks, Sinn Féin members have abused, vilified and re-traumatised Maíria Cahill, through social media and directly.

Deputy Gerry Adams first denied that the IRA carried out any investigations and said Maíria Cahill's allegations were slurs against Sinn Féin. Then he accepted that there were IRA investigations, but not into Maíria Cahill's case. His latest stance is that he does not know whether there was an IRA investigation into Maíria Cahill’s case. I am dizzy from the number of changes to a story by a man who brought his own niece to meet her abuser, his brother, Liam Adams, face to face. I am at a loss to know why he would bring his own niece to meet her abuser face to face in a well-intentioned way to help her.

Deputy Adams says there is no corporate way of verifying these matters. These are weasel words to justify inaction. Sinn Féin has many people with a lot of knowledge, not least of whom is Deputy Gerry Adams. Thirty years on from the horrendous gun attack on Brian Stack, Deputy Adams had no problem putting Mr. Stack's sons in a blacked-out van and driving them to an undisclosed location where a former Provisional IRA chief admitted responsibility for their father’s murder. It is funny how there was a corporate way of verifying that heinous murder but no corporate way to proceed now.

Deputy Adams, why did you lie about the knowledge of your brother’s abuse of your niece, another young woman who came to you for help? You turned on her mother-----

2:10 pm

Photo of Gerry AdamsGerry Adams (Louth, Sinn Fein)
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Acting Chairman-----

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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I hesitate to intervene but it is not within the rules of the House to accuse somebody of lying.

Photo of Regina DohertyRegina Doherty (Meath East, Fine Gael)
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Of lying?

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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Lying, yes. The Deputy must withdraw the accusation of lying for the purpose of debate in the House.

Photo of Regina DohertyRegina Doherty (Meath East, Fine Gael)
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Where did I lie? If I said I was a liar, I withdraw it.

Photo of Joan BurtonJoan Burton (Dublin West, Labour)
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Photo of Regina DohertyRegina Doherty (Meath East, Fine Gael)
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Untruth. Why did Deputy Adams tell an untruth about the knowledge of his brother’s abuse of a very young, vulnerable woman who came to him looking for help? He turned the tables on her. He tried to point the finger of abuse and neglect at her mother when he made a complaint to social services about the latter’s neglect of her child. Did it slip his mind to make the complaint about sexual abuse by his own brother? Given all the events the Deputy has been remembering over recent weeks, does he remember ever sitting with any other victims and their abusers together in a room?

What knowledge does Deputy Adams have of a senior Northern Ireland politician's brother who had allegations of sexual abuse made against him in the 1990s? Allegedly, he was taken to a flat in Andersonstown where he was facilitated in a move to Dublin. What corporate memory does the Deputy have of that incident?

I have knowledge of eight other men - alleged abusers - who were facilitated by Sinn Féin to move out of Northern Ireland and relocated to the Republic but, to be honest, I am too afraid to name them here today. Therefore, I have exercised my duty by making an appointment with my local sergeant for Friday morning to hand over that information to An Garda Síochána and report these men. I fundamentally believe it is now time for Sinn Féin to exercise its duty.

Will Deputy Adams tell this House about an internal investigation led by him and other senior Sinn Féin politicians in which he identified in excess of 100 victims of sexual and physical abuse at the hands of Sinn Féin or IRA members? What did it uncover? Did he report any of the 100 or so cases to the Garda Síochána? 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?

I genuinely have no hope of any truth or co-operation from Deputy Gerry Adams because, God knows, I know I would not believe the Lord’s Prayer from his mouth at the moment. In recent weeks, I have looked towards those whom I would have believed are future Sinn Féin leaders for real leadership on this issue arising from the allegations Maíria Cahill has made. I refer in particular to the new generation of Sinn Féin members who are not tainted by the heinous acts or the horrific murders during the Troubles. There were so many such acts that I will not even mention them.

Let me address Deputy McDonald, who apparently likes a bit of Maya Angelou, whose most famous quotation, in my opinion, is: "I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel." Today I feel disgusted by Deputy Mary Lou McDonald’s response to Maíria Cahill and all the other victims of Sinn Féin and IRA sexual abusers. I am disappointed beyond belief that she would so cheaply sell her integrity for political positioning, that her naked political ambition would cause her to fail the children of our nation, fail families and fail victims, all in the name of a cheap power grab. She is no longer credible, in my humble opinion, when she rekindles her fake support for victims of symphysiotomy, survivors of the Magdalen laundries and victims of sexual abuse at the hands of institutions of this State because she has failed to hold her own institution to account and scrutinise Sinn Féin or IRA activities and actions. For all her rhetoric about women's rights, she did not know how to respond appropriately to Maíria Cahill’s allegations because to respond or react like a woman, a human being, would have meant telling the truth. It actually would have meant criticising that chap beside her. Maybe I am being too harsh because, perhaps like the rest, she is probably afraid of the real Belfast leadership. I ask her sincerely to step outside the groupthink that obviously characterises Sinn Féin and stand up for victims with sincerity, not in the mealy-mouthed way she has done in recent weeks by saying she believes Maíria Cahill while undermining her at the same time.

Sinn Féin’s response to all the recent and still-emerging victims’ stories is to call for an all-Ireland response involving the creation of an all-island body to deal with the issue of support for those who were victims of sexual abuse during the conflict. Sinn Féin’s version of an all-Ireland approach was to put children on this island at risk. It blatantly put the protection of its own movement ahead of the protection of our nation’s children and, crucially, it is continuing to do so.

Let me finish by saying to Sinn Féin and its supporters that facing up to this issue is not about undermining the peace process but actually about strengthening it. Making Sinn Féin amenable to scrutiny will actually help it turn into a normal organisation and might actually garner it support rather than damage it further. The greatest benchmark against which to measure the success of the peace process is how we protect our children. Thus far, in my humble opinion, Sinn Féin has failed abysmally.

Photo of Joan BurtonJoan Burton (Dublin West, Labour)
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I wish to share my time with the Minister of State at the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Deputy Ged Nash.

I welcome the opportunity to speak on the allegations of sexual abuse by members of the provisional republican movement and the Maíria Cahill case. First, this is not simply a debate about events that took place in Belfast a number of years ago. It is not just about a single legacy issue from the Troubles, nor is it about how republicans policed their communities or administered their own crude forms of justice at a time before they supported the PSNI. These issues are all part of the events that have contributed to where we are today. However, this debate is actually about the present and future. It is about providing justice today for people who have been abused in the past. It is about protecting our children from those with a record of abuse and about the standards and behaviour we expect from the leaders of Irish democracy, as represented in this House.

Four weeks ago tomorrow, on a Thursday evening, I met Maíria Cahill at length in my office. I did so because I wanted to hear her story for myself and draw my own conclusions. She told me about the abuse she suffered for over a year by the officer commanding the IRA in Ballymurphy at a time when she was in school preparing for her exams.

She told me how, at a young age, she realised that she had to live with this horror for the rest of her life. She recounted the crude IRA investigation where her abuser denied the allegations, and how she was made to confront him.

She named individuals within the Sinn Féin leadership as being party to this investigation. She stated that Deputy Adams was involved in her case over a six-year period, despite his denials that continue to this day. She painted a picture of justice denied, first, when the IRA investigation failed to reach any conclusions and, then years later, when she was forced to withdraw her legal case, thus finding her abusers not guilty by default.

Maíria spoke of the trauma she has experienced since her abuse and the devastating effect it had on her life, not least having to see her abuser hidden in plain sight by Sinn Féin because her abuser was appointed by Sinn Féin as the face of community restorative justice schemes in West Belfast. Having listened to her, I was struck by her bravery, courage and determination to proceed.

She also lifted the lid on the reality of life in a community under the brutal control of the IRA and Sinn Féin - a community where the need to protect the abuser trumped the needs of the victim lest the reputation of the IRA and of the movement should suffer, and a community whose political leaders allow abusers to continue to live in the midst of children, contrary to all the rules of child protection. The first rule of child protection is to remove the abuser from the opportunity to continue the abuse or to abuse other children. That is the primary rule of child protection.

Having gone public to such effect, Maíria's case is now subject to a number of legal remedies. The Northern Ireland Police Ombudsman is conducting its own review following the ending of the court case and the Northern Ireland Director of Public Prosecutions has announced an independent review of three criminal cases linked to the original proceedings.

Those processes must be allowed run their course but as they do, we are left with two key issues to address: first, the extent of child abuse by members of the republican movement and the denials and live cover-up that is ongoing; and, second, the attacks that have been unleashed by Sinn Féin members and supporters on the character of Ms Cahill in what appears to be an attempt to warn-off other victims from coming forward.

Regarding any potential cover-up, surely Sinn Féin must be consistent? Judging them by their own words and stated standards, they repeatedly and understandably criticised the Irish State for facilitating a cover-up of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church. Responding to the Ryan report less than five years ago, Deputy Mary Lou McDonald said it exposed how "the most powerful men in the Catholic Church in the Dublin Diocese conspired to protect abusers of children". Deputy McDonald went on to say that this was "a gross betrayal of generations of children". She further stated that anyone found to be complicit in the cover up of child abuse "must be arrested and made to face the full rigours of the law". I agree fully with Deputy McDonald's sentiments and I ask her to apply these same standards to Sinn Féin and the IRA.

In particular, does Deputy McDonald apply this standard to the powerful man who leads her own party? Frankly, I say this because Deputy Adams's response to Ms Maíria Cahill's case has been one of denial, evasion and seeking to protect the IRA. He denies any knowledge of an internal IRA investigation or of meeting Maíria as she states, he evades any responsibility for IRA and Sinn Féin involvement, claiming that the courts have cleared the abusers, and he protects the IRA by writing that these events were "of their time" and that the IRA should be exempt from mechanisms for dealing with abuse because they have "long since left the scene".

Deputy Adams's response to Ms Cahill's claims is even more sinister when considered alongside his own inaction in protecting children from his own brother. This was after he was informed of Mr. Liam Adams's abuse of his daughter. In fact, we know from Deputy Adams's own court testimony that he did little or nothing to ensure that children were protected. For ten years he allowed his brother to work with children in Belfast and Dundalk - the two constituencies for which Deputy Adams has been a public representative. Apparently, he did so without once contacting social services or the police on either side of the Border, and if he made an intervention by other means as yet untold, such representations were clearly unsuccessful, and yet no questions that we know of are asked of Deputy Adams by Deputy McDonald or other leading members of Sinn Féin. No statements have been made condemning conspiracies to protect abusers. No parallels are drawn between this powerful man and the manner in which the leaders of the Catholic Church protected abusers. The pattern continues.

In fact, any time that the issue of sexual abuse within the republican movement emerges, Sinn Féin tries to shut the matter down. Last year, details were published of an internal inquiry into allegations of abuse by more than 100 members of the IRA and Sinn Féin. Can Deputy Adams clarify these allegations, which include allegations of the grooming and abuse of a young girl by a senior member of the IRA, serious assaults against children; and more than one hundred cases of sexual assault? Ms Cahill has repeatedly claimed that such an investigation took place and that Sinn Féin is in possession of information about multiple cases.

In normal circumstances, it would be incumbent on any Member of this House to bring such information to the appropriate authorities, yet what is Sinn Féin’s reaction to these reports? Rather than express concern at allegations of sexual abuse, rather than seek to find out if any investigation took place and rather than question the appropriateness of its party president being involved given his own record regarding his brother, Sinn Féin sent out Deputy Pearse Doherty to deny that any such inquiry had taken place. Deputy Pearse Doherty did so in vehement terms. He described claims that Sinn Féin had conducted its own investigation into cases of sexual abuse as "unfounded and untrue" and stated they marked a "new low", and so the pattern is established - deny and attack, deny and attack - and it is being repeated to this day.

It is similar to the manner in which the hierarchy of the Catholic Church denied for a long time the extent and scale of clerical abuse and claimed it was limited to one or two bad apples.

What we need Deputy Pearse Doherty and Deputy Mary Lou McDonald to do rather than repeat the denials and facilitate the cover-up, is to follow Maíria Cahill’s example and to challenge the powerful men in their own movement who have something to hide. However, rather than follow Maíria’s example, those in Sinn Féin prefer to attack her character. They do that very subtly. They deny the details of her story. They repeatedly make her justify her allegations. They unleash attacks on her online. They re-traumatise her over and over again. In doing so, they are playing a longer-game. They are setting an example, actively discouraging other victims of abuse from coming forward by demonstrating the trauma they will have to endure in their fight for justice.

At the same time, Sinn Féin portrays itself as facilitating the victim by putting forward practical solutions and new processes for dealing with the past. Yet in the suggestions the onus is usually on some other body – the PSNI, An Garda Síochána or the North-South Ministerial Council – to devise a mechanism or process for dealing with the issue, and crucially, rather than start with the IRA bringing forward its own information about abuse within its ranks, all of the solutions involve putting the victim back in the dock. Will the first step ever be taken by republicans?

Since she went public, Maíria has had to endure a whispering campaign against her on the streets, and a very public assault on her character by Sinn Féin supporters online. The least she deserves is that the Sinn Féin president calls off the dogs of war on Maíria Cahill. She must be allowed tell her story without Sinn Féin’s keyboard warriors attacking her every word.

2:30 pm


Hear, hear.

Photo of Joan BurtonJoan Burton (Dublin West, Labour)
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Writing in a newspaper a couple of weeks ago, Maíria herself described the trauma she has experienced in recent weeks. Addressing Sinn Féin directly, she wrote the following, which I am sure Sinn Féin members have read: "And you, by denying my experiences, invalidate me as a human being, and by default, every other victim of abuse out there. And that’s a very dangerous message to send to perpetrators".

I was struck by the similarities between Maíria’s words and those of the American poet Maya Angelou - to whom other speakers referred; a writer Deputy Gerry Adams is fond of quoting on Twitter. The point about Maya Angelou is her determination to overcome the abuse she suffered. She wrote the following which I want to say to Maíria:

You may write me down in history

With your bitter, twisted lies,

You may tread me in the very dirt

But still, like dust, I’ll rise.
Until Sinn Féin stands with the victim and not the perpetrator, until the culture of denial and attack becomes one of honesty and support and until the same behaviour is demanded of it as applies to all other parties, we will continue to ask questions of Sinn Féin's culture, motives, and commitment to democracy.

The reported comments by Deputy Adams at last week’s fund-raiser in New York about an old story of going to smash up printing presses is a barely concealed threat to the modern media of the consequences of interfering with powerful men. In recent years, Irish journalists such as Veronica Guerin and Martin O’Hagan have been murdered, and we continue to see, on our screens and devices, the savagery meted out to members of the media currently reporting international conflicts. A free press is the cornerstone of our democracy, along with representation and a free Judiciary. It always was and always will be. I call on Deputy Adams to withdraw and apologise for these remarks and to remove the veiled threat that has been made to the free press in Ireland.


Hear, hear.

Photo of Gerald NashGerald Nash (Louth, Labour)
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At the centre of the issue is the rape of a child, the sexual abuse of a 16-year old girl. While we debate the very serious issues before us, we must never forget that.

Maíria Cahill is an extraordinary woman, whom I had the privilege to meet briefly yesterday. Despite the horrendous acts of abuse that were perpetrated against her at a young age, she has had the courage to come forward, to identify herself and to take on a powerful, ruthless and unforgiving machine – Sinn Féin and the IRA. I applaud her courage and bravery. She is facing down both her rapist and also those who still seek to protect him. She is standing firm, for herself and for other victims of sexual abuse by the IRA. I wish to assure her that I believe her and that the Tánaiste, and my colleagues and I in the Labour Party are here to support her – and the other children across the country who were abused by the IRA.

Not every victim is willing to identify himself or herself, understandably so. Deputy Gerry Adams and his colleagues in Sinn Féin, through the treatment that has been meted out to Maíria Cahill since her shocking disclosures about rape and cover-up, have done everything in their power to prevent further disclosures. It is the code of omerta that I find particularly reprehensible. Human rights are universal rights. One either believes in human rights for all or for none. Sinn Féin has sought to cherry-pick; to decide who is deserving of the application of human rights. It wants to sit as judge and jury, as it did in Maíria's case, on those to whom these rights should be afforded. That is wrong. It is hypocritical and it exposes the double standards of Sinn Féin.

There are clearly also double standards when it comes to the women of Sinn Féin, who have been uncharacteristically silent on these grave matters. Where are Deputies Mary Lou McDonald and Sandra McLellan? Where does the Sinn Féin Senator and female councillors stand on the matter? Let us compare, as the Tánaiste sought to do, Deputy McDonald’s characteristically forthright condemnation of how, as she put it, “the most powerful men in the Catholic Church in the Dublin diocese conspired to protect abusers of children” in “a gross betrayal of generations of children”. She demanded that they face the full rigours of the law, and she was right. However, compared with that condemnation then we now have deafening silence, despite equally horrendous allegations and an identical widespread cover-up of wrongdoing. Only this morning we heard Deputy McDonald quite correctly call for whistleblowers to be listened to and their allegations fully investigated. Deputy McDonald seems to very fond of whisteblowers, as long as they are not IRA whistleblowers. When it is an IRA whistleblower, Sinn Féin closes ranks and retreats while issuing ambiguous statements about the “culture of the time”, “honest mistakes” and, most disgusting of all, insinuations about the mental health of any of their accusers. Anyone who ever contradicts the accepted narrative from the Sinn Féin leadership is given the exact same treatment. It is utterly predictable. For example, they make statements such as "The person is suffering from stress", "They are confused", "It was a long time ago", "Ah sure God love them they have got it mixed up" and, best of all, "Sure they are opponents of the peace process". I am sorry, but that is not good enough.

I am deeply disturbed by the pattern that is now emerging of IRA abusers being moved south of the Border when their horrendous crimes were made known. At least some of the child predators were moved to my own constituency, my home county, one I am proud to represent, the county of Louth. We know that convicted paedophile, Liam Adams, Deputy Gerry Adams’s brother, was working for Sinn Féin in County Louth. We know that the Sinn Féin leader was aware that his niece had endured terrible abuse at the hands of her father – his brother – when Liam Adams crossed the Border to work in Louth. We know Liam Adams had access to minors as he ran a youth scheme in Dundalk in my home county. It has also emerged that two brothers allege they were sexually abused as boys by an IRA member believed to be on the run in their home, in an IRA safe house in County Louth.

A current Sinn Féin councillor admits that he knew of the allegations but he did not report them to the police. How many other cases might there be? Of course I accept that in the 1990s, policing in Northern Ireland was a major issue and the RUC was not trusted in republican communities. The paramilitaries filled the vacuum and they took over policing in their communities.

It is very late in the day for Sinn Féin to now acknowledge that the paramilitaries were unsuited to that task, particularly with regard to crimes as serious and as sensitive as sexual offences perpetrated against children. We know both republican and loyalist paramilitaries used intimidation, naked violence and exile, to maintain order. They cloaked their thuggery with a veneer of justice under the guise of kangaroo courts.

We must acknowledge a sad truth that in the course of the peace process the otherwise admirable desire for a workable alternative to the discredited justice system led some people to examine the concept of restorative justice. We saw the creation of state-funded community-based restorative justice schemes. We then saw many of those schemes being hijacked to operate as a shallow system of paramilitary justice, of rough justice, without any oversight or accountability whatsoever. As the Tánaiste pointed out in her contribution we saw Maíria Cahill's abuser walking the streets of west Belfast as Sinn Féin's organiser for community restorative justice. How perverse is that? The upshot for Northern Ireland is that the unwillingness to work with police and the prominent involvement of paramilitaries created a crisis of credibility for community restorative justice.

