Belfast Telegraph

Mairia Cahill meets top lawyer Sir Keir Starmer reviewing IRA abuse claims

By Adrian Rutherford

Mairia Cahill has welcomed her first meeting with a senior lawyer who is reviewing a case in which a suspected IRA man was acquitted of her alleged rape.

Three cases linked to the alleged attack on the Belfast woman and subsequent republican cover-up will be examined by Sir Keir Starmer.

Sir Keir, who is Britain's former chief prosecutor, met Ms Cahill and two other alleged victims in Belfast yesterday.

It is the first stage in an independent review into the prosecution of the three interlinked cases.

In a series of private meetings, Mr Starmer heard directly from each of the three.

Afterwards, Ms Cahill described her meeting as "positive".

She said she was "happy to have been listened to in a genuine manner".

Sir Keir confirmed his review would not be completed until next spring.

He stressed that it was not within his power to order a retrial in the cases involving any of the complainants. Sir Keir described his discussions with the three as "constructive".

On his meeting with Ms Cahill, he added: "From my point of view it went well.

"I was grateful that she agreed to meet me and we spent time going through a number of issues."

He said it was important all three complainants had confidence in the process.

The review would be independent and robust, taking account of all relevant material, he added. Mr Starmer confirmed he would have full access to all materials and staff for the purposes of his review.

He said he did not plan to meet any of the alleged suspects at this stage.

Director of Public Prosecutions Barra McGrory said he commissioned the review so all concerns can be openly and objectively explored.

"The review is wholly independent of the service but will have the full co-operation of all staff involved in the cases and access to all of the files," he said.

Justice Minister David Ford and his Dublin counterpart Frances Fitzgerald said a "scoping exercise" would examine the "legal, procedural and constitutional" complexities of the cross-border inquiry, entirely separate from Sir Keir's work.

Mr Ford and Ms Fitzgerald held discussions on the matter at the North South Ministerial Council meeting in Armagh.

Ms Fitzgerald said a cross-border inquiry into allegations of sex abuse by republicans had "not been ruled out".

Story so far

Mairia Cahill claimed she was attacked as a teenager in 1997. She said republican paramilitaries conducted their own inquiry into her account, forcing her to confront her alleged attacker. The man she accused of rape was cleared in court after Ms Cahill withdrew her evidence and charges were dropped against those allegedly involved in the IRA's internal investigation.

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