Both governments must accept their share of responsibility for allowing this chaotic situation to develop by surrendering what is a core function of state to self-appointed vigilantes. We either have the primacy of the rule of law or we do not.

Another result is that displaced individuals seemingly unknown to the authorities but known to the IRA, were removed from their communities on grounds of serious crimes against children and are living, who knows where, in Ireland and Britain; Sinn Féin knows.

The final consequence is that the new generation of Sinn Féin members - Deputies and other public representatives - must come to terms with these historic wrongs and must do all they can to have them publicly acknowledged and corrected. We cannot have more weasel words. We cannot have any more equivocation or any more cant about events being of their time, about wrongdoers having long since left the scene, about not applying present day standards to some faraway past. We must judge what happened in exactly the same light as we have judged the appalling institutional cover-ups of other organisations.

At times, perhaps, all political parties can be accused of attaching too much importance to the need for party loyalty and party discipline but the truth is there is no other movement on this island, political, social, cultural or religious, whose leadership would have survived the succession of revelations that have been made about Deputy Adams's treatment of child sexual abuse either in his own family or in his wider political family. Yet even when cardinals have fallen, Deputy Adams is still standing because he is propped upright by those surrounding him and still supporting him. Even if they are not personally to blame for the events of the past, the new generation of Sinn Féin members and representatives must share responsibility for this travesty which makes a visible mockery of their crocodile concerns. They must demand the information their leaders have on cases of sexual abuse; they must do what they can to ensure that justice is finally done and seen to be done. They must apply the normal standards of decency we expect of all our citizens and all our public representatives but to date they have not done so; they have signally failed to do so. They should and they must, stand up, speak out and break the disturbing Sinn Féin code of omerta.

2:40 pm

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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One of the most important developments of the past 20 years has been how our society has begun to face up to some of the most horrific issues in our past and the legacy which they have left in so many traumatised lives. The vile nature of child abuse repulses anyone with a basic sense of decency. It is not a once-off crime; it carries on in the form of victims who feel isolated and betrayed; who face immense barriers in seeking justice; who continue to be abused every time the cycle of denial and disbelief repeats itself. There is only one way that we can help and support victims and that is to say loudly that we believe them and that we will stand with them to bring their abusers to account.

In the lead-up to this debate I have been subject to repeated attacks from the leaders of Sinn Féin. They have claimed that this debate is not about justice but rather that it is about opinion polls. I have been called a sleeveen engaged in a “political diversion”.  Sinn Féin members old and new have engaged in the swarming abuse which shows itself whenever someone attacks the provisional movement or its icons. There is no need to respond to their attacks, but I wish to make a simple point.  Everything I have said before now and everything I will say in this speech has emerged because victims have come to me and asked me and my party to raise their cases. What is more, as new evidence emerges every day, it is becoming clearer that they are not only honest people but that they are brave beyond anything we could imagine. Meeting them has been a privilege and I am proud to stand with them against the vicious and cowardly provisional movement which put their abusers in positions of power and continues to protect them.

Last November I stated that there is evidence of significant abuse and cover-ups within the provisional movement. There is evidence of children being raped and the rapists being allowed go free. Rapists and abusers were sent to other communities in the Republic or to the UK so that they would be protected from prosecution and allowed to roam to find other innocent victims. There is evidence of active collusion within the movement to ensure that the rapists are not subject to justice. There is evidence of young lives destroyed, not just by the abuse or the abuser but by the intimidation of the movement and the active public denials of its political leaders. I stand by every one of those statements. In fact, the reality is even worse.

The evidence is overwhelming that within the communities which the Provisional IRA worked to dominate, the abuse of children was frequent and any action which was taken was designed to limit the publicity rather than to ensure justice. This was known at the top of both parts of the movement and there was active collusion. This not only continued after the ceasefires and the Good Friday Agreement; it has continued to this day. There was widespread abuse and there is an ongoing cover-up. There must be a legally empowered independent inquiry. Nothing else is acceptable and nothing else will vindicate the basic human rights of victims. In every example where a culture of abuse has been exposed and the powerful held to account it has required a handful of individuals to be willing to risk everything by standing up in public.

Maíria Cahill is brave to an extent which puts to shame those who have sought to deny her justice and undermine her claims. As a 16 year old she was repeatedly raped in 1997 and 1998, a period which spans the negotiation, ratification and implementation of the Good Friday Agreement. This was not the distant 1970s when gunfights were happening on the streets. The Provisional IRA and Sinn Féin had, in public at least, already signed up to a permanent peace. Maíria’s abuser was the O/C of the Provisional IRA in Ballymurphy and was a member of their civil administration team which ran the vigilante justice programme. He was also a Sinn Féin-backed senior activist within the community restorative justice programme.  He was well known to senior Sinn Féin politicians and sat with them on local committees. Maíria Cahill was not given an option to report her abuse.  She was told that the Provisional IRA would conduct an inquiry, one which was initially kept secret from her parents. What followed was a grotesque parody of an investigation, something which even Sinn Féin now admits was a regular occurrence.

Maíria’s own words on what happened should be heard here:

I wanted to be a lawyer or a journalist. I could have done it too - if the IRA hadn't forced themselves into my life and turned my world upside down.

You see I know those IRA people will hear this. Do you think you "helped"? Really? You'll remember, I imagine the look of fright on my face as you told me you were "investigating" my abuse. You will have watched me turn white with shock.

And you will remember watching as the rapist told me for hours, to my face and in front of you, that I was a liar, and that he didn't do those things to me.

And one of you will remember driving me out of the flat that night and stopping the car sharply so I could be sick on to the road.

You will remember my dramatic weight loss, my panic, my fright about the fact that at some point you were going to tell him what you were forcing me to tell you. And you'll remember my parents' anger at you, when you informed them that you had been "questioning" their child for months.

You'll remember me having to pull out of university because you screwed my head over so much that something had to give.

And you'll remember putting him under house arrest when other victims came forward. Asking me to decide what you were going to do with him, so I would feel responsible. I'm glad I didn't play your sick game.

And you'll remember his "escape".

That's not help. That's an abuse of power over a traumatised young girl who should have been at university working hard to achieve her goal. I should have had everything to live for at that stage. You, and the man who abused me, collectively stripped that away from me.

Bit. By. Bit.

You had absolutely no right to involve yourselves in my life. And that, by any normal person's definition, is not help. It's torture.
After attempting to dismiss her as someone who was sick or had a political agenda, the leaders of Sinn Féin now claim that they believe her, but, of course, they actually continue to try to undermine her.How can they say they believe Maíria Cahill but dismiss what she has to say about Deputy Gerry Adam’s behaviour? They are saying that everything is true but the politically inconvenient bit. It is pathetic and I will return to this later.

It is a profoundly disturbing fact that Maíria’s case appears to be just one among many. As I said last November, I have been told of much more widespread abuse. In recent weeks I was contacted by another victim of abuse by the IRA and I met him last week. He told me a very harrowing tale of what happened to him and his brother. I have confirmed with him that all information he has given to me has also been provided to the Garda.

In 1992, as a teenager this man was raped by a member of the Provisional IRA who was using his family’s home as a safe house. The Provisional IRA member's use of the house was facilitated by a person who has been a Sinn Féin elected representative in Louth for over a decade. In response to the abuse, the young man fled his home. It was a decade later when his much younger brother told him that he too had been raped by the same man. After their father contacted the local Sinn Féin representative, Pearse McGeogh, in 2002 the Provisionals again commenced their sinister internal investigation procedures. The brothers were summonsed to a meeting involving the same man who was in charge of the internal investigation in the Maíria Cahill case and other investigations by IRA-Sinn Féin. This is a person who has held a senior position in Sinn Féin. Councillor McGeogh was also at this internal investigation meeting. There is corroboration from people other than the victims that this internal IRA investigation took place. Three days later, the Provisional IRA's designated "clean up" man said the abuser admitted what he had done to them and he also admitted abusing one other child in another house. The brothers were given three choices, namely, that the IRA would execute him; it would bring him to them to deal with him; or it would expel him. Obviously, the brothers wanted no hand, act or part in any murder. This rapist was exiled from the country, but there was no possibility allowed for him to be handed over to the legitimate forces of justice in our country. This was 2002, five years after the permanent ceasefire and in the jurisdiction of this State. The boys were offered the services of a Provisional movement-approved therapist. Due to the profound and ongoing impact that the rapes and the IRA inquiry had on the brothers, the case did not disappear as the local Provisional IRA and Sinn Féin representatives would have liked. Only in 2008 did their local Sinn Féin Deputy and councillor advise that the Garda should be informed. However, neither of these men nor any other person in the movement has given their support to the brothers. No one in the movement ever actually went to the Garda to inform it of the abuse or to corroborate the facts they know to be true.

These are not isolated cases; they are the tip of an iceberg. I understand that as many as 28 victims are now discussing how to have the truth of what happened to them acknowledged. Many more remain scared of the power and reach of a movement which retains iron discipline. As with abuse in other areas, it is also increasingly clear that there was enough information over the course of many years for this abuse to at least be acknowledged. For example, in 2000 there were reports of the abuse of girls by a Provisional IRA activist and efforts to cover this up. The director of Foyle Women’s Aid in Derry spoke nine years ago about how men involved in the Provisional IRA and community restorative justice, CRJ, had "cleaned-up" a gang-rape scene. Women’s Aid in Derry and Belfast were told at the same time that they would only have cases referred to them by the CRJ if a commitment was given not to tell the police. Even the international monitoring commission was concerned enough to comment on the CRJ’s behaviour in 2006. Of course, much, much more was known within the Provisional IRA and, as the conclusive evidence shows, within Sinn Féin.

There is no doubt that there was and remains a cover-up within the Provisional movement. At every stage the sole priority has been to protect the movement and, in doing so, to deny real justice to victims and refusing to end the culture of impunity within which the abuse grew. Last November, when I stated there were many cases of child abuse within the Provisional movement, a succession of Sinn Féin leaders emerged to attack me, both the old leadership and the "new faces". Deputy Pearse Doherty said it was "unfounded..untrue..disgraceful" and "new ground in terms of lowness". Deputy Mary Lou McDonald said it was "cynical" and causing distress. Deputy Gerry Adams said: "Micheál Martin is completely out of order. A new low."

In recent weeks both the leader and deputy leader of Sinn Féin have accepted that my allegation was right. Under the force of evidence, they have both admitted that abuse within communities controlled by the Provisional movement was systematically dealt with in the movement and kept away from the justice system. They have said that the movement handled these cases. Neither of them has said that they got this information since November, so they were clearly deliberately not telling the truth back then. They have, of course, advanced arguments to try and justify what happened while pretending not to justify it.

The basic point about the Provisional IRA-Sinn Féin cover-up of abuse is that it was not something accidental. It was not some unfortunate and unacknowledged secret; it was a standard operating procedure within the movement, directed from the top and enforced at every level. The discipline and public image of the movement came first, and non-co-operation with the justice system was an absolute principle. Deputy Adams is on the record as having supported this policy. He is also on the record, in his own words, as having participated in a 20 year cover-up of abuse. In January 1995, he told supporters in north Belfast there were counsellors who could deal with issues of child and drug abuse. He said: "The RUC are not acceptable and, indeed, are using these issues for their own militaristic ends." These chilling words are reflected in his own actions and is exactly what happened to the victims I have met.

4 o’clock

Every single person who has gone public with an allegation of abuse or murder against the Provisional movement in the years since has at some point been attacked as having a political agenda, being in the hands of the "securocrats" or been involved in criminal activity. There is no exception to this. Every single victim and family member who exposed it has been attacked or undermined.

Since Sinn Féin finally admitted the widespread nature of abuse within the movement to which it remains a full and loyal part, its members have continued to offer excuses for what happened. The most common is the idea that there was effectively nothing else that could be done because of the lack of public faith in policing. This is untrue on many levels. First of all, the principal reason people would not go to the police is because they knew that they and their families would be subject to immediate and brutal reprisals by the movement. Just like the Mafia, its so-called protection of an area was always based on excluding all other options and demanding obedience.

There is also the fact that its behaviour was the same south of the Border. An Garda Síochána is and always has been a legitimate, democratic, civic policing service, yet when Provisional IRA men abused children in Louth and elsewhere, the Garda was kept away and the cover-up was imposed. This behaviour continued past the ceasefires, past the Good Friday Agreement, past the establishment of the Northern Executive, and it has continued to this day.

Professor Liam Kennedy's report, They Shoot Children Don't They?, has revealed some of the scale of what was involved. Between 1990 and 2013, some 251 children were shot or beaten by the Provisionals. He stated that Sinn Féin centres acted as co-ordinating centres for human rights abuses against children. In addition, he showed that many of these measures happened in addition to police and judicial action - they were not a replacement for a community which supposedly refused to report anything. The Irish Newssums it up well in its editorial today by stating:

Anyone tempted to support this savagery needs to think about living in a society where armed gangs arrange to meet their chosen victim then shoot them in cold blood.

There can be no ambivalence about this issue.

What we are dealing with is pure barbarity which too often goes unpunished by the legitimate forces of law and order. That also needs to change.
Deputy Adams and the rest of the Sinn Féin leadership have repeatedly used the phrase "we call on anyone with information to come forward". This formula might fool some people but it is nothing but another cynical manoeuvre to pretend to do something while continuing to protect the movement. A party almost unique in Europe for the scale of its discipline has been using this line for seven years. However, no matter how often it calls on its members to come forward and help the police, no one ever does. Sinn Féin claims to have expelled 13 members for witnessing Robert McCartney's brutal murder. It also claims to want people to go to the police, yet why has Sinn Féin not given the evidence it used for expelling these people to the police?

Deputies Adams and McDonald have said that the Provisional IRA ran its own set of internal courts in order to keep abuse cases within the community. They clearly have good sources for this. Why have they not given any information to the Garda or the PSNI? The Sinn Féin Parliamentary Party has people in it who, unlike Deputy Adams, admit to their Provisional IRA past. If Deputies Adams and McDonald knew about the abuse and the cover-ups, surely they do? Why have they not been able to bring forward any information to help even a single victim?

Of course, Deputy Adams's apologists repeatedly say, and no doubt will say once again today, that he gave evidence against his brother in court. The effort to portray him as taking action to support his niece is an obscene distortion of what actually happened. To describe him as helpful to the case is testament to how low some people will go in protecting him.

The facts of the Áine Adams case have been established and admitted by Deputy Adams. He has admitted that he was told in 1987 about the abuse and that he believed it. His brother confessed to the abuse, yet it took 20 years and repeated efforts by the police before Deputy Adams gave any information. As was shown in the first trial, he said as little as possible as late as possible. He was, in the words of the counsel, mainly interested in saving his "political neck". In direct opposition to what Sinn Féin claims, nothing he said helped Liam Adams to be convicted because he was not a witness at the trial in which his brother was convicted.

Deputy Adams and his apologists continue to respond with fake outrage and claims of personal hurt. It may have worked once, but it has gone on too long and the evidence is too overwhelming. In 20 years he did nothing to help his abused niece except tell the social services that she had head lice and lived in a dirty house. He actively tried to talk her out of taking a case to the police. Even worse, he stood by as his brother moved between jobs in west Belfast and Louth where he, an admitted child abuser, worked with children.

Deputy Adams has offered various and contradictory accounts. He claimed he did not know where his brother was even though he was working in his constituency and he gave a warm dedication to him in his biography. His claim to have had Liam Adams removed from a job in west Belfast has been contradicted by the organisation which employed him.

Perhaps the most fundamental point is that Deputy Adams and his party appear to reject the core moral and legal obligation on any person who has any knowledge of child abuse - the obligation to immediately report this to the legal authorities. Deputy Adams reported nothing about an abuse case he knew about for 20 years until he was dragged into court. It was two years after the first contact with the PSNI before he admitted that his brother had confessed to him.

The Provisional IRA and Sinn Féin cover up has too many dimensions to go into them all today, but we should note the sheer number of times that figures acknowledged as Sinn Féin representatives have turned up in these cases. The most striking example of this is Pádraic Wilson, someone Deputy Adams continues to refer to as a "decent man". Pádraic Wilson was a leader of the Provisional IRA in the Maze. He was twice temporarily released to attend Provisional IRA conventions. When he was released under licence, Mr. Gerry Kelly, MLA, was at the gate to greet him and hail him as a movement hero. After his release, Pádraic Wilson assumed an active role in enforcing Provisional IRA justice and close to the Northern leadership of Sinn Féin. He is a consistent thread in many of the stories from the last decade and a half. He was involved in the investigation into the abuse of Maíria Cahill. He was involved in the investigation into the rape of brothers in Louth and other cases, yet Sinn Féin has gone to extraordinary lengths to protect Pádraic Wilson. When he was first arrested, Sinn Féin threatened to withdraw support for policing unless he was released. It held demonstrations on his behalf and stated without qualification that he had no case to answer. There is no doubt that within the Provisional republican movement there remain untouchables.

It is not possible to discuss this issue and ignore the colossal and ongoing hypocrisy of Sinn Féin. Deputy McDonald has in the past spoken in this Chamber attacking the failure to implement faster compulsory reporting of child abuse. The record is full of Sinn Féin Deputies demanding full disclosure and criminal charges for institutional abuse. As if she has no sense of irony, Ms Martina Anderson, MEP, on Monday made a public statement attacking the British Government's failure to prosecute illegal behaviour by British forces. She issued a statement demanding that the British be held to account. In September, Ms Caitríona Ruane, MLA, of Sinn Féin informed the Northern Assembly that there needed to be a strong independent legal inquiry of abuse in the Kincora Boys Home because of the involvement of security forces in covering it up. She also said that a normal inquiry into historical abuse was not enough because it could not compel the production of secret evidence.

This craven hypocrisy gets directly in the way of achieving justice on issues such as the Dublin and Monaghan bombings and the Bloody Sunday murders. Why should the British feel pressure when they hear demands from people who talk about accountability but never demonstrate it themselves - people who call for co-operation with the police but never help the police? It remains the fact that our Government is the only actor in the peace process that has been willing to be fully open and transparent about darker part of the recent violence. The Provisional IRA-Sinn Féin continues to believe that truth and accountability are things to be demanded from other people.

I feel I must also respond to Deputy Adams's effort last Friday to again claim that the Provisional IRA is indistinguishable from the organisation which secured our independence. Sinn Féin's campaign to falsify our history by claiming continuity from a genuine republican movement which secured sustained popular legitimacy shows its continued cynicism. If ever there was a movement which acted against the 1916 Proclamation's demand that republicans not dishonour their cause, it is the Provisional movement.

They have no right to call themselves republicans and it is time for people to stand up against their falsification of republican history.

The abuse of children by the Provisional IRA was widespread. There was a culture of covering it up which continues to this day. Anyone who played a part in the many negotiations of the peace process has stories of Sinn Féin issuing direct or implied threats of the process being in danger because of police action. As has been seen in the Padraic Wilson case, and in Deputy Adams’s own arrest, Sinn Féin has no problem threatening to withdraw consent from policing when it wants to. No matter how non-political a criminal action was, the Provisional IRA and its political representatives in Sinn Féin have demanded that they be viewed as political and an attack on the peace process.

In the case of the four people, including Padraic Wilson, charged in connection with Maíria Cahill’s case, there is, unfortunately, concern over the prosecution service’s behaviour. Concerns about the PPS need to be addressed. The PPS itself has concerns and has requested Sir Keir Starmer to review this case. We know from two other victims that they are concerned about how the case was handled by the service. The complete failure of the system to find and prosecute any of the abusers or those who covered the abuse up in the Provisional IRA’s own system is a gross indictment and raises many legitimate questions. This is why there must now be a strong, legally empowered commission of inquiry into abuse within the provisional republican movement. There is no other way of getting to the truth of what happened and, equally, there is no other way of helping the victims.

Martin McGuinness's proposal is nothing but a smokescreen. It would not have the power to compel evidence and it would be subject to political oversight.

When I proposed to Government the establishment of a commission of inquiry into institutional abuse, there were many who questioned whether it would help. No one says this now. The Ryan commission was part of a process which enabled survivors to begin healing by telling their stories. In some cases, where this was possible, abusers were exposed and charged.

The inspiring women of Goldenbridge fought for many years to be believed. I recall my meeting with Ms Christine Buckley well over a decade ago when I was Minister for Education. She told me how they had suffered in silence and then they suffered again as they had to struggle against a system which just wanted to move on. She looked me in the eye at the end of our first meeting and said, "Please tell me you believe me". It is the same with Maíria Cahill. That is basically what she wants. She wants people to say, "I believe you and I believe you were abused and you were raped". That is fundamentally all she has asked for and people could not do that in an unequivocal manner. In this context, we must do the same as we did in earlier cases.

There was significant and appalling abuse within the provisional republican movement. This abuse was covered up within the movement and continues to be covered up to this day. There are legitimate concerns about the handling of cases and this issue needs to be addressed. We all have to agree that people should not be helped to avoid responsibility in this type of barbaric behaviour. That is why we need an inquiry, North-South, independent and backed up by legislation; nothing else will do.

Let us stand with the victims.  Let us say we believe them. Let us support them in fighting against those who have tried to marginalise and dismiss them. Let us stand for justice and decency against the lies and the cover-ups.

3:10 pm

Photo of Gerry AdamsGerry Adams (Louth, Sinn Fein)
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I am very conscious that many victims of abuse across Ireland are listening to the debate. One in four people has suffered abuse. Many have never disclosed their abuse to anyone. Many have yet to take the first step in recovery to disclose their abuse to a friend, family member, counsellor or garda. Many have been failed by this State.

The recent public discussion around allegations made by Maíria Cahill have also brought very sharply into public focus the fact that at a time in the North where large sections of the population did not trust or engage with the RUC, victims of abuse were also failed. A spokesperson for the Belfast Rape Crisis Collective said in 1984:

There are strong and obvious reasons why many women who are raped in the North do not go to the RUC to make a complaint. It must be stressed that even aside from the facts of war and the fact that the legal system has been discredited on many fronts....
The writer goes on to make a different point. In this climate of fear and alienation, many in the nationalist community turned to the IRA to enforce a policing role it was ill-equipped to perform. Others felt unable to seek support or justice from any channel.

IRA volunteers were ordinary men and women. They had no training in dealing with criminality and no resources, legal or judicial or penal, to help respond to or to investigate allegations of anti-social 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. When other warnings, appeals or community interventions failed, the IRA punished offenders. That is a matter of public fact and has been for a very long time. Some criminals, including alleged sex abusers, were shot and expelled. Anecdotal evidence suggests that some went to Britain. Some - and this again is a matter of public record - were resettled by the Northern Ireland Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders and this continues to this day. This project, NIACRO, was supported by the probation service and other statutory bodies and was funded and resourced and gave evidence in Westminster.

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 issues and, for that, I have apologised. In my view, as Uachtarán Shinn Féin, it is right and proper to face up to mistakes or failures, particularly as part of the need to ensure these mistakes are not repeated. The end result of all this is that some survivors of abuse did not get the support they needed nor the justice they deserve. They were failed by the state, by the RUC, by social services and, in some cases, by republicans.

There is very clearly a need for society to deal with this issue. We need to address the failures of the past in the here and now. We must ensure victims are supported, the community safeguarded and abusers dealt with through the legal process. Sinn Féin has sought to deal with the issue in a victim-centred way. There is an onus on all of us here to support all victims of abuse and, as the Taoiseach has acknowledged, the Deputy First Minister, Martin McGuinness, wrote to the First Minister, Peter Robinson, and to the Taoiseach to propose the establishment through the North South Ministerial Council of an all-island process to deal with the issue of support mechanisms for those who were victims of sexual abuse during the conflict. The objective would be to ensure greater access to counselling and other supports for victims and to facilitate victims and survivors in assessing the justice system and making official complaints, if that is what they wish. This would empower all victims and survivors of abuse to fully avail of existing services to get the justice they need and deserve. This needs to be a priority cross-Border initiative added on to the remit of the Government and the northern executive with whatever powers it needs to compel people to be called forward. Sinn Féin and I fully endorse the proposal by the Deputy First Minister, Martin McGuinness.

The priority has to be ensure victims and survivors have professional services, including counselling and therapy, a channel through which complaints can be made to the appropriate statutory agency or police service and the anonymity and confidentiality of victims and survivors if they wish not be identified must be acknowledged and protected. This initiative should also be fully resourced by the executive and by the Irish Government. Surely there is, for all the words that have been said here, agreement in this Dáil on the urgent need for an all-island victim-centred process to ensure greater access to counselling and other supports for those who were victims of sexual abuse and who could not access justice during the conflict or who were failed and let down.

Survivors and victims who come forward to Sinn Féin will be and have been supported in accessing appropriate support services and the appropriate authorities. I have called on former IRA volunteers who have any information whatsoever on the expulsion of abusers to bring that information to the appropriate authorities. We are calling, and I do so again, for everyone with any information whatsoever to come forward, yet Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and Labour have claimed that Sinn Féin is engaged in a cover-up. Let me be clear, as a citizen and a Teachta Dála honoured to represent the people of Louth, I have worked with An Garda Síochána and have given it information on criminality, including allegations of abuse. I also work with the PSNI. I have moved across each state in terms of crime that has been committed in the Border region and I will continue to do so. So, Sinn Féin has not been involved in the charges levelled against it of a cover-up of abuse. Sinn Féin has sought to help and provide advice to those who are at risk and to urge anyone with information to bring it forward.

In the past few weeks, a barrage of malicious allegations have been made against republicans. There is one accusation that most people, including myself, accept: Maíria Cahill was the victim of sexual abuse.

3:20 pm

Photo of Robert DowdsRobert Dowds (Dublin Mid West, Labour)
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All the Deputy's doubts are gone.

Photo of Gerry AdamsGerry Adams (Louth, Sinn Fein)
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I believe her. There are a number of other elements to this case but at its core there is a young woman making an allegation of rape and sexual abuse. As I have said before, all victims and survivors deserve our support in bringing the abuser to justice. The other elements include an allegation that the IRA investigated the allegation of rape. This has now morphed into accusations of a cover-up by Sinn Féin and from that into a charge that we facilitate sex abusers. I reject these charges: they are not true. Amid the tsunami of accusations, especially by the Independent group of newspapers and from the political establishment here, the alleged abuser and rapist, Maíria's uncle, seems to have been forgotten about. Amid it all, the person who is charged with abusing this woman seems to have been disappeared. There is no word about that.

In dealing with these issues, I have been attempting to deal with them as they have been presented to me. On the one hand with compassion and understanding for Maíria and on the other hand robustly and honestly defending myself and Sinn Féin. Let me say clearly, if Sinn Féin or I was at fault, I would accept and acknowledge that but the republicans who played any part in speaking to Maíria Cahill, including myself, state with conviction that our concern was for her welfare. Maíria was advised to seek counselling and to go to the RUC. She was an adult at that time and refused to go to the police. That was her right. She did go to the PSNI in 2010 and following an investigation by the PSNI and a high profile court case those accused were acquitted. The recent BBC "Spotlight" programme subsequently subverted due process in favour of trial by media of Padraic Wilson, Seamus Finucane, Briege Wright, Maura McCrory, Sue Ramsey and Jennifer McCann. These are all decent people. They are upstanding Irish citizens, like the late Siobhan O'Hanlon, Maíria's cousin, and others. They have been smeared in a despicable way. The court acquittals of four of these have either been ignored or devalued by the media and by representatives in this Chamber again today.

The recent publication of letters from Maíria Cahill to Briege Wright demonstrates very clearly that Briege only sought to help and support Maíria. In 2005, Maíria said of Briege: "You mean the world to me. You are kind, compassionate, committed and, above all, you gave me an ear when I needed it". Those are not my words but Maíria Cahill's. The recent political attacks on Jennifer McCann, MLA, an outstanding Minister who has worked tirelessly for the rights of women and children, have been a disgrace. The claim is that Sinn Féin members were involved in a cover-up because they did not disclose to the police against Maíria's wishes. She was an adult when she spoke to some of these people. Others in the media and in political parties, including the leader of the Ulster Unionist Party, Michael Nesbitt, have acknowledged that they knew of these allegations but respected Maíria's wishes and did not inform the police. Are these people now to be included in the definition of cover-up in the calls for inquiries?

The Taoiseach and Fianna Fáil leader and elements of the media have sought to liken the alleged approach of republicans to this case with that of the Catholic Church hierarchy. As I said, we have been accused of a cover-up and of moving the abuser about. No evidence whatsoever has been produced to corroborate these claims.

Photo of Eric ByrneEric Byrne (Dublin South Central, Labour)
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How about the Deputy's brother?

Photo of Gerry AdamsGerry Adams (Louth, Sinn Fein)
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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-----

Photo of Eric ByrneEric Byrne (Dublin South Central, Labour)
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We do not believe you.

Photo of Gerry AdamsGerry Adams (Louth, Sinn Fein)
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-----have no interest in due process or in truth when it comes to me personally or Sinn Féin generally. The Labour Party leader went further today and insulted the entire community of west Belfast, a community I was honoured to represent for decades. Innuendo, insinuation, distortions and untruths are the preferred weapons of choice of the Fianna Fáil leader, the Labour Party leader and the Taoiseach.

At the whim of the Fianna Fáil leader and the Taoiseach there is now a five hour debate around what are described as statements on the allegations regarding sexual abuse by members of the provisional republican movement. I hope this sets a precedent for regular debates on the North. I have been waiting for months for the Taoiseach to honour a promise he made here to bring forward a motion on the British Army killings of citizens in Ballymurphy. I would also point out that despite the contrived outrage and theatrics of the Fianna Fáil leader a number of Fianna Fáil members of his team have approached me privately to say how uncomfortable they are about their leader's behaviour on these issues.

Photo of Regina DohertyRegina Doherty (Meath East, Fine Gael)
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Do you get a lot of that?

Photo of Frances FitzgeraldFrances Fitzgerald (Dublin Mid West, Fine Gael)
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Tell us who they are.

Photo of Eric ByrneEric Byrne (Dublin South Central, Labour)
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Deputy Adams is like a bishop in that everybody confesses to him.

Photo of Seán BarrettSeán Barrett (Dún Laoghaire, Ceann Comhairle)
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Sorry, Deputies.

Photo of Gerry AdamsGerry Adams (Louth, Sinn Fein)
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On 22 October the Taoiseach, according to the renowned human rights lawyer, Peter Madden, set aside the judicial process and ignored the findings of a court of law. An Teachta Regina Doherty has repeated that one-million fold today. The Taoiseach has brought the Dáil and his office into disrepute.


Photo of Gerry AdamsGerry Adams (Louth, Sinn Fein)
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His attitude is in marked contrast to his refusal to deal with legitimate questions as to how his Government Minister dealt with whistleblowers and the file on allegations of tax avoidance by senior Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael-----

Photo of Robert TroyRobert Troy (Longford-Westmeath, Fianna Fail)
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We have heard it all.


Photo of Seán BarrettSeán Barrett (Dún Laoghaire, Ceann Comhairle)
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Please stop the side comments. Thank you.

Photo of Gerry AdamsGerry Adams (Louth, Sinn Fein)
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-----and Progress Democrats politicians. In this instance the Taoiseach rightly said that he would not prejudge but in respect of these cases he has made a judgment and made up his mind.

There has been miles of column inches and acres of outrage about how the IRA dealt with offenders in the community in the North. As I have said before, this was well known. There has been tonnes of media commentary, programmes and, indeed, campaigns against those actions. Martin McGuinness and myself are on the public record of calling in the 1980s for an end to all IRA punishments. For Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and Labour Party politicians to feign surprise or to express bogus outrage at these actions, years after they occurred, exposes their lack of honesty or sincerity.

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 so as well as listening to what the Government has had to say on this matter, let us look at what it has done on these issues.

In his eagerness to exploit this issue and to smear me and Sinn Féin, the Taoiseach claims that sex offenders were moved to Dublin, Donegal and Louth. I have no knowledge of these claims. Has the Taoiseach given whatever information he has - he makes the charge - to the Garda? Has an Teachta Martin done so?

3:30 pm

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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Photo of Gerry AdamsGerry Adams (Louth, Sinn Fein)
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Sinn Féin is committed to dealing with all the legacy issues arising from the conflict in the North and the Government is also obliged to deal with these under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement and the other agreements in an appropriate way. Any measure that would bring truth and closure to victims of abuse would be welcomed by me.

As we address this difficult issue, we should also not lose sight of the fact that there is an unprecedented level of duplicity in the attitude, particularly of Fianna Fáil and of its leadership. A succession of damning reports, including the Ryan commission report, the Ferns inquiry report, the Cloyne report and the Murphy report and the scandal of the Magdalen laundries and the Bethany Home all exposed the extent to which the Catholic hierarchy and the Irish State and successive Governments made up of Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and the Labour Party were involved in the institutional abuse of tens of thousands of children over decades or in the cover up of this abuse.

Photo of Seán BarrettSeán Barrett (Dún Laoghaire, Ceann Comhairle)
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Sorry, Deputy, you would want to be very careful about making accusations and about making charges.


Photo of Seán BarrettSeán Barrett (Dún Laoghaire, Ceann Comhairle)
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I am in the Chair and I am applying Standing Orders. You cannot make charges without backing them up. You cannot make a general statement that any party, irrespective of which it is, is charged with wrongdoing. Please remember that.

Photo of Gerry AdamsGerry Adams (Louth, Sinn Fein)
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Thank you, a Cheann Comhairle.

Photo of Seán BarrettSeán Barrett (Dún Laoghaire, Ceann Comhairle)
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If you have any doubt about it, I would refer you to Standing Order 59. It is worth reading.

Photo of Gerry AdamsGerry Adams (Louth, Sinn Fein)
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Thank you, a Cheann Comhairle.

It was also a Fianna Fáil Minister who did a deal with the 18 Irish religious orders, allegedly involved in child sexual abuse scandals, which severely limited their compensation liability to these victims of abuse.

Sinn Féin, in particular an Teachta Aengus Ó Snodaigh, has campaigned for many years for an all-Ireland sex offenders register. An Teachta Ó Snodaigh has raised this issue in this Chamber many times with various Ministers but it is still outstanding.

The Taoiseach said the Government has done more for children than any other Government in the history of this State, but when it comes to supporting the victims of domestic violence and of rape, this Government has an appalling record. Since it assumed office in 2011, funding for rape crisis centres, women's aid refuges and other support groups has been slashed. Safe Ireland and other agencies providing support for women's groups have consistently highlighted the fact that each year hundreds of women and children cannot access refuges because of the lack of funding, and I have raised this with the Taoiseach many times. The Fine Gael-Labour Party Government promised in its programme for Government that it would introduce consolidated domestic violence legislation to protect victims. Almost four years after it was elected, that has not happened. Most significantly, the Taoiseach he has failed to sign up to the European Convention on Preventing and Combatting Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence, and I have raised this with him many times.

The recent figures from the Child and Family Agency reveal a major shortfall in the number of social workers with responsibility for caring for children. This represents a failure on the part of Government to fulfil its commitment and responsibility. The report by the independent child death review group, published two years ago, was a chilling indictment of child protection systems that repeatedly failed to save children from abuse and, in some cases, from death. Page after page of this report recorded the lives and deaths of one young person after another, and with each conclusion it is clear the child protection system failed time after time on the Taoiseach's watch. The ICDRG report provides a disturbing and harrowing insight into the schematic failure of the Irish State's child protection system between 2000 and 2010. It is also a damning reflection on the previous Government which failed to use the wealth of the boom years of the Celtic tiger to invest in child protection services and strategies. The responsibility for these failures rests with these parties; they failed victims. While we cannot change the past, we have a responsibility to redress and address it to try to make things better in the future.

As I said at the beginning of my remarks, there is a need to resolve this matter through the relevant authorities, North and South. This should have been an option for all cases in the past. I made an appeal for information two weeks ago, and since that appeal, I have received information from a republican source in relation to these matters. It came to me anonymously, and while I cannot vouch for it, I do not doubt its authenticity. That is not a matter of judgment for me, however, so I have passed this information on to An Garda Síochána. I appeal again to anyone with any information to come forward. If, or when, I receive any other information, I will also give this to the Garda.

The Irish and the British Governments and all political parties have a responsibility to deal with this legacy. Victims and survivors have the right to truth and justice, and aside from this issue of abuse, there is a need to establish a genuine truth recovery process. Other post-conflict societies have successfully used such processes to deal with these issues, and again I have raised this many times with the Taoiseach in this Chamber. The Haass proposals provide a viable mechanism for this to happen, and again there is a responsibility on all of us, but especially on the Irish Government, to agree and advance those proposals.

Victims and survivors include those who were subject to sexual abuse, threat and exploitation, whether by individuals who were members of the state forces or non-state combatant groups, including the IRA, or any other individuals. Survivors of sexual abuse and rape deserve acknowledgement, support and justice. Perpetrators of abuse need to be subject to the law and brought before the courts.

I wish Maíria Cahill well. I hope she finds happiness and has happiness and completeness in her life. I hope she gets justice and that her alleged abuser is brought to justice. I also hope the Government acts on the proposals Sinn Féin has brought forward. The Taoiseach said he welcomes the letter from the Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, so let us act on that. These issues are bigger than party politics or the next election.

I am sure all the Deputies present who are lucky enough to have families love and cherish their families. Many of them have had family tragedies. I know that all those here - taking them at face value - would do their best to protect their children. That is the instinct of the vast majority of human beings. It is the same for Sinn Féin members, Sinn Féin representatives and Sinn Féin voters.

Let me say, and this is not part of my scripted remarks, speaking personally and on behalf of my wider family as well as my close family, 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. I was told the rule in the South in politics and in this Dáil was that none of this should be taken personally, that none of this is personal. That is what we were told. The person who will offend one in the Chamber will sidle up to one outside and ask if one is okay. There is nothing more personal than the remarks some Deputies have made here today. I suppose I should not judge them on what they say in this particular debate as we will all be judged on what we do to protect children and the rights of women.

3:40 pm

Photo of Ruth CoppingerRuth Coppinger (Dublin West, Socialist Party)
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I welcome Maíria Cahill to the Dáil today. I commend her courage in coming here and in asserting her integrity over the past few months. I utterly deplore those alleged republicans who have sought to denigrate her stand.

I wish to deal with the disgraceful treatment of Maíria Cahill by members of the institutions of the IRA. The approach of the Socialist Party and the Anti-Austerity Alliance is the vindication of Maíria Cahill and the protection of victims of abuse first and foremost. This is in contrast to those sections of the political establishment and of the billionaire-owned media who have utilised the criminal abuse and victimisation of women and children primarily to deal a blow against their political adversaries Sinn Féin. The shameful actions and cover-up by members of Sinn Féin and the IRA is the same type of cover-up that we have seen again and again in this State under the political control for decades of Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and the Labour Party. For example, there is a Government redress scheme for survivors of symphysiotomy, women who have had their bodies butchered but it is a without-fault liability scheme which the women do not support. That is the way the Government has treated women.

The actions of Sinn Féin and the IRA in the treatment of Maíria Cahill then and now are reprehensible, including by Deputies and high profile members of Sinn Féin. I have a tweet dated 3 November by a Sinn Féin member in my area, Dublin West, which reads: "#dubw,@sinnfeinireland poll rating 26%. Post anti SF fest". It is tagged to Maíria Cahill. That is utterly disgraceful. It continues “Fair to pointt [sic] out majority accept SF position on this issue”. That kind of thing, which adds to a rape victim’s horror, should be utterly condemned by Sinn Féin. Faced with serious allegations it is clear that Sinn Féin moved, at the expense of the victim, to cover up and circle the wagons for its party. Sinn Féin’s priority was not the abuse or the victim, it was to prevent the victim from publicly speaking with other women which she was doing at the time. In so doing it covered up rape and sexual abuse just as the church did and it is totally unacceptable.

How should rape victims be treated when an allegation like this comes to light? They should be listened to and not disbelieved. They should be supported and encouraged to avail of counselling and they should be free, if they choose, to go to the police or the authorities to prosecute the case. That is their choice. My understanding is that was the choice of Maíria Cahill and her family at that time and she should have been supported in that. It is absolutely true that there were difficulties in Catholic working class communities in going to the RUC. That, however, was the choice of the Cahill family. It is very difficult for any rape victim to go to the police. According to a report we saw today, one in seven rape victims reported that they did not feel they were treated properly by the gardaí. It is not compulsory to insist that victims do that but they should be supported if they choose to. An alleged abuser should immediately be suspended from any organisation. That was not done in this case. The person should be removed from contact with women and young people. Incredibly, Sinn Féin members and the IRA grilled and interrogated the victim, and used subtle threats to prevent her going to the RUC.

Sinn Féin’s defence all through, and that of loyalist paramilitaries, has been that they had to police working class communities, that there was a void in the policing system because the people did not trust the police. I contend that the methods of paramilitarism, of secret armies, mitigate against women and against working class people having any democratic rights or say in the process. The paramilitaries acted as self-appointed judge, jury and executioners, in many cases. How does a decision not to approach a discredited RUC justify a victim being brought on her own, without any support and against her wishes, and forced to confront her own attacker? How would the lack of policing in an area justify that behaviour? It is completely unjustifiable and should be condemned. It is outrageous treatment of any woman.

In our society there is an inbuilt economic and social inequality for women. There is a rape culture which often justifies rape, blames the victim and seeks to disbelieve women. I call on Sinn Féin now to acknowledge that Maíria Cahill was raped, to admit that her treatment was completely wrong, to take action against party members who harass her on-line and I call for the reopening of her case and of all other sexual crimes which it is clear were not properly investigated. I believe that is why Maíria Cahill withdrew her case.

There are many other issues we could touch on in this debate, other sexual crimes that need to be investigated, such as the Kincora scandal, the role of the PSNI and of both governments whom it also suited to cover up this crime at the time in order to bring Sinn Féin into the peace process. We need to recognise that this woman was mistreated, that it should not have happened and that Sinn Féin should take action and own up.

Photo of Paul MurphyPaul Murphy (Dublin South West, Socialist Party)
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I also pay tribute to Maíria Cahill for her bravery in coming forward as a victim of sexual abuse. The shame and tragedy is that none of the institutions that could have or should have acted in the interests of the victim did so. The IRA did not. When it acted to cover up the crime of one of its members, when it acted to confront a victim with her abuser, when it moved abusers into different jurisdictions it was not acting in the interests of the victims. The British State did not act either. On the one hand, it wanted to use Maíria and other victims to prosecute people for membership of the IRA, which is an entirely separate question, and on the other, elements of the British State wanted these allegations and cases to go away, supposedly to protect the peace process. The establishment parties in the South have not acted in the interests of Maíria or other victims, by using this issue in the way that they have to strike political blows and as a political stick to beat Sinn Féin for purposes that relate entirely to their position in the opinion polls. There is no question that these are the things that must change. The victim should come first and should be at the centre of how we deal with sexual abuse.

There is no question that sexual abuse is horrifically rife in the South and the North, right across our societies. In the North it is not just the IRA that was guilty or had sexual abusers within its ranks. There are horrific stories of abuse and cover-up amongst loyalist paramilitaries. The role that the British State played in the Kincora Boys' Home scandal is outrageous and a cover-up continues of the systematic abuse and rape of young boys by senior Unionists. The British State in the form of the RUC and MI5 was entirely aware of it and used that knowledge not to prosecute those people for abuse but to use them for its own ends.

The members of the IRA are not the only ones who are guilty, but they are guilty in this instance. That guilt should be accepted. It is welcome that it is has been accepted that Maíria Cahill was abused. She was also subjected to a second abuse. I refer to how the investigation process was conducted. She was confronted by her abuser and there was a cover-up of what happened. Instead of an acceptance of what happened, different stories have been put about by the republican movement. One story that has been put about in the North and on social media points towards victim-blaming. Atrocious remarks have been made on social media. I refer also to the baiting of Maíria Cahill and the attacks on her character. Many people will have seen the sharing by prominent Sinn Féin members of a blog that outrageously asked whether this was "possibly a year-long clandestine sexual relationship between these two people". There is no phrase for that other than victim-blaming. It should be condemned, as should the other things that have gone on, and continue to go on by means of word of mouth at this time, on social media.

The other main story or response is the idea that there was no alternative. It has been suggested that the attitudes of working-class communities and particularly Catholic communities in the North to the RUC, which were absolutely understandable and based on the reality of experience, meant that the IRA had no option other than to engage in this process, which ultimately turned into a cover-up. There was an alternative and there is an alternative, which is to be supportive of Maíria Cahill's choices, including her right to choose to go to the police while understanding the reasons many women would choose not to do so. Rather than relying on an unaccountable army as judge, jury and executioner, a democratic, open, community-based and victim-centred approach should have been taken. That alternative existed and it still exists. We need an acknowledgment not just that Maíria Cahill is telling the truth about the abuse she suffered and the cover-up to which she was subjected, but also that these things happened, that they were wrong and that they will not happen again in the future.

I will conclude by proposing that all historical cases of child abuse and sexual abuse should now be properly investigated, with prosecutions against perpetrators and all those accused of covering up such abuse.

3:50 pm

Photo of Finian McGrathFinian McGrath (Dublin North Central, Independent)
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I thank the Ceann Comhairle for giving me an opportunity to contribute to this important debate on allegations of sexual abuse. I join my colleagues in welcoming Maíria Cahill to the Dáil. The theme of this debate should always be about the victims and the urgent need to support them in a compassionate, caring and professional manner. The victims and survivors have to be the priority. They must get the support of all Members of this House, regardless of politics. This should be practical and embedded in best practice in the new and modern Ireland.

We have to learn from the huge mistakes of the past, particularly in regard to the church. We also have to learn that cover-ups never work because the truth will always come out. The key word with regard to these allegations, many of which are horrific, is "truth". It is important to say during this debate that anyone who deliberately covered up - I use the word "deliberately" in a careful manner - will have to take the consequences. Regardless of whether one is a republican, a Unionist, a Fine Gael Party member, an Independent, a Fianna Fáil Party member or a Sinn Féin Party member, one should give the maximum support to survivors of child sexual abuse. There can be no surrender on that core principle.

We need more than talk during today's debate. In offering my support to Maíria Cahill and her family, I wonder whether she is getting enough practical support from the authorities North and South. I am hearing stories of financial problems and accommodation problems. If they are correct, and I believe they are, why is Ms Cahill not getting the practical support she deserves as a right? I believe she was raped as a minor. The professionals need to be more involved in this case. The State needs to intervene to assist and heal in that process. There are other cases as well. All of the victims of child sexual abuse need proper supports. There can be no fudge on this matter.

I support the idea of a cross-Border commission comprising people with expertise along the lines of the Laffoy, Ryan and Murphy commissions. It is important to say that those involved should be independent non-political experts with no agenda other than getting to the truth and supporting the victims. That should be the key aspect of any commission. We need to take it out of the hands of politicians. I believe that is what the public wants as well. People want a thorough and objective assessment of the allegations. They do not want us to play politics. They want to know about the role of the State and the authorities on either side of the Border. Were rape victims further abused to get at people for political reasons? From the evidence I have seen so far, I believe that to be the case.

I welcome the decision of the Public Prosecution Service for Northern Ireland to ask Keir Starmer, QC for England and Wales, to conduct a review of the prosecutorial systems and processes in regard to three interlinked cases involving sexual abuse. I warmly welcome that review as I feel it is one of the best ways to deal with these allegations in a fair and impartial manner. I am aware that it is not politically trendy or popular for me to mention in the context of today's debate that I still believe in old-fashioned due process and the right of all citizens to get a fair and impartial hearing. As legislators, we should never turn on backs on that system, warts and all. This debate will be hollow if these three victims - perhaps there are many more - do not receive compassionate and practical help, particularly from the Government and the authorities in the North and the South.

We need to ensure support agencies like the Rape Crisis Centre are given assistance. They should not have to face more cutbacks like those they have endured over the last 12 months. The Dublin Rape Crisis Centre, for example, had its budget cut from €1.3 million to €1 million in 2014. It costs €1.8 million to run the service. The centre currently needs 12 psychotherapists to run its service. Even though its therapy team was cut by 33%, it managed to deliver 3,211 sessions to victims. It is important to note in this context that just one person in ten reports the crime of sexual abuse. According to Safe Ireland, some 3,470 requests for refuge could not be met in 2012. This is another scandal in this broader debate. The Government needs to ensure these services are restored to all rape victims.

I do not think we should forget the Louise O'Keeffe case or the other 44 victims of sexual abuse who were treated terribly by this State and its authorities. There are many other cases. The family of Shane Tuohey have had to put up with the grave injustice of his case for the last few years. We need to end all the talk. We need to focus on the victims of rape and give them the support they deserve. We also need to focus on the culprit and on offenders generally. Too much of this debate has taken its eye off the ball. The two main issues - the victim and the rapist - were not really discussed. By playing politics with these two key aspects of the matter, we turn people off and distract from the two core issues. My priority is the victim, or the victims in other cases. They have to get our support.

5 o’clock

The justice system should sort out the offender and get on with meting out justice. I want to live in an Ireland where the victims of sexual abuse are believed, supported and cared for and the abusers are dealt with in a strong and effective manner by our justice system. That system has let victims down. This must change soon.

I welcome Maíria Cahill to the Dáil and hope that, as a result of this debate, we all learn a lesson.

4:00 pm

Photo of Maureen O'SullivanMaureen O'Sullivan (Dublin Central, Independent)
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Rape is a most terrible crime and appalling violation of a person. It is even more horrifying when the person raped is a child. The consequences of rape can continue for many years, as there is no finite date by which a rape victim can declare they are over it. I am conscious that others who have been raped, who may be in recovery and who are listening to this debate are having their wounds re-opened by it.

One of the most poignant moments in Maíria Cahill's writing concerned the silence. She wrote: "Sexual abuse thrives on secrecy. Silence protests the perpetrators." That is what happened in her case and many others. Those who have been raped have been afraid to speak out. They have been afraid that they will not be believed. They have been afraid that they could be seen to have been asking for it, as it is called, that is, they provoked the rape. This is why it is important to acknowledge the bravery of Maíria and those who speak out and lift the cloak of silence.

The Rape Crisis Centre has revealed that, in 2013, 1% of men and 8% of women who were raped or sexually assaulted reported it to the Garda. Some people who have reported rape and sexual assault were neither raped nor assaulted. This is most unfortunate, but it should never take from the need to report all sexual abuse and violence. Any person of any age, male or female, must feel secure enough to speak out and report rape in the confidence that he or she will be taken seriously, the matter will be investigated appropriately by the proper authorities, there will be adequate supports, due process will be followed and justice will be done. There can be no protection of those who rape.

As the Catholic Church had to face its demons, so too must the republican movement. The commission of investigation into the Catholic archdiocese of Dublin found its preoccupations until the mid-1990s were "the maintenance of secrecy, the avoidance of scandal, the protection of the reputation of the Church, and the preservation of its assets". Does this apply to the provisional movement also? There has to be an independent investigation or commission into its role, just in the same way the Catholic Church was investigated, in the interests of justice for those who were raped and assaulted and to ensure that the good people in the church and the republican movement are not tainted by the actions of a few people.

The republican movement must answer these questions, but so must the policing authorities in the North and its justice system. Someone who was assaulted and raped was not confident enough of bringing that assault to them because they were sectarian, biased or whatever other reason was used. It was in that context that the kangaroo courts appeared. These so-called courts are not the way to deal with rape and sexual assault regardless of what we are told about the circumstances in the North that led to them being established.

Maíria Cahill's story makes for very grim reading. The way her rape was considered and dealt with went against all of the procedures that would be considered appropriate. She had to face her rapist and the rape was investigated by those with no skills or training in dealing with rape situations. People basically took the law into their own hands and did what the Catholic Church had been condemned for doing, including moving the perpetrator around. This latter procedure meant that other individuals and communities were at risk. How many young and older people listening now were raped or assaulted by a person or persons who had already raped and assaulted and, instead of being brought to justice, were simply moved to another place? The condemnation of the church for doing this has to be applied to any other group or organisation that did likewise. The procedure of moving the perpetrator meant there was a risk of re-offending, given what we know of the recidivist nature of abuse, especially child abuse. It deprived the person raped or assaulted of justice and the perpetrator of being assigned to a programme or counselling to confront the abuse that he or she had been committing. What happened to Maíria Cahill and others in the North was appalling. It was made even more so by the way it was handled and by the fact that perpetrators were given space and opportunity to offend again.

One of the poems that Yeats wrote in his later life referred to a story that Maud Gonne told him about something that "changed [her] childish day to tragedy". There is no doubt that Maíria Cahill's childish days were turned to tragedy, as indeed were the days of anyone else who was raped. Rape changes everything for the person raped. It affects many aspects of the person's life and deprives people of much that they should be able to enjoy. It has led to commitment and relationship difficulties, addiction and even suicide. It affects their loved ones, the people who are trying to support them. Whatever relief or release for them is gained by bringing the perpetrators to justice has been denied in this instance. We cannot allow rapists to go free to rape again. Today is about those involved taking real responsibility for and facing up to their actions.

Photo of Patrick O'DonovanPatrick O'Donovan (Limerick, Fine Gael)
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I welcome the opportunity to contribute. In the short time I have been a Member of the House, the past two hours have probably been the most difficult. There is a person in the Visitors Gallery who has been subjected to a type of violation, violence and disgusting abuse over a period that none of us can appreciate. I certainly cannot. In recognising our lack of appreciation of what she has gone through, we must consider what has been done in the name of the organisation that carried out the heinous act in the first place.

I ask the new generation of Sinn Féin Deputies, many of whom I rate as decent and respectable people, to look at themselves in the course of this debate. Some are parents, which is something that I became recently. If they had daughters or sons who returned home and said that they were raped and brought before the persons who raped them to account for what happened at a particular moment, how would the Deputies feel? That is to what this issue boils down. Undoubtedly, the scattergun deflection tactics of the party's leadership will not change. His speech that we just heard proves the point. However, the newer generation must take responsibility. After Maíria Cahill, there will be another Maíria Cahill. As sure as night follows day, more people will come forward about what happened to them and how they were treated in the same fashion. On "Morning Ireland", Deputies Mac Lochlainn, Tóibín, Pearse Doherty and, most surprisingly and astonishingly in light of her comments in the House, McDonald defended the indefensible. The next victim will come forward. Deputy Martin alluded to two brothers from County Louth. What will those Deputies say then? What formula of words will the Sinn Féin research office come up with to protect them?

The Deputies have a choice to make. Do they believe Maíria Cahill or do they believe their leadership? If they believe what Maíria Cahill has said is true and have no issue with it, they obviously cannot believe the other side of the story. Will they choose to continue supporting it? There will be more victims. When the history of church abuse first came to light, what started as a trickle turned into a flood. The Deputies have a duty and obligation to their families and their consciences because, after politics, they will have to live with themselves. There is no other political institution or party in the world in which blind loyalty would take precedence over the truth.

Deputy Adams used the word "chilling" in his statement.

Chilling is how I would refer to the comment made in America last week that was directed at the staff, journalists and management of the Independent News and Media Group newspapers. Deputy Adams decided to liken himself or his mob to the late General Michael Collins. I remember as a young fellow watching the political debate in 1987 between Lloyd Bentsen and Dan Quayle. Senator Quayle was standing for election as Vice President of the United States at the time and went on to win - Deputy Adams also may well win this debate - but he likened himself to John F. Kennedy. Lloyd Bentsen said:

Senator, ... I knew Jack Kennedy. [He] was a friend of mine. ... you are no Jack Kennedy.
Deputy Adams, you are no Michael Collins and to drag him into this matter and to besmirch his reputation in a scatter-gun approach to try to defend the indefensible is beneath contempt. I refer to those who chuckled and laughed in the Sheraton hotel last week, at $500 a plate, as Deputy Adams made a joke out of intimidating journalists. Members need not agree with journalists, as they give all of us a rough time. They take out each Member individually when they need to and sometimes it is unfair. However, in the recent past in this country, we have seen the life of a woman, Veronica Guerin, being quenched on the Naas Road. That copper-fastened for the people the need to protect the independence of journalism and to make any kind of joke about the independence of journalism or to send heavies over to the headquarters of the Irish Independentto silence them in some sort of quasi-army-like fashion is beneath Deputy Adams. He should use this opportunity to apologise to the staff in the Irish Independentand their families, many of whom are genuinely worried this might actually happen some day. There may be a situation at some point in the future when Deputy Adams's party might be in government and he may very well have the Departments of Children and Youth Affairs, Justice and Equality and Health at his disposal. I will finish as I started, by reiterating that Sinn Féin's new generation of backbenchers have a serious question they must answer, namely, do they believe Deputy Adams or do they believe Maíria Cahill? I know who I believe.

4:10 pm

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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In common with other speakers, I commend Maíria Cahill on having the courage, determination and resilience to come forward and tell her story, particularly so many years after the event. This was a classic case of a young woman suddenly discovering that her youth was taken from her, that she had been used in a callous situation for a political purpose or in this case, for republican purposes, in order to pursue an objective. She was obviously seen and perceived herself as being a casualty of war, which has been referred to in some debates in this Chamber in recent years. Many atrocities have befallen this island over the years from which one wishes to be disassociated. This one is particularly different; it is invidious, insidious and challenges the very foundation of Members' inner beings. There is a suggestion of organised complicity, in the sense that a lot of people obviously knew about this. A lot of people obviously did nothing about it and a lot of people obviously regarded this as a natural thing in what was called a war situation. Reference has been made to republicans of the past and the founding fathers of the State. I must state there was and is a vast difference. At the foundation of the State, a mandate was given to those who were leaders in this country at that time in a general election in 1918. There was no mandate for what happened to Maíria Cahill from any quarter either in the North of Ireland or here in the South. Nobody can complain and shelter under the prospect of there being a mandate or that this was all done in a good cause, the cause of Ireland's freedom. In actual fact, it besmirches those who fought and died for this country's freedom over many years and in particular at the foundation of the State. Incidentally, one suggestion put forward initially was that the sexual abuse was consensual. There is no such thing as consensual sexual activity with a 16 year old. It does not happen because if an adult has sex with a minor, Members know what are the charges. However, knowing that the person is a minor is another particularly horrendous crime in itself.

While this is not a political point, I simply state that the issues facing the IRA and Sinn Féin in this regard are much wider than they themselves think. It is a sad situation when anybody would attempt to make excuses for what happened and which obviously, as is admitted, clearly happened. I refer to making excuses along the lines that have been made, as well as various suggestions and red herrings as to how situations like this could have come about, how certain things did not happen and how there were systems failures. There were no systems failures, as at the time those involved knew full well what they were at. They knew full well what were the implications and that the freedom of a youngster was being taken. This allegedly was being done in the national interest. Like hell it was. The seriousness of this issue goes to the very foundation of the people's revulsion in their attitude to atrocities of this nature. It is worse because attempts have been made to justify it. Attempts have been made to stand over the things that have happened and to create an anonymity around the people who were the culprits. I acknowledge that people have stated in the past that the police in Northern Ireland, the RUC, were legitimate targets in a war situation. It also has been suggested in times gone by that members of the Garda obviously were legitimate targets in this jurisdiction in a war situation. However, this is one step lower and is a completely different situation. I am not aware of any time since the foundation of the State that it ever has been suggested that rape or child abuse could be perceived as a legitimate use or tool in the course of the war, no matter how holy was that war or no matter how justified was the cause. The abuse of women and children cannot be justified in any circumstances and the quicker that all those involved recognise that what was done was utterly and totally appalling, the better. It is not just a political issue but is a crime against humanity. It was a crime against a young person who was in the charge or the influence of an adult and who could not respond and who thought, because of her particular situation, that she was in good, capable and caring hands. She was not.

Photo of Niall CollinsNiall Collins (Limerick, Fianna Fail)
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I welcome the opportunity to take part in this debate, which is of the utmost importance. Moreover, it is in the utmost public interest that Members address the issues before them today. At the outset, I found the BBC "Spotlight" programme to be an excellent piece of public service broadcasting. Huge credit is due to the BBC in terms of pulling together that documentary. A question that has been posed previously but which has not been posed in the Chamber today is that when queries were put by the makers of that programme to both Sinn Féin and the IRA, why were they not responded to in the course of the making of that programme? Members have not heard why this was the case in any of the contributions already made. They may hear later on from some Sinn Féin speakers as to why they refused to co-operate with the makers of the aforementioned programme.

I also note that, like my party leader, I have met Maíria Cahill and found her to be a woman of the utmost integrity, substance and character. She fully deserves to be listened to and to have justice. This is why Members are debating this matter here today and that is why my party and I have been working with her to support her. Members are here for a number of reasons. They are here for justice for Maíria Cahill, as well as the many other people who were abused. They also are here for political accountability, which is not an à la carteprocess. It must be consistent across all political parties and not just some. Moreover, it must be consistent across all individuals as well. Most importantly, Members are here for abused children and for abused women and for vulnerable men who find themselves subject to abuse. Members must be here to give them a voice, to represent them and to speak up for them when they believe they are not being spoken up for or that their characters are being rubbished and trashed in the pursuit of justice. I wish to put on record that I refute and reject the Sinn Féin spin - that has been spun out in this Chamber again today - against my party leader and my party to the effect that Fianna Fáil is seeking to gain some kind of cheap political advantage.

Nothing could be further from the truth. We have been working with Maíria Cahill for over two years. However, those in Sinn Féin did not hear about our involvement during that period. Details of this only emerged when Ms Cahill decided to go public. We did not seek to obtain any cheap political advantage during the past two years. We make no apologies for seeking to represent someone who has a genuine case.

It is time for Sinn Féin to step up and be judged by the same standards that apply to the rest of us rather than seeking to be the subject of some form of different standard. I wish to put a number of questions to Sinn Féin's representatives in this House in the context of taking responsibility. Do they accept Maíria Cahill's account in full or just partially? Does Deputy Adams accept that he, as a public representative, behaved deeply irresponsibly with regard to Ms Cahill? Did Sinn Féin personnel interfere with the operation of the Cahill case when it was before the Public Prosecution Service? Did Sinn Féin-IRA conduct an internal review on this issue in 2005 and, if so, will details of this be forwarded to the relevant independent authorities? How many individuals were moved from Northern Ireland into the South as a result of IRA investigations into sexual abuse? Most important, and this is where responsibility comes into play, in which parishes and in what counties are these individuals now located?

The narrative relating to this debate is quite staggering on a number of levels. I refer, for example, to acquittals. Sinn Féin speakers inform us that the people who are alleged to have committed this abuse were acquitted. They were not acquitted because no court process was undergone. All of this is aimed at casting doubt in people's minds and pouring cold water over the debate on this issue. There have been no court cases and no acquittals. Sinn Féin is engaging in its usual play on words. Then there is the line to the effect that people in Sinn Féin, those in the IRA and the alleged abusers fully co-operated with the police. Some Sinn Féin people made very cleverly crafted, edited and scripted statements through their solicitors. Some of them spoke publicly on this matter in the media in recent weeks and sought in their own clever, legalistic way to discredit Maíria Cahill and others.

We have heard a great deal about whistleblowers. There is major irony in this regard. We heard all about the whistleblower from the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation this morning, and on many previous occasions we have debated the claims made by whistleblowers such as Sergeant Maurice McCabe and former Garda John Wilson. When their character and integrity were questioned by public officials, those in Sinn Féin, like the rest of us, questioned those officials and called them to account. However, that standard was not applied when one of its own whistleblowers, who was once a member of the party, came forward and a campaign to discredit that individual immediately kicked into gear. That is another double standard in the context of how Sinn Féin treats anyone who speaks out against either the organisation of old or the party as it is currently constituted.

Cyberbullying takes many forms. We have all been the subject of abuse from or attacked by the faceless eggheads. I have been attacked and I can take it. However, there are people, including Maíria Cahill, who have been subjected to the vilest form of abuse and attack by members of Sinn Féin. The party is aware that its people are attacking Ms Cahill online but I have not heard anything from it in respect of that matter, nor have I heard the leaders of the party calling on its faceless, egghead keyboard warriors to desist. Of course, bullying does not just taken place online. In the not too distant past, Sinn Féin saw fit to serialise the account of one of the individuals who allegedly abused Maíria Cahill in An Phoblacht. This type of thing takes many forms and can also be found in the print media.

The culture of denial and cover-ups on the part of Sinn Féin is not new. Before I was elected to this House, Detective Garda Jerry McCabe was gunned down in the line of duty in my constituency. Sinn Féin's first response to that event was "Nothing to do with us". The next step in the response was "It was unauthorised". The third step involved taking some form of responsibility for its members being involved. Witnesses were also intimidated in that case. I recall meeting one of those witnesses, namely, a driver for a courier company in Limerick who was visited at his house in the middle of the night by Sinn Féin-IRA people and told not to co-operate with An Garda Síochána or to give evidence with regard to what he had seen. What is happening to Maíria Cahill now represents a continuation of what happened in the days before the Good Friday Agreement was concluded. That is the double standard which applies. Those in Sinn Féin should not come before the House and claim that they must be judged by a different standard while simultaneously acting in a contrasting manner.

Are Sinn Féin and the IRA going to co-operate with the reviews that are ongoing in the North of Ireland? In the context of the attack in which Sinn Féin is engaging with regard to the freedom of the press, I say: lads, you have to live in the real world. We are all subject to media scrutiny, regardless of whether we like it. I reject the comments made by Deputy Adams in the United States of America in respect of newspaper editors. Those in Sinn Féin are trying to make out they are victims and that they are being colluded against. The comments to which I refer were both disgusting and despicable and they should be retracted.

I support my party's call for the establishment of a cross-Border, North-South commission of investigation into the movement of child sex offenders and the covering up of their activities. The second strand of this commission's work should involve an examination of the systematic punishment beatings visited upon children who were forced to move to the South in the wake of the matters under discussion. This commission should be headed up by two suitably qualified individuals, one from the North and the other from the South. In the interests of politics in this country, it is time that the unelected cabal of IRA people in west Belfast seeking either to run or interfere in political affairs in this country ceased its activities. If they are interested in standing up and being counted, the new members of Sinn Féin such as Deputy McDonald and others should not try to impress the faceless cabal of unelected individuals who operate out of west Belfast. Instead, they should represent the people in this jurisdiction who elected them to serve in the Dáil and adhere to the same standards as the rest of us.

4:20 pm

Photo of Alan FarrellAlan Farrell (Dublin North, Fine Gael)
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The next speaker is Deputy O'Dowd. I understand the Deputy is sharing time with Deputy Fitzpatrick.

Photo of Fergus O'DowdFergus O'Dowd (Louth, Fine Gael)
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This is an extremely important debate. Like Deputies Adams and Fitzpatrick and the Minister of State, Deputy Nash, I represent the Louth constituency. We are all aware of the impact, in both human and economic terms, the Troubles in the North had on our constituency from the outset. A cloud will continue to hang over the country until all of the outstanding issues are finally resolved.

Maíria Cahill was in the Visitors Gallery earlier. I did not meet her but I did meet the parents of Paul Quinn who was murdered by members of the IRA in 2007. Mr. Quinn's parents, Bríd and Stephen, are still grievously upset about the appallingly vicious way in which he was murdered. Every bone in Mr. Quinn's body was broken by the thugs who killed him. At this time, I remember Jean McConville, a mother of ten, who was murdered by the IRA in Belfast and who for 31 years was buried in an unmarked grave in my constituency. Mrs. McConville's murder was a terrible, appalling and evil act. I also recall Tom Oliver, a well-known and popular farmer in north County Louth, who was most cruelly and evilly done to death by the IRA.

We should bear in mind all the hooded and tortured bodies buried in Louth, Armagh, Monaghan and other counties, in addition to the Members of the Oireachtas, soldiers and gardaí who died at the hands of the IRA. That is the legacy this country must now deal with.

The fundamental issue today is that a young 16 year old woman, a child, was raped. The perpetrator was allegedly a close family member and the matter was reported at the time to the IRA, of which Deputy Gerry Adams claims never to have been a member. What happened is that the perpetrator was apparently banished to somewhere else. The key issue today concerns whether the victim can have justice. Please God, she can. I welcome the proposals for an inquiry, which have cross-party support.

The appalling abuse perpetrated against Maíria Cahill was perpetrated against others also. The victims had no justice and the perpetrators were driven south. We do not know who the latter are. We know, and Deputy Adams is on the record as having said, although he may correct me if I am wrong, that County Louth was mentioned as one of the counties, as were counties Monaghan, Donegal and-----

4:30 pm

Photo of Gerry AdamsGerry Adams (Louth, Sinn Fein)
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Photo of Fergus O'DowdFergus O'Dowd (Louth, Fine Gael)
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Not at all. That is fair enough.

Photo of Gerry AdamsGerry Adams (Louth, Sinn Fein)
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The Taoiseach sold that scéal.

Photo of Fergus O'DowdFergus O'Dowd (Louth, Fine Gael)
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Deputy Adams may not have said that but I believe he knows it to be a fact. Everything he has ever done backs up my points on all of those issues and on all of the vile, appalling crimes that have been committed by members of his party and organisation over the years. That is an absolute fact.

What we now want to know, what the Government must find out, and what the Department of Justice and Equality must be informed about is whether perpetrators were driven south by the IRA to the counties where Deputies Fitzpatrick, Nash, Kirk and I reside. That is our responsibility here. Will those concerned be held to account? Do we know who they are? Who are they living beside? We need to know, ultimately to protect young children.

There is a point that Deputy Gerry Adams made with which I agree. One's political party is no umbrella where sexual abuse is concerned. There are sexual abusers who have been members of political parties, with no exception, and sexual abusers who have been members of none. There have been sexual abusers in our clergy and schools and, unfortunately, in many homes. Sex abuse is very prevalent. Where we know where it is occurring, it must be driven out. This Parliament must use its authority to identify perpetrators and drive them from their communities to protect young people where they now live. It is most important that rigorous attention be paid to this matter by the Government and Parliament. I have no doubt that will happen.

Photo of Peter FitzpatrickPeter Fitzpatrick (Louth, Fine Gael)
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I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak today on sexual abuse by members of the provisional republican movement. As we know, this is a discussion that has come about owing to the bravery of Maíria Cahill, who has spoken out and drawn attention to the major problem that is sexual abuse by the Provisional IRA.

I wish to express my admiration for Maíria Cahill and wish her well. There is a number of investigations taking place into her case in Northern Ireland and I hope they will reveal the truth about what happened to her and expose those who mistreated her so badly. In revealing her experience, Maíria Cahill has highlighted the practice of moving suspected sexual abusers south of the Border into counties such as mine, County Louth, in order to avoid publicity and the full rigour of the law. This is very worrying and I would like to address it in more detail.

Over recent weeks, there has been widespread speculation that suspected child sex abusers were expelled from Northern Ireland by Sinn Féin-IRA and relocated to other areas, including County Louth. I have been inundated with telephone calls, emails and calls to my office in Dundalk about this issue. People are worried and afraid they are living next door to suspected child abusers. Understandably, they want answers.

It is simply unacceptable that Gerry Adams, a Deputy for County Louth, has not exposed the people in question. Deputy Adams, who knows the "decent men" of the republican movement well, must have some information that would prove useful to the authorities in investigating these crimes. The names of the people need to be reported and their present whereabouts confirmed. At present, suspected abusers are living among communities who have no idea of the dangers they may be exposed to, and their crimes must be investigated.

Dundalk is a highly populated, busy town. Thousands of people are living in estates and along busy roads there. The lucky ones among us know their neighbours but, realistically, the majority of people do not, or they do not initially when they move to an area. These people are contacting me asking whether they could be living beside a sexual abuser, whether they should allow their children to play on the greens, and whether it is safe.

It is obvious by his actions, or lack thereof, that Deputy Gerry Adams has no regard for the well-being of children or for the people of County Louth. This is clear from how he acted in regard to his own brother, a convicted sexual abuser who lived in Dundalk for some time. Deputy Adams was aware that his child-abusing brother was living and working in Dundalk for many years. The Deputy’s niece, Áine, told him in 1987 what had happened to her and in 2000 Liam Adams himself confessed to him. Even if Deputy Adams did not know about his brother's actions in 1987, he definitely did by 2000, yet he did nothing to report his brother's crime to anyone until 2007, a full seven years after his brother confirmed that the abuse had taken place. Deputy Adams did nothing to inform or protect the people of Dundalk when Liam Adams was living there and working as a youth worker.

Deputy Adams does not have a good track record on disclosing what he knows about sexual abusers, and he does not have a good record of putting the well-being of the people of Dundalk before his own political position. There is no issue more serious than the sexual abuse of children and minors, and on this occasion Deputy Adams needs to speak out and address truthfully the many questions that remain unanswered. Deputy Adams and other members of the republican movement need to step up and they must give whatever information they have to the PSNI and Garda Síochána.

Does Deputy Adams know of any suspected sexual abusers who were moved from Northern Ireland to counties in the Republic? Are any of these suspected abusers living and working in Dundalk? If he does not have information himself, as he has claimed in the past, does he know who may? Can he assist the Garda and PSNI by directing them towards some of the “decent republicans” he knows so well and who may be able to provide information? Can he categorically assure the people of Louth that there are not suspected abusers living among them? Can he assure us that if he did have information, he would make it available, even if it related to someone he knows well or who is close to him? Can we be confident that he will not treat any information he may have in the same way as he treated information he had about his brother, adopting an attitude of saying nothing until one hears more?

This is not just about Deputy Adams, although I believe he has a major role to play as he is leader of Sinn Féin. Sinn Féin members are diligent and obedient to their leader but, on this occasion, I appeal to them and anyone associated with the party to make information they have public. These people should be empowered to come forward. It would be helpful if Deputy Adams led by example and came forward himself with a full account of everything he knows on this issue. In doing so, he would give hundreds of people the confidence to do the same.

What happened to Maíria Cahill is not an historical event as it happened in 1997. My children were very young in 1997 and I cannot help thinking about how I would feel if something happened to them. There are claims that sexual abuse was widespread in the provisional republican movement, and it was not a million years ago. The people who carried out the abuse are still around. They are still young and may still be active.

Throughout his political career, Deputy Adams has evaded question after question, but on this occasion he cannot be allowed to avoid my questions and those of the people who have been in contact with me on this issue. Maíria Cahill has been contacted by other victims of paramilitary sexual abuse, who are still traumatised by what happened to them. The fact that none of their abusers has been held to account in any way cannot be helpful in getting over this.

For me and Deputy Adams, this is a local issue. I do not want to play political football on this. I have laid out my questions on behalf of the people of County Louth and we all expect answers.

Already too much time has been wasted. We have a right to know the truth. I appeal again to Deputy Adams to answer the questions I have put to him and I urge anyone with information to come forward to the relevant authorities.

Photo of Pádraig Mac LochlainnPádraig Mac Lochlainn (Donegal North East, Sinn Fein)
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There was a profound policing vacuum in the North for many decades. This was not created by republicans. During the conflict, large sections of the community in the North did not access or trust the criminal justice system. In some cases, citizens were victims of state abuse or the police turned a blind eye to abuse. We cannot be selective in dealing with the failures to handle allegations of sexual abuse, and there is no hierarchy of victims. All should have been ensured the protection and support of the state in which they lived and this State.

Women prisoners were subjected as a matter of policy to the sexual assault of strip searching. The women subjected to this abuse deserve access to justice and to hold to account those responsible, those who conducted the assaults and those who sanctioned the policy.

Throughout the conflict in the North, the police and court service were subservient to the objective of combating republicanism. This cannot be discounted as republican propaganda. The state pursued as policy the primacy of gathering intelligence on republicans over that of tackling criminality. It has been the experience of many victims who went forward to the RUC that they were more interested in intelligence gathering than dealing with their complaints. We are also unaware of the number of abusers who were safeguarded from arrest or had charges dropped if they became an asset to the Special Branch or British Army intelligence. Indeed, victims, while they made complaints, were recruited and taken advantage of. This was the practice that was in place until the implementation of the Patten Commission. This was the force within a force that operated throughout the conflict. Successive Irish Governments were aware of this and that was why a new beginning to policing formed a key part of the Good Friday Agreement.

We cannot be prescriptive or selective as to who is entitled to due process and support. To ignore that reality is to ignore the abuse that went unreported or investigated by the state with the potential that abusers were safeguarded from arrest. All victims of abuse at a time of conflict deserve support and access to justice. This must include those who could not access the supports of the state, those whose allegations were failed by the RUC, and those who were let down or who were failed by the actions of republicans. Indeed, many living in the North of Ireland who endured all those years watch with great interest when Fine Gael, Labour and Fianna Fáil politicians have an interest from time to time in the affairs there, usually when there is some political advantage to be obtained. Any proposals to support and provide justice for abuse victims must address the legacy of state forces or be seen not to be selective and party-politically motivated.

I understand that there are approximately 300 serious cases on the desks of the Taoiseach and the Minister for Justice and Equality. Most, if not all, of these cases have been referred to the independent panel of counsel for their review and recommendations. Some of these cases are of persons or families alleging the cover-up of murder and a profound failure of the criminal justice system in this State. Despite requests from some of these families for meetings with the Taoiseach, no meetings have been facilitated. The Taoiseach has not commented on their cases. The Taoiseach has not labelled the accused as guilty without due process. The Taoiseach has not set aside any time in this Chamber for statements on these matters. I refer to 300 cases involving some of the most serious allegations one could imagine and there are no demands for debates from around the Chamber from those who have taken advantage of this today. The Taoiseach protests that he cannot comment on those cases as an independent review process is under way. Many of these families have contacted me and many others in recent weeks with the observation that the Taoiseach and others in government left aside all of this previous practice to avail of the opportunity to score political points. They are hurt and outraged about this. The Taoiseach and his Government colleagues stands accused of cynicism and political opportunism. I believe them to be guilty on both charges.

I wish to outline a few of these cases. The late Mr. Shane Tuohey was from Tullamore, County Offaly. He was 23 years old. On 2 February 2002, Shane attended a night club. He would never return home. His body was taken from the River Brosna in Clara on 9 February by his brother, Edwin, after a week long search. Shane's family believes that their son was the victim of a brutal assault that night that led to his death and that his body was subsequently dumped into the river. They have attained the services of two forensic pathologists based in the United States, both of whom put Shane's brain injury down to head trauma. One of the forensic pathologists, Dr. Kim Collins, states that in his opinion the manner of death of Mr. Tuohey is homicide, yet a Garda source was quoted after Shane's body was recovered as stating that foul play was not suspected. Worse still, a member of An Garda Síochána went on the local airwaves to state that the late Mr. Tuohey had gone missing on a number of previous occasions. His family have rejected this statement as entirely untrue. The Tuohey family believe that their son and brother was murdered and that some members of An Garda Síochána were involved in a cover-up. They are devastated by their experience and they have a harrowing story to tell.

Mr. Jim Goonan was found dead in his home in Birr, County Offaly, in March 2002. Jim's brother, Cyril, believes that he was murdered despite the advice given by An Garda Síochána to the DPP that his death was not suspicious. Cyril and his family have a serious story to tell.

On 2 August 2011, Mr. Shane O' Farrell, who was 23 year old, was killed by a hit-and-run driver at Carrickmacross, County Monaghan. A law graduate, Shane had handed in his dissertation for his master's degree at Trinity College earlier that day. Like the late Mr. Tuohey, he had a full life ahead of him. Words cannot describe the devastation Shane's death has caused to his parents and siblings. His mother told me when I met her that their family are destroyed. The driver of the car that killed Shane was a drug addict with 40 previous convictions and was at large because of two suspended sentences imposed on both sides of the Border. Shane's family believe that their son and brother was killed by this State because of the incredible litany of failings in the criminal justice system that culminated in his killing. Theirs is also a harrowing story.

Tomorrow, a delegation of families seeking justice for their deceased relatives will visit Stormont Castle to meet senior politicians from each of the political parties in the North, including the DUP, Sinn Féin, the Ulster Unionist Party, the SDLP and the Alliance Party. The families, who live in this State, including some of the families I have just discussed, have lost loved ones in violent circumstances - in two cases, their own children. They have also been unable to get a meeting with the Taoiseach. There is no comment from the Taoiseach or senior Government colleagues because an independent process is under way - that is their defence. There is five hours of debate here today with some statements read into the record even though there is an independent process under way in the North, and I wonder why.

The families will also be accompanied at the meeting tomorrow by the Garda whistleblower, Mr. John Wilson, and the journalist, Ms Gemma O'Doherty. This is the first phase in a new international awareness-raising campaign about cases of alleged Garda wrongdoing which will be taken to, among other institutions, the European Parliament and the United Nations next year. Will the Taoiseach finally meet these campaigners and these families, or is there not political opportunity in this for him?

As Sinn Féin spokesperson on justice and equality, on many occasions I have raised issues having met families from this side of the floor and, repeatedly, I have been met with obfuscation, denial, resistance and refusal to engage with those families. I gave some examples today. I could have read so many more but I do not have the time. In recent weeks those families were outside the Dáil protesting, looking for a hearing from the Taoiseach and the Minister for Justice and Equality and looking for their families' experiences of the profound failure of the criminal justice system in this State to be discussed, and they cannot be heard.

People are not fooled by this debate today. Out there they know that what happened today was a cynical episode of political opportunism and point-scoring, mostly by those who could not give two damns about the people of the Six Counties and who spent their entire political careers denying the rights of people in the North, turning their back on them and kicking down anybody who would defend their rights. Nobody is fooled by this episode today. Shame on the Government which will not meet the 300 families in this State but did what it did today. Nobody is fooled. They should enjoy their journey.

4:40 pm

Photo of Dara MurphyDara Murphy (Cork North Central, Fine Gael)
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Well done - not one mention of the role of the republican movement in moving sex offenders south.

4:50 pm

Photo of Alan FarrellAlan Farrell (Dublin North, Fine Gael)
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I thank the Minister of State, Deputy Dara Murphy. He should allow Deputy Mac Lochlainn to conclude without interruption.

Photo of Dara MurphyDara Murphy (Cork North Central, Fine Gael)
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There was not one word about it in his entire contribution, and Deputy Mac Lochlainn talks about obfuscation. That is absolutely disgraceful.

Photo of Alan FarrellAlan Farrell (Dublin North, Fine Gael)
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I call Deputies Joanna Tuffy and Ciara Conway. They have ten minutes. I understand the Deputies are sharing time.

Photo of Joanna TuffyJoanna Tuffy (Dublin Mid West, Labour)
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I join other speakers who have welcomed Maíria Cahill to the House to listen to the debate. I also welcome the fact that I got the opportunity to meet Maíria in person yesterday.

Deputy Peter Fitzpatrick made an important point. He said the debate is due to Maíria Cahill. It is important to remember that through her efforts, Maíria has instigated a debate on the wider issue of sexual abuse within the provisional republican movement. Like others, I commend her on her bravery and courage. It is very brave and courageous in the first place for her to waive her anonymity, because for obvious reasons it is very rare that people do so. There is a taboo around the issue, and to do that was in itself a very brave step by Maíria, but it is particularly courageous of her in light of the backlash she has faced. I am sure Maíria thought about that beforehand. She would have anticipated a backlash but she might not have anticipated the extent of it. The backlash is largely from within the ranks of Sinn Féin, from people who want to protect their organisation and, by extension, themselves. For others who are supporters of Sinn Féin – I have seen some of them on Twitter and other fora – it is out of blind loyalty and because many of them are in denial. That might be true of some Sinn Féin members as well and perhaps even some public representatives.

Some Opposition Members have made the same accusation Sinn Féin made, namely, that by raising the issue, members of the Government parties are just being politically opportunist. That accusation could more legitimately be thrown back at those in the Opposition who are so incapable of not attacking the Government that they cannot fully debate the issue and are ambivalent about it. They should reflect on that. The issue is beyond party politics, but it is a political issue because it is about the nature of our democracy and society.

The nub of the issue has been best expressed by Maíria herself. She recently wrote:

The story in this case is about sexual abuse and further trauma caused to me by the IRA and Sinn Féin. Sexual abuse thrives on secrecy. Silence protects the perpetrators. And when the cloak of silence is wrapped around them, abusers take that as a green light to continue.

That’s why Sinn Féin denials of cover-up have been so damaging. That’s why the party president needs to be seen to go to the guards with information. If he were to do that, it would send a very important message to the public, to parents, to perpetrators. To victims. This. Silence. Will. Be. Broken. We will protect you no longer.
What this is about is that Sinn Féin must admit that this happened and it must disclose all the information it has. Otherwise, it will compound the wrongs that have been done. Issues that have been raised by the various speakers from Sinn Féin tonight and previous to this debate very much deflect from the matter. For example, Deputy Adams raised the issue of the wider abuse in society and Deputy Mac Lochlainn raised other cases. In addition, people’s political allegiance has been raised as if that somehow disqualifies what they say.

We are an open democracy and it is because of that we commissioned and debated the Ryan report. We have become a mature, open democracy. That is the reason we are having a debate on this issue today. We need a modern, questioning democracy and Sinn Féin must decide if it wants to be part of that. It certainly holds other institutions to that type of account. If Sinn Féin seeks openness and accountability generally then it must be forthcoming on the matter, participate properly in the debate, disclose the information that is known and admit what happened. Then, as a democracy, we can agree on the necessary steps to be taken.

Photo of Ciara ConwayCiara Conway (Waterford, Labour)
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I attended one of my first political gatherings as a young 13 year old child. It was a peace rally in the wake of the Warrington bombing. My mother and father packed the buggies and prams into the car as there were quite a few of us and we stood proudly with our candles in Ballybricken in Waterford calling for peace in our country in the wake of so many young lives being needlessly lost.

I voted for the first time in 1998 in my school uniform. I was 18 years of age, a similar age to Maíria Cahill at the time. I voted “Yes” for the agreement, acknowledging the huge work that had been done on both sides to come to the historic agreement we now call the Good Friday Agreement. Now I am aged 34, a similar age to Maíria Cahill, whom I have met, and she has shared with me a story of how she was sexually abused and raped by a family member. That, unfortunately, is not uncommon in Ireland. The SAVI report issued in 2002 shows that an alarming 74% of people in Ireland who experienced sexual abuse and rape were the victims of a family member. There is an onus on each one of us as citizens, both in the Dáil and outside it, to make sure that we protect our youngest and most vulnerable citizens.

It is alarming to me that Sinn Féin politicians who are skilled at and capable of exploiting people’s genuine fears for their political gain are portraying moral and righteous outrage as crusaders for social justice. I know of no greater injustice than to sexually abuse or violate a young child, a boundary which is crossed by an adult and that leaves a lifetime of effect and damage.

With the indulgence of the House I call on people listening to the debate who are upset and need help to reach out for it. I will read out the number of the Rape Crisis Centre. It is 1800 77 88 88. As elected representatives in this House, we have every obligation to make sure that we make known any information we have or that we might be able to persuade people to bring forward. Deputy Adams and members of his party have asked time and again for people to come forward with information. The information is very slow to come forward. Little did I know as a young girl at the time when I supported the Good Friday Agreement in 1998, similar to Maíria Cahill, that in the year 2000 the IRA was giving two fingers to the Good Friday Agreement. It was still operating its own kangaroo courts and bringing Maíria to face her abuser. Sinn Féin has acknowledged that people had no skills or qualifications. One could then ask what was the point of the exercise. Was it to silence her or frighten her into submission? I believe Maíria Cahill 100%, not 80%, half of her story or a quarter of it. There will be more. It is incumbent upon those in the leadership of the republican movement not to ask nonchalantly for information to come forward. They need to provide leadership in this regard because there is no greater injustice than the sexual abuse or violation of a child by an adult.

Deputy Adams spoke about the personal nature of the debate for his family and his niece and the way they are spoken about. I have never spoken about that.

6 o’clock

He is correct that it is a huge source of great hurt for families. I ask Deputy Adams and the supporters of his party who have attacked Maíria Cahill online and in other social media fora to think about her family and her parents, where she lives and the impact it is having on her.

5:00 pm

Photo of Michael KittMichael Kitt (Galway East, Fianna Fail)
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Deputies Mick Wallace and Mattie McGrath are sharing time.

Photo of Mick WallaceMick Wallace (Wexford, Independent)
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I am taking the full time of ten minutes.

There is no doubt that Maíria Cahill has suffered a horrendous crime and she deserves justice. Anyone who played any role in preventing the truth from coming out over the years should be held accountable. Both the Taoiseach and the Fianna Fáil Party leader have said that she showed great courage and that is completely true. It must be incredibly difficult to tell that story. I can understand why many women do not tell it. Her courage will give a lot of others courage because it will be an inspiration to many.

In the past two years since we became involved in the Garda issues and abuses, a lot of people have come to us with terrible stories and one would not be well listening to them. I often wonder how in God's name can psychotherapists listen to the stories and still live normal lives considering what they have to absorb. What Maíria Cahill has done will make a difference to a lot of people. Some people have come to us and have had the courage to tell their story. Many have come to us and told their stories but were afraid to put those stories into the public domain and we have not done so. They remain afraid.

I am not long in this place and I do not feel it is my natural environment but I find it difficult to deal with the stories we have heard and I have no doubt that Maíria Cahill will understand how these people feel. I refer to people like Cynthia Owen. She wrote letters to many Members of the House. In her letter to the Taoiseach she said, "I cannot help but wonder why you would not want to meet with the mother of Ireland's youngest murder victim, my day-old infant, Noleen Murphy, given that her father could be a retired garda and she was murdered to protect those who raped me as a child and made me pregnant". Sarah Bland was horrifically raped and abused by her father and subsequently raped again by the establishment, by the lack of action taken to protect her. A former justice Minister was involved in her case and also failed to protect her. Eamon Tuohey lost his son, Shane, and he would love for the truth to come out because that has not happened. Jim Goonan is dead and his family would like the truth to come out. They say that the gardaí did not protect the crime scene and that they contaminated the evidence. There should be an investigation. Lucia O'Farrell lost her son, Shane, and she believes that if things had been done differently her son might be alive.

There are not many people in this House who have not heard the details of the case of Father Molloy. His nephew, Bill Maher, has fought for many years for an independent public inquiry to get to the truth. It was reported that a leading politician was in the room when he was killed. Many people in here have been approached while in opposition and have offered some support but when they got into power they refused to do anything about it. More than 200 people have come to us with their stories. However, these people have not had an independent hearing of their case as they would wish to have. Their lives are destroyed, just as the life of Maíria Cahill has been destroyed by her experience. I have no doubt but that Maíria Cahill feels for the people who have suffered like she has suffered.

This is a strange country in many ways and I do not wish to go back over the history of the State and all that has happened but it leaves much to be desired. We still do not do things like we should. A great number of people are not getting justice.

I am delighted that the Maíria Cahill case has been raised and I am delighted that the Government is taking it seriously and it will do something for so many people who have suffered the same crime. However, forgive me if I suspect that kicking the living daylights out of Sinn Féin is part of this because if the story was not true then the Government would give the same attention to it as to these other cases, many of which are currently before a review mechanism. These cases are not getting the same attention they deserve. Maíria Cahill's case deserves every minute of the attention it is getting but so do the others.

There are many things to which we will not own up. I will never forget the venom from the backbenchers when we questioned how the Garda Síochána operates. We were not supposed to challenge what happens and how gardaí behave - the attitude is that they are great. One report has followed another in which this assumption is questioned. I refer to the report published yesterday by the Garda Síochána Inspectorate which does not contain much that is new. I did not read anything that shocked me. I did not find anything shocking in the Guerin report because we were raising those issues for nearly two years in this House.

We hear from people who were at the receiving end of it and from gardaí who were not happy with how the force operated. In this country one is damned from a height for challenging the status quo or the establishment. Why do we not use the Maíria Cahill case as a measure by which to do things differently and better for everybody?

5:10 pm

Photo of Frances FitzgeraldFrances Fitzgerald (Dublin Mid West, Fine Gael)
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I will share time with the Minister of State, Deputy Aodhán Ó Ríordáin. In my previous ministerial role I often noted that child sexual abuse has not gone away. Regrettably this applies not solely to child abuse. Sexual violence generally does not go away. It persists as a dark stain on our humanity and is among the most devastating of human experiences.

This morning I launched the Rape Crisis Network of Ireland's national statistics report for 2013. The statistics in such reports never fail to shock. In 2013, 91% of perpetrators were known to the survivors. The stark reality is that abuse and sexual violence happen in many settings known to victims and is perpetrated by persons known to victims. Abuse occurred in religious dioceses and congregations, in religious and State-run institutions, and in sporting organisations. In the UK we have seen how sex abuse prevailed in show business circles. Now, thanks to the very public and courageous effort by one Belfast woman, Maíria Cahill, we know that sexual abuse occurred in circles of the republican movement.

Maíria was the victim of an heinous crime, but Maíria was also the victim of something else equally heinous. She was the victim of a cover-up. She was the victim of a culture that sought to deal with abuse within a closed setting or institution, a culture which ultimately failed the victim while protecting the offender from the public rule of law enacted by governments.

While we now know of many of the settings in which cover-up of abuse took place, many questions remain. In the case of the IRA, we do not know what happened to abusers who were moved across the Border. We do not know whether high-risk sex offenders were resettled across the Border, unknown to civil authorities, posing a lingering and dangerous risk to children.

I note that Deputy Adams wrote a blog on 19 October entitled "How republicans dealt with allegations of child abuse" in which he referred to how the IRA took "action against rapists and child abusers" including shooting or expelling offenders. However, despite Deputy Adams's call for reporting, it still remains unclear how much Deputy Adams knows about the movement of sex offenders across the Border. This matter is being investigated by An Garda Síochána, as the Garda Commissioner confirmed this morning. Does Deputy Adams have any information on this specific matter which he has not shared with the Garda? Will he share this information with the Garda? He said something about it in his speech earlier but it was not absolutely clear. He stated he had had some discussions.

Photo of Gerry AdamsGerry Adams (Louth, Sinn Fein)
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There are none so deaf as those who cannot hear.

Photo of Frances FitzgeraldFrances Fitzgerald (Dublin Mid West, Fine Gael)
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Is the Deputy saying he has shared all of the information he has with the Garda?

Photo of Gerry AdamsGerry Adams (Louth, Sinn Fein)
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I said that earlier.

Photo of Frances FitzgeraldFrances Fitzgerald (Dublin Mid West, Fine Gael)
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I did not think it was that clear, which is why I ask the question now. Has the Deputy shared all of the information he has on this specific matter with the Garda?

I remind the House that the Government brought in the Criminal Justice (Withholding of Information on Offences Against Children and Vulnerable Persons) Act 2012. Under this Act, withholding information on a serious sexual or violent offence committed against a child or a vulnerable person is itself an offence. There is a duty on everyone to provide information to the Garda Síochána where this information concerns serious offences perpetrated against the vulnerable in society.

Neither sexual violence nor a culture of private justice or cover-up can be tolerated in any form, in any context or in any circumstance by any political leader, Government, or member of society. For all we know about abuse and sexual violence, what is even more frightening is what we do not know about the abuse and violence which occurs in silence and is never reported. The Rape Crisis Network of Ireland report, which I launched today, shows that in 2013, only 48% of survivors of adult sexual violence reported to a formal authority. Contacts to rape crisis networks increased by 11%, which highlights the work being done by rape crisis centres, but a reporting rate of 48% is far too low.

After the publication of the Cloyne report and the launch of the Children First guidelines, referrals to child protection services increased by one third in 2012 compared with 2011. It is my firm belief that we must ensure a similar cross-societal approach to all forms of sexual violence in all settings. We must ensure that no barrier, no hesitation or no doubt ever comes in the way of reporting suspicions or concerns regarding the occurrence or risk of sexual abuse.

As other Deputies have said, I hope the very public efforts of Maíria Cahill, while undoubtedly a testing period for her, and I have no doubt listening to the debate in the House is very testing, will nevertheless have a broader impact in empowering other victims, suffering in silence, to come forward. In this debate we have heard reports of more women who were victims of sexual violence by persons holding positions in the republican movement. Some of these victims are now coming forward. I hope all victims can be supported to come forward.

I commend the comments made earlier by my colleague, Deputy Regina Doherty. She stated she has made an appointment with the Garda to pass on all the information she has received. Her action is an example to everyone.

Photo of Aodhán Ó RíordáinAodhán Ó Ríordáin (Dublin North Central, Labour)
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Ba mhaith liom a rá i dtús báire go bhfuil sé thar a bheith tábhachtach go dtuigfeadh gach éinne anseo i dTeach Laighean agus ar fud na tíre go bhfuil sé thar a bheith éasca seasamh ar son cearta, ar son comhionannais agus ar son cearta daonna nuair atá sé éasca. Tá sé i bhfad níos deacra é a dhéanamh nuair atá sé deacair agus nuair a chuireann sé isteach ort féin, ar do ghluaiseacht nó ar do pháirtí. Níl sé ceart ná cóir an milleán a chur ar éinne eile, ar nós na meáin cumarsáide nó na páirtithe polaitíochta eile. Tá sé níos tábhachtaí - i mo thuairim, tá sé ríthábhachtach - ceisteanna móra trioblóideacha a chur ort féin nuair a tharlaíonn eachtraí ar nós an cháis atá os ár gcomhair inniu.

I have a deep respect for many members of the Sinn Féin Party. Many of the stances they have taken have been quite brave. The spokesperson on justice and equality has campaigned for the rights of Travellers, as has Deputy Dessie Ellis, and this has been quite admirable and inspirational. However, it is easy to stand for the rights of people when there are no consequences. It is much more difficult to stand for the rights of people when there are consequences. It is easy to blame everybody else. I found it quite troubling that a man for whom I have deep personal and political respect, Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn, in his contribution could not even mention Maíria Cahill's name. He could not bring himself to mention her name.

Rape has been a deeply troubling issue in Ireland for a very long time. It is not just about the republican movement, the Catholic Church or any church, sporting organisations here or the entertainment industry in Britain. It is everywhere and one is far more likely to be abused by a member of one's own family than anybody else. We cannot have a culture of "yes, but", which is the problem with the issue in Ireland. We have had a culture of "yes, but": "Yes, you say you were abused and yes, you say you were raped, but". This is what caused the problem in the church, swimming organisations, other sporting organisations, entertainment organisations and families which have had to deal with this problem. What we are getting on the airwaves from people I genuinely respect is, again, this attitude of "yes, but".

I am not a victim of rape or child abuse, but if I was, the debate in recent weeks and months on this issue would suggest that Ireland is again saying to me, "yes, but". It is saying: "Keep quiet and shut up because there are more important things at stake here."

I fully agree with what Deputy Conway said earlier. What is more important than the dignity of a victim of child rape? Getting a history lesson of the reality in the Six Counties of Northern Ireland insults the intelligence of every Member of this House and insults the intelligence of every Irish person, North and South, because it again goes to the culture of "yes, but". It is not correct that it is a media conspiracy or that the party political system is terrified of Sinn Féin and therefore that is the only reason these issues are being raised. This country has a deeply troubling history on this issue and we want to rebuild a country where we can talk openly about our problem in this area in order that young girls and boys will not have the culture of "yes, but".

I wish to make three final points. I think the first has already been alluded to. Will those who have information come forward with that information and not keep asking others to do it because that has fallen on deaf ears in the past? Will Sinn Féin call off its hounds on social media because what they are doing is despicable? Can Sinn Féin assure everybody in the House that if in the future somebody is raped or sexually assaulted by a Sinn Féin member or supporter, it will defend the victim's rights to the end or will it again say "yes, but"?

5:20 pm

Photo of Michael KittMichael Kitt (Galway East, Fianna Fail)
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I call Deputy Smith who is sharing time with Deputy Kirk.

Photo of Brendan SmithBrendan Smith (Cavan-Monaghan, Fianna Fail)
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The BBC "Spotlight" programme did an excellent public service in dealing with the desperate abuse that Maíria Cahill had to endure. Who went to the High Court in Belfast to try to stop that programme being aired? It was senior members of Sinn Féin. Likewise more than a year ago a joint RTE-BBC documentary on the disappeared was another piece of excellent public service broadcasting that brought home to us the suffering of so many families. We know seven families still have no grave on which to put a flower or say a prayer. Their loved ones were abducted, murdered and secretly buried. Sadly, seven of those people remain missing as a result of the desperate behaviour of the Provos.

In recent years our Constitution was amended to strengthen its protection of children. Many of us in this House and many representative organisations outside the Oireachtas worked to put in place new legislative measures, particularly since the late 1990s, to try to strive for what is best for all the children of this country. Legislative improvements are ongoing and I welcome that work.

If society is judged on how it treats the most vulnerable in its midst, and the vulnerability of young people must be recognised, then the attitude and indeed the comments of the leader of Sinn Féin and some of his party members in recent times have been absolutely deplorable. Everybody in society has rights and responsibilities, but surely there is a particular onus on people who are in representative positions in our country.

As outlined very clearly by my party leader, Deputy Martin, Sinn Féin has serious questions to answer about how it handled child sex abuse claims involving some of its own members. Closing ranks and attacking the credibility of victims of such an heinous crime is a new low. Some senior party members stated that they believe Maíria Cahill's case but not her statements about her meetings with Deputy Adams and the IRA kangaroo court to which she was subjected. This is simply not credible.

The party has thrown out the old canard that other public representatives are playing politics, which is just simply not true. The Fianna Fáil Party leader has been absolutely responsible in all his dealings with these very serious allegations going back a considerable length of time. It should be recalled that in November 2013, Deputy Martin outlined that there was evidence of systematic child sex abuse cover-ups within the Provisional movement. The Sinn Féin organisation quickly denied and tried to quash those statements. The revelations outlined by Maíria Cahill clearly vindicate the fears of every civilised person about cover-ups within that movement.

The treatment as outlined by Ms Cahill is absolutely shocking. With great dignity she has outlined the abuses to which she has been subjected. In a recent newspaper interview Ms Cahill was asked whether she felt at the centre of a political smear campaign. She answered as follows:

I think it's very clear that there have been all manner of orchestrated attempts to try and discredit me, to call into question my credibility, to smear me, and all of that is done to try and frighten me to go away and to stop talking about the issue of sexual abuse within the republican community.

It's also done to try and wear me down. It can be stressful and traumatic but it won't work and actually makes me more determined to highlight the issue in order to make it easier for other victims to be treated in the correct manner when they do come forward.
That was Maíria Cahill's very dignified response.

During the course of discussion on these extremely serious issues, which are a test for our society, the Provisional movement again promoted the nonsense that it is the so-called unbroken chain from 1916 to today. What a shameful theme to have. It is insulting in the extreme to the men and women of 1916 to compare them to the Provisional movement of recent decades. Is it not a pity that the words of the Proclamation which demanded that no one who serves the Republic should "dishonour it by cowardice, inhumanity or rapine" were not followed? The Provisional movement cannot continue to hide from the past, a past with a catalogue of crimes of cowardice and inhumanity.

As I heard colleagues from other Border constituencies say, and it is relevant to us all, a key question needs to be answered. How many individuals were moved to the South from Northern Ireland following IRA investigations into sex abuse? Where are those individuals located? This is an issue of the utmost importance to local communities. The authorities in this State must be provided with all relevant details. As far as I can ascertain, these kangaroo courts and the movement of people occurred since the Good Friday Agreement, a relatively recent agreement.

Photo of Séamus KirkSéamus Kirk (Louth, Fianna Fail)
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I appreciate the opportunity to contribute to this most important debate. The Maíria Cahill case has been a catalyst for revealing details of sexual abuse perpetrated by members of the republican movement over many years both north and south of the Border. What is emerging in this debate and has been emerging over recent weeks is a catalogue of horrendous abuse of young and vulnerable people.

I represent a Border constituency that has been traumatised by the Troubles, with gruesome murders, grieving families and shattered communities. Unfortunately, that is the legacy of the those 35 years. I remember vividly the murder of Tom Oliver and visiting the bereaved family in the house. I remember the sorrow, the grief and the unbelievable impact it had on the family. The Paul Quinn murder took place not in County Louth but in County Monaghan, just across the Border from Armagh.

Having listened to the various contributions, as a public representative for County Louth I have one key question for the House.

Are sexual predators living in County Louth? Does Sinn Féin know who they are and where they live? Are people from the North who are a danger to children and others exiled in the county? The Garda needs to know who they are and where they live. My party leader in his contribution outlined a case in Louth where two young brothers were abused. Is this the tip of an iceberg? We need to know, as do the people of the north east.

The courage of Maíria Cahill in going public about her abuse has opened a debate about the issue. Many people who lived through the Troubles have suffered in silence and they will be encouraged by her coming forward. "Truth and reconciliation" is a phrase we hear from time to time in political debate regarding the Troubles. Truth and reconciliation is coming slowly to the North. It will take a long time to get to the truth of many of the incidents, north and south of the Border. Maíria Cahill has displayed a powerful sense of character in going public about her abuse and I am sure when historians reflect on her courage, they will see her very much as a heroine of this time and as a powerful representative of people who have been marginalised and abused and of women, in particular, who have suffered so grievously during the Troubles. I salute her. Will her courage be in vain? Can we get to the bottom of these cases and can justice be delivered in many of them? Can we ensure the cases of abuse that have emerged will never happen again?

5:30 pm

Photo of Dan NevilleDan Neville (Limerick, Fine Gael)
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I welcome the opportunity to contribute to the debate but I would like to discuss the effects sexual abuse has on children. The initial and short-term effects of abuse usually occur within two years of the termination of the abuse. These effects vary depending on the circumstances of abuse and the child's stage of development. They may include regressive behaviour such as a return to thumb-sucking or bed-wetting, sleep disturbance, eating problems, behavioural or performance problems in school and non-participation in school and social activities. Adults who were sexually abused as children commonly experience depression and high levels of anxiety, and this can result in self-destructive behaviours such as alcoholism, drug abuse, anxiety attacks, situation-specific anxiety disorders and insomnia. Many victims encounter problems in their adult relationships and adult sexual functioning. Re-victimisation is a common phenomenon in people who were abused as children. Research has shown that child sexual abuse victims are more likely to be victims of rape or be involved in physically abusive relationships as adults.

The ill effects of child abuse are wide-ranging. There is no one set of symptoms or outcomes. Some children report little or no psychological distress from the abuse. These children may be afraid to express their emotions and may be denying their feelings as a coping mechanism. Other children have sleeper effects, experiencing no harm in the short term but suffering serious problems in later life. In an attempt to assess whether a child can recover from sexual abuse and to better understand the ill-effects of such abuse, psychologists have studied the factors that seem to lessen the impact of such abuse. The factors that affect the amount of harm done to the victim include the age of the child, the duration, the frequency and intrusiveness of the abuse, the degree of force used and the relationship with the abuser. Issues such as the child’s interpretation of the abuse, whether he or she discloses the abuse and how quickly he or she reports it can also affect the short-term and long-term consequences of the abuse. It is easy and important to abhor; it is just as important to understand the effects and destructive outcomes for children

When child abuse occurs, the victim can develop a variety of distressing feelings, thoughts and behaviours. No child is psychologically prepared to cope with repeated sexual stimulation. Even a two year old who cannot know sexual activity is wrong will develop problems as a result of his or her inability to cope with over-stimulation. A child of five years or older who knows and cares for the abuser will become trapped between affection or loyalty for the person and the sense that sexual activities are terribly wrong. If the child tries to break away from the sexual relationship, the abuser may threaten the child with violence or loss of love. A child who is the victim of prolonged sexual abuse usually develops low self-esteem, feelings of worthlessness and abnormal or distorted views on sex. The child may become withdrawn or mistrustful of adults and he or she may become suicidal. Children who have been sexually abused have difficulty relating to other people other than on sexual terms. Some become child abusers or prostitutes or experience other serious problems when they reach adulthood.

There are often no obvious physical signs of child sexual abuse. A number of signs can be detected through physical examination by a doctor. Sexually abused children may develop an unusual interest in, or avoidance of, things of a sexual nature. They suffer from depression and become withdrawn from friends or family. They may make statements about their bodies being "dirty" or "damaged".

Photo of Jerry ButtimerJerry Buttimer (Cork South Central, Fine Gael)
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In 1994, the notorious mishandling of the extradition of Fr. Brendan Smyth brought down a Government. The cover-up by church authorities and the movement of the abuser between jurisdictions effectively facilitated the continuation of the abuse for many years. It is tragic that such activities were not isolated; they were endemic. Regrettably, the House is again discussing similar activities but this time the Catholic Church does not stand accused. Today these accusations, serious as they are, focus on the activities of a political party and its paramilitary wing. That is a fact, whether we like it or not. When abusers were relocated by the Catholic Church, the abuse continued and we can all recount stories from the Ryan and Cloyne reports regarding the abuse. It is only reasonable to assume that when abusers were relocated by Sinn Féin or the IRA, the abuse continued.

Two decades later, we find ourselves in the House discussing similar allegations while the party involved continues to support its leader who is its Uachtarán. This raises questions on a political level for every member of Sinn Féin. What does their response say about them as party members and as individuals regarding the morality and ethics they bring to their public role? Abuse in any form cannot be tolerated and it should never be tolerated.

It is regrettable that we are again discussing the issue of abuse of children and women. As a country and society, we have been discussing this issue for far too long and on too many occasions. Never before has a political party in this House been so closely linked to abuse. For weeks we have been hearing distressing stories of victims being subjected to kangaroo courts and a perverse form of justice. This week, Professor Liam Kennedy of Queen's University Belfast published a report which laid bare the reality of this abuse and how paramilitaries ruled communities, often with a fatal combination of fear and violence. It is conservatively estimated that in the period between 1990 and 2013, more than 500 children were abused by paramilitaries in the North, the IRA, the UDA and their ilk. That is a frightening statistic which, as stated by Deputy Neville, is about the lives of young children. It is an aspect of the Troubles and the campaign of terror that has never been acknowledged until now.

It is upsetting to read that some children committed suicide following a beating or the beating of a friend. It is truly terrifying to read that, according to an eminent professor: "Sinn Féin centres acted as co-ordinating centres for human rights abuses against children." That kind of moral cowardice has no place in any democracy or political party. If this was the case in respect of my party, the Fianna Fáil Party or the Labour Party, the people opposite would be demanding that we make changes and that the people in charge would go, and they would be right.

Thankfully, the element of fear for many victims has receded. There are many for whom it has not. Victims are now finding confidence and courage to confront those who compounded the abuse to which they were subjected. Some victims are demonstrating their resolute bravery by speaking out. Victims of abuse in whatever jurisdiction or country deserve our support every day.

I hope that serious consideration will be given to the establishment of a commission of inquiry. In the interests of everyone in our society, irrespective of political allegiance, we must never allow the abuse of the type which has happened in our country to continue. There can be no ambiguity. We are one State, North and South, made up of four provinces. We can never allow the issue of having one police force to go unhindered. We have one Army and one justice system. Regardless of one's political views or aspirations, on these fundamental principles there can be no negotiation. Victims of abuse deserve not only our words but our support and solidarity.

5:40 pm

Photo of Mary Lou McDonaldMary Lou McDonald (Dublin Central, Sinn Fein)
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The experience of sexual violence or abuse is a crime like no other. It brings with it the physical trauma, fear and shock associated with any violent assault and much more. It is an insidious crime, a secret crime, unspoken and unacknowledged and, in many cases, denied and disbelieved. It is, perhaps uniquely, a crime which leaves many victims feeling responsible, guilty even, for their own suffering. The profound sense of stigma, silence and isolation associated with the crime of abuse has scarred the lives of countless victims across Ireland, across generations and across class and creed. It takes courage to disclose, to make a complaint or to speak out. I acknowledge every person who has taken those decisions and those who have stepped into the public light to tell their story. Maíria Cahill took that brave decision. I also acknowledge how essential anonymity is for many victims. It affords them the privacy and protection in which to pursue justice, to cope, to heal and to come to terms with their ordeal. The alleged rapist at the centre of this controversy and debate is alleged to have committed offences against two other people in addition to Maíria. Their legal representative has made clear that the sensationalist commentary of recent weeks has caused them distress. We should be mindful of their rights and their feelings.

While much of the public debate and commentary on sexual violence and child abuse has centred on people's experiences in various institutions, it is true to say that the place where women and children are most vulnerable to abuse is in their home and among their family circle. Abuse is most often carried out by perpetrators who are close to and trusted by the victim. Statistics published today by the Rape Crisis Network reflect that 91% of perpetrators are known to their victims. Maíria Cahill's case follows a tragic, disturbing pattern for teenage victims. The crime was rape, the alleged perpetrator was a family member, known and trusted, and the assaults took place in the perpetrator's home. She first disclosed to a family member, someone within her circle of trust. That person was the late Siobhan O'Hanlon, her cousin.

Many families did not know and still do not know how to respond to the earthquake in their lives that is a disclosure of abuse. It is, perhaps, the most traumatic and potentially the most divisive revelation that any family can experience. I know of cases where people have gone to their graves still not having been believed by their family members. That is why it is so essential that the State and its institutions have the confidence and trust of victims and their families. That confidence and trust is the first requirement for people to come forward and make complaints. It is the most basic prerequisite of justice. That trust and confidence did not exist in the Northern State. We have recognised this. People did not and could not trust the RUC. The political chaos of conflict left many victims in ongoing, agonising silence, afraid of their abuser, the war, armed groups, the police, Special Branch and the British Army, afraid for their families and their lives.

Many victims of sexual violence and rape in the course of the conflict never told anyone or reported anywhere. Others reported to the social services or the RUC. Some of those cases were mishandled and others were cynically exploited in the game of one-upmanship in the course of a vicious conflict. Other victims came forward to other groups, including the IRA. The IRA should never have been involved in dealing with accusations of sexual violence or abuse but it was. Rough justice or summary justice for alleged perpetrators meant no justice for victims. That is the reality. The IRA was not and could never be a substitute for the due process that is at the core of upholding victims' rights and punishing those found guilty of such an heinous crime.

Maíria Cahill claims that she was subjected to a coercive investigation by the IRA. This version of events is vigorously contested by the women and men who stand accused of acting as interrogators. For the record, two of those so accused are women. Earlier, the Taoiseach conjured up the image of the disappeared - this was repeated by Deputy Smith - in his words of condemnation of those who he asserts carried out this kangaroo court. He went on, for reasons best known to himself, to belittle Briege Wright in particular and to sneer at her supportive work with abused women in west Belfast. Is the Taoiseach aware that Briege is the sister of one of those disappeared? Was he being gratuitously cruel in making those remarks? I suppose he does not care anymore because in this case it seems anything goes.

Over recent weeks my words of condemnation for those in the Roman Catholic Church who covered up sexual abuse have been echoed and re-echoed. I wish to repeat those words this evening. Anyone associated with the abuse of a child or the cover-up of abuse must face the full rigours of the law. That is the case irrespective of who the perpetrator may be.

There are no exceptions to this rule. Nobody is exempt, nobody within any group or any organisation, and let me say explicitly that includes republicans and former members of the IRA.

One in four experiences abuse. It is not that far from any of us or from our families. It is undoubtedly the case - a statistical certainty - that abusers are found in all walks of life, and the IRA was no exception. Today, some Members read accounts into the record of this House of very harrowing stories of victims of abuse by republicans. Can I say to those victims that they were not abused in our name? Can I assure those victims, all of whom I understand have made complaints to the statutory authorities, that we support them fully and want them to find the justice to which they are absolutely entitled?

The question has been posed about whether we can get to the bottom of these matters. I believe the answer to that question is "yes". The call for abuse victims and others, including former IRA volunteers, to come forward is genuine and I hope that this call is heard and understood. I hope the Government will take up the proposals, as set out by Martin McGuinness, to establish a mechanism to support victims and find perpetrators. I hope the statements today will amplify and underscore that call because for abuse to be identified and dealt with, the silence must be broken.

Allegations have been made against Sinn Féin that we are party to a cover-up or conspiring to shield child abusers. This is not true and the mere repetition of this slander will never take from the fact that it is not true. We have, like every other political party, I assume, guidelines for dealing with disclosures of abuse and allegations of abuse, whether within our party or within the wider community. I can tell the House that in my own case, I have ongoing contact with Wellmount and Mountjoy social services on matters of child welfare and the same dynamic is true of all other Sinn Féin offices and elected representatives throughout the country. Rarely a week goes by that I do not have contact with victims of abuse in the course of my work. Many are victims and survivors of institutional abuse while others have suffered in their own homes. They and they alone will judge my commitment to victims and to justice and not opportunistic political or media hacks.

Recent weeks have seen the slur of cover-up of child sexual abuse casually made, casually repeated and reduced to a matter of common abuse. I am the mother of two young children and, like any mother, I would walk the hot coals of hell to protect my children. I attach the same value to every other child, to his or her safety and to his or her welfare. The accusation made by some in this House and amplified by some media outlets that any of us is ambivalent to the safety of children or would be party to a cover-up or would withhold information is untrue. That these slurs are made to score political advantage make them truly beneath contempt.

Deputy Buttimer distanced his party from the issue of abuse, but let me say to him that abuse was carried out in institutions supported, inspected and financed by the State. Abuse was denied by the State in those institutions and redress and justice has been afforded only most grudgingly by the State. Government after Government pursued a strategy of denial, of damage limitation and of half-hearted recognition and redress for victims. This is the record of those who today accuse me and my Sinn Féin colleagues. It is the work of utter hypocrites who have chased victims through the courts of this land and beyond to protect the State, who have offered only miserly redress and who have studiously avoided conceding State liability for the vast catalogue of suffering and grief that happened on their watch. That is the truth.

Some victims of that abuse, those whom the State failed, have muddled by, some have coped but many have not. One will find some of them among the rough sleepers in this city. Some have spent a lifetime in and out of prison. They are the inconvenient victims, the ones to be denied and obstructed by those who oversaw their abuse. There are no statements and no banner headlines for them. So much for the commitment to victims.

These matters can and must be resolved. If one message goes out from this Chamber this evening, I hope it is to every victim and every person who has any information or any evidence, hard or soft, on matters relating to the abuse of a child not to delay and to come forward now.

5:50 pm

Photo of Robert DowdsRobert Dowds (Dublin Mid West, Labour)
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I find this debate very difficult because it reminds me of the horrors people have lived through for so many years in this country. I will start with the immediate case of Maíria Cahill and I call on Sinn Féin to stop the continuous intimidation of that woman through Twitter and other social media. That would be a start.

I am amazed, although I should not be, that senior people in Sinn Féin, like the normally forensic Deputy McDonald, have failed to address this issue adequately. I would like to mention something reported to me yesterday, namely, the reluctance of many women's organisations to come out very strongly on this issue. I urge them to do so.

I listened to Deputy McDonald and there is a series of questions Sinn Féin-IRA must answer, including the number of people involved in sexual offences which it has moved and where they are now. Are people in communities in Ireland, North or South, at risk because of people being moved? While Deputy McDonald and others in Sinn Féin have said it is the duty of people to come forward and report sexual abuse, there must be members of their party who know people who are guilty of sexual abuse or who have suspicions about people. It is their duty to report such people and to let the Garda or the PSNI carry out whatever investigations are required to establish the truth in these situations.

I find it very scary that a political party, with this question over it, stands together like glue, with all its members speaking with the same voice. It just does not ring true. People must have feelings about what is right and what is wrong in this situation.

All the constitutional parties in this State and others in Britain did a huge amount of work to help bring Sinn Féin away from the path of violence and sectarian intimidation towards democracy. Deputy Adams should not laugh. I know many Protestants in Northern Ireland who lived in terror for 30 years and while I may not have agreed with their political views, I agreed with their right to live. There is a smirk on your face. Imagine-----

Photo of Michael KittMichael Kitt (Galway East, Fianna Fail)
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Deputy, will you address your remarks through the Chair, please?

Photo of Robert DowdsRobert Dowds (Dublin Mid West, Labour)
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The situation is such that a great deal of work was done to bring Sinn Féin towards democracy and, in fairness to it, it has stopped killing people.

Photo of Mary Lou McDonaldMary Lou McDonald (Dublin Central, Sinn Fein)
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I have never killed anybody. Correct the record.

Photo of Robert DowdsRobert Dowds (Dublin Mid West, Labour)
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Sinn Féin has made moves in that direction and that is good. We are in a better place in this country because of that, but it has not made the whole journey yet. This recent event demonstrates that it has to move further and to work out a way to deal with the skeletons in its cupboard.

7 o’clock

Until it does so it will be impossible for any political party in this House to ever contemplate going into government with it because there will be a fear of what will happen when these skeletons fall out of the cupboard. If it had been in government when this case arose, the government would have collapsed unless Sinn Féin demonstrated serious intent in dealing with the issue. We have to move away from a situation of unaarmy council una voce. Sinn Féin is a political party not a military organisation now. That is a message it needs to take on board.

6:00 pm

Photo of Michael McCarthyMichael McCarthy (Cork South West, Labour)
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I have been in these Houses for the past 12 years and I can honestly say, with my hand on my heart, that I have never witnessed the fear in and around parliamentary debate that is at the heart of this story. I am absolutely sickened by what I have witnessed from Sinn Féin since Maíria Cahill spoke out about the absurdity and evil inflicted on her by a rapist. The Sinn Féin-IRA sex abuse nexus has visited sheer horror on that brave individual and every one of the hypocritical Sinn Féin Deputies has come into the Chamber and been responsible for the manner in which she has been intimidated, bullied and questioned about her mental health. Week after week they throw arrows at the Government while we try to fix the public finances and they treat a young woman like this. They should be ashamed of themselves. There is no space in a parliamentary democracy for that kind of bullying or intimidation. Every day since that brave lady spoke out they have added to it because they have re-traumatised her through social media and their keyboard warriors. If they have any scintilla of credibility left they would stand down their keyboard warriors. It is absolutely disgusting and unacceptable.

Deputy MacLochlainn spoke on the radio today and was asked four times by Jonathan Healy on Newstalk would he let the Garda know if he heard there was a child abuser working with children, and four times he refused to answer that question. I never heard such rubbish. Sinn Féin has claimed ownership of the founding document of this State, the Proclamation. Let me remind the Sinn Féin Members that it says, “cherishing all the children of the nation equally”.

Photo of Jonathan O'BrienJonathan O'Brien (Cork North Central, Sinn Fein)
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The Government has failed them.

Photo of Michael McCarthyMichael McCarthy (Cork South West, Labour)
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The same applies in this case but Sinn Féin has not done that. The Sinn Féin Deputies have marched in around their party leader with their blind loyalty. It is almost cult-like. It reminds us of David Koresh and the ambush at Waco in 1993. It is absolutely startling and frightening, when one hears a fine parliamentarian like Deputy Regina Doherty explain a fear about making information known to our authorities. That was not contrived. That is born out of the fear and intimidation inflicted on Maíria Cahill, who is a brave individual. It is absolutely disgusting to think that a woman who makes these kind of allegations is threatened with a court martial and not believed. It is literally beyond belief.

Over the past few weeks one spokesperson after another, including one a short while ago, has urged anyone with information to go to the authorities. These spokespersons will not apply that standard to themselves. Any individual who makes a victim of rape march into a room to be confronted by her rapist is quite frankly subhuman. It was a kangaroo court. We have legitimate institutions in this country. It is appalling at a human level to think that in a functioning democracy we would begin to make light of this situation, that we would effectively try to shut down organs of the media. I know as politicians we will not always have a pleasant relationship with the media but our politics requires that. We need to allow journalists do their work without fear of intimidation. There were two high profile cases in this country in recent years where that was not the case and it resulted in the deaths of two very fine journalists. To begin to portray this argument in a light that sneers at the good work of journalists and effectively tries to suppress them or shut them down is literally beyond belief.

There is an uglier side to all of this. At the heart of this debate is a lady who no longer lives at home, who was denied a university education. Let the record of this House reflect long after we are all gone that the Sinn Féin members have inflicted an evil on that fine individual, Maíria Cahill, and for that every one of them should hang their heads in shame.

Photo of James BannonJames Bannon (Longford-Westmeath, Fine Gael)
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I thank my party for giving me the opportunity to contribute to these statements on the allegations regarding the sexual abuse by members of the provisional republican movement. I commend Deputy Regina Doherty and others for their very passionate statements. Like many Deputies, I have followed the story of Maíria Cahill on a daily basis over the past few months. Although I have never met Maíria I have read and listened to her story and I believe she is a formidable and intelligent woman with a substantial case to make about the sexual abuse she had to endure at the hands of a member of the provisional IRA.

I congratulate her on the courageous stance she is taking. Since she came forward she has been abused again and again, mocked online and by members of the republican movement. Some republicans have sought to degrade her stance at every possible opportunity. I have seen some of the personally abusive remarks Maíria had to contend with on Twitter and Facebook. Some of them are horrific. I plead with Deputy Adams to demand that this carry-on stop. He has not made a statement to this effect. He should stop it. He has the power to stop it if he wants to and he should do it right away. It is a shame on him to allow this to happen to a decent, respectable woman. I would not wish it on my own worst enemy or on anybody else here or anywhere in the world. She is not deserving of the scandalous accusations by anonymous Internet users.

Maíria’s story is a harrowing one. When she was just 16 years of age she was subjected to sexual abuse which in her own words “destroyed” her young life. She had to sit before an IRA kangaroo court and was forced to confront her alleged abuser. During this so-called court case Maíria says she was told that they would be able to tell if she was lying by her body language. How disgraceful that is. How can Deputy Adams stand over something like that? How can he, in this day and age? What he allowed to happen in his party was ridiculous.

Maíria’s innocence was taken away from her at a very young age 17 years ago. She was forced to mature much more quickly than other girls of her age. I cannot even begin to imagine the pain that victims of sexual abuse must experience but the thought of having to face one’s abuser and relive the ordeal in a makeshift court is one I do not like to dwell upon. Maíria described having a great personal difficulty with the people whose responsibility it was to make decisions in this court.

I am deeply concerned about an issue Maíria has raised, that IRA abusers were moved around. Republican perpetrators of abuse were moved around the country, across the Border and between parishes and townlands. This measure ensured these dreadful perpetrators were free to abuse again. They were allowed to carry on with their awful crimes against children.

As Maíria Cahill pointed out in a letter to the IRA army council 14 years ago, "I can't accept the fact that he is free to live somewhere else with access to other children". How many other children was this individual allowed to abuse? Deputy Adams might be able to answer that question. I have no doubt that other victims of IRA sexual abuse are terrified by the thought of coming forward because of the manner in which they would be treated by some people in the republican movement. I hope they will find the courage that Maíria has found. They deserve justice. They should be able to come forward without having to endure the personal abuse Maíria has endured since she went public with her case. Maíria's story has been consistent. She has never deviated or changed her story from day one. I believe Maíria's testimony is credible. I believe she is telling the truth. It is commendable that Maíria has managed to stay the course in defiance of the abuse she has suffered. Her story is finally being told to the Irish people and the world at large.

6:10 pm

Photo of Michael KittMichael Kitt (Galway East, Fianna Fail)
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Perhaps Deputies Noel Harrington and Áine Collins can share the remaining 13 minutes before I have to call the Minister to conclude.

Photo of Noel HarringtonNoel Harrington (Cork South West, Fine Gael)
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Yes, that is fine. We are having this debate because of the brave stand taken by Maíria Cahill in telling us about the abuse she suffered at the hands of a member of the IRA and the subsequent events within the republican movement. People in the republican movement have confirmed that they believe the abuse took place, but that belief evaporates when it comes to implicating the Sinn Féin leadership. We have been subjected to a web of untruths that have been spun to protect the Sinn Féin leader, his party leadership and his supporters from his past. I suggest we might know he is telling the truth when he stops blaming everyone and anyone and instead accepts responsibility for his actions and deeds in the past and the present.

When Deputy Adams spoke earlier in this debate, he again wrapped himself in the victim's shroud by saying the republican movement was forced into this situation because the people had no faith in the police. All of the victims seem to have shared one certainty, which is that they would have been shot if they as much as doffed their cap to a policeman. How many of those who were found with their hands tied behind their backs and bullets in the backs of their heads, courtesy of this assassination squad, had turned to the police? How many of them, having been hauled before kangaroo courts, failed the body language test and turned up murdered in the ditches of country roads on both sides of the Border? How many more were spirited away and relocated in this and other jurisdictions?

This is the crux of the issue before us today. How can we believe a group of self-interested quasi-political cultists, the first priority of whom is the protection of their political party, Sinn Féin, which translates as "we ourselves"? I cannot think of anything more abhorrent to a republic. Sinn Féin has hijacked the republican ethos we all share, just as it hijacked the civil rights movement and replaced it with a violent narrow nationalism that manifested itself in intimidation, hate and confusion. Again, this is repugnant to the republicanism that was proclaimed almost 100 years ago. When Sinn Féin is criticised here or in the media, the wagons are circled. The Tricolour is draped, displayed and abused as if the ideals of this nation were being threatened. A narrow nationalism manifests itself once again.

In this case, we know that the leadership of the IRA, one of whom was the perpetrator, wanted to act as judge, jury and executioner. I remind the House that Article 38.1 of the Constitution of this Republic, Bunreacht na Éireann, provides that "no person shall be tried on any criminal charge save in due course of law." The response of Sinn Féin and the IRA to these matters was to set up kangaroo courts. They were not courts - they were gatherings set aside to intimidate victims. When this case was finally due to come before these IRA people, how did members of the republican movement suddenly become experts? They filled the room that was acting as a courthouse to further intimidate the victim. These people are not the protectors of their own community, but classic followers of an omerta.

Members of Sinn Féin claim they are the great protectors of equality, which is a noble aspiration. Sadly, protection and equality are strange bedfellows when it comes to justice for representatives of Sinn Féin and the IRA. This is the duplicitous republicanism we now see from Sinn Féin, which has more faces than Big Ben. We are all aware of its involvement in various practices on both sides of the Border, including protection rackets, bank robberies, cigarette and drug smuggling, money laundering, diesel laundering, petrol and Lucozade stretching and milk quotas. I have heard the Sinn Féin leadership calling ad nauseamfor measures to deal with these issues, thereby masking the reality that these main players are graduates of the university of terror that many of those who occupy seats in this House helped to establish. How could we expect a party that displays such hypocrisy to find justice for a vulnerable and terrified child who had been abused?

I know many good and fine people in west Cork who have voted for Sinn Féin and will do so again. I socialise with them. They are decent people. I can say quite frankly that what has happened was not done in their names. I ask those people, and the decent people within the leadership of this political party, to get a grip, to move away from the cult and to wake up and redeem themselves.

Photo of Áine CollinsÁine Collins (Cork North West, Fine Gael)
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I will begin by saying a few words about Maíria Cahill as a woman. I admire her hugely for her courage in bringing her horrific personal experience into the public domain. It is probably much easier to stay silent on an issue like this. It takes great determination, courage and fight to highlight such an experience. For any person to have to go through this once would be one occasion too many. Not only did Maíria Cahill suffer at the hands of her abuser, but she also had to face him in front of people as a very young woman. Now she has to deal with this matter again in the public domain to bring to public attention her human concern about the fact that her abuser and the other abusers she is talking about are still out there. As far as we know, they have never been dealt with properly.

We have heard a great deal of rhetoric about whether this is a political issue. It has been suggested that it is being used by other parties to bring it into the political domain. It is certainly a wonderful example of why politics should not be led by opinion polls. It seems from what we are seeing in the opinion polls that this is not bothering the people. The humane and right thing to do here is to deal with this issue. Sex offenders need to be registered as sex offenders. If they are in the Republic, or even anywhere in the country, we need to know about them. They also need help and they need to be dealt with in that light.

It was very tragic last week to see the leader of Sinn Féin joking at a dinner in New York about terrorist attacks on newspaper editors. News editors globally have condemned this behaviour. It has been said here previously that if the leader of any other political party had said what has been said by Deputy Adams in his blog and by others, they would have had to resign. It is up to Sinn Féin to decide on that. It beggars belief that Maíria Cahill has not received an apology. It is unbelievable that she has to go through this again. In light of the concern we have expressed about the protection of children, which is a human concern for all of us, I ask again for people who know where these sex offenders are living to contact the relevant authorities, even at this late stage. If they are living in the Republic, and certainly in Cork North-West, I want to know. These sex offenders should be on the register so they can be dealt with and Irish children can be protected, which is our duty as politicians.

It is a shocking state of affairs that women must relive this time and again. I ask that Sinn Féin deal with the issue in the way it should be dealt, that being, openly, by telling it as it is and by apologising to this woman in order that she might have peace and get on with the rest of her life. What she has been through already is far too much.

6:20 pm

Photo of James ReillyJames Reilly (Dublin North, Fine Gael)
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We now know only too well that our response to child abuse has often been lacking. Some have put protection of their respective institutions ahead of protecting the child. Whether by the Catholic Church or the IRA, alleged perpetrators have been moved to different locations, protecting them from justice and, unforgivably, exposing more children to risk. Too many of our children have paid the price for such failures and we know from recent research that the impact of child abuse follows people throughout their lives, often with profound consequences.

The State has endeavoured to learn lessons from our history and to consign to the past many of the practices that left us with such an appalling legacy. The legislative and administrative regime now in place seeks to ensure that children at risk of abuse receive the best service possible. Robust processes are in place between the two main State agencies that work with child and adult survivors of child abuse, namely, Tusla - the Child and Family Agency - and An Garda Síochána. Child care services themselves are subject to regulations and standards against which they are inspected by the Health Information and Quality Authority. My Department actively monitors responses to these published reports as an additional quality assurance measure.

The possibility that alleged abusers in Northern Ireland were moved into this State by republican and-or IRA actions and could present a current risk to children is of deep concern. In this regard, Tusla confirms that it has received some non-specific information from survivors. This information is being rigorously pursued to determine issues arising for agencies in this jurisdiction. Tusla assesses the risk that any alleged perpetrator of child abuse presents to children, whether that abuse is current or historic, in order that we can achieve our objective of protecting children. The investigation of alleged offences falls to the Garda and, in doing so, it works closely with Tusla and other relevant services. If they are to do that job, however, they need information, and it is imperative that anyone with information about potential risks to children would pass it on to the authorities without delay.

This Government committed to reforming child protection services. We promised to create a dedicated child and welfare protection agency. Tusla was established on 1 January this year. We are putting the Children First guidelines on a statutory footing through the Children First Bill, published in April of this year. That legislation puts the child at the centre of policy and practice, which heretofore was all too often not the case. It forms part of a suite of child protection legislation, including the Criminal Justice (Withholding of Information on Offences Against Children and Vulnerable Persons) Act 2012 and the National Vetting Bureau (Children and Vulnerable Persons) Act 2012.

The Children First Bill has three key elements. First, it will oblige certain professionals and others working with children to report child protection concerns to Tusla and, if requested to do so, to assist in assessing child protection risks. Second, all organisations providing services to children will be required to carry out a child protection risk assessment and to develop a child safeguarding statement, which will be available both to parents and the public more generally. Third, it puts the Children First interdepartmental group on a statutory footing to oversee implementation and compliance. The group will report annually to me as Minister for Children and Youth Affairs in order that we maintain the drive for better child protection where best practice becomes the absolute norm.

I note the recent calls for an all-island approach to child protection. There already exists a structure and work programme on child protection and it is in place under the North-South Ministerial Council. As recently as this morning I met the North's health Minister, Mr. Jim Wells, in Armagh where the issue of child protection was discussed. A cross-Border group of relevant officials in both jurisdictions has been working to intensify co-operation on child protection since 2008. There is also the interjurisdictional protocol for the transfer of child care cases between Northern Ireland and Ireland, which was completed in 2012. While the current work streams on child protection have already been agreed, should this debate indicate potential for further co-operation with our colleagues in the North, I will pursue the matter through the relevant channels.

What survivors of child abuse, both current and historical, are entitled to expect is to be at the centre of our response and that the relevant statutory agencies on both sides of the Border collaborate as necessary on child protection cases. Anyone and everyone with information about abuse should bring it immediately to the relevant authorities. We have the structures, legislation and clarity about roles in place. What is needed now is for the authorities to have the information they need to do their job, that being, protecting and supporting survivors of abuse and, as far as possible, preventing future abuse. If we are to address the failings of our past, which we know were many, we must recognise we have a duty to put children first. This means all of us all of the time. Otherwise, we will fail our children again.