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Sinn Fein sex abuse debate like Mugabe motion on human rights, claims rape survivor Mairia Cahill

By Allan Preston

Published 18/10/2016

Criticism: Mairia Cahill
Criticism: Mairia Cahill

A call by Sinn Fein for more help for victims of sexual abuse is like "Robert Mugabe standing up in the Assembly and putting forward a motion on human rights", rape survivor Mairia Cahill has said.

The west Belfast woman said she felt traumatised by the republican party's Stormont motion as it had been proposed by Jennifer McCann - the Sinn Fein representative she had reported her own abuse to in 2005.

Ms Cahill said the party's past record makes them unfit to speak on the subject.

Ms McCann introduced a motion yesterday calling on the Executive to give extra support to victims of domestic abuse, rape and sexual crime. Speaking after yesterday's debate, Ms Cahill told the Belfast Telegraph: "It's akin to Robert Mugabe standing up in the Assembly and putting forward a motion on human rights, that's how I feel about it.

"Sinn Fein demean themselves and every other victim of abuse out there because of their inaction and cover up of sexual abuse by IRA members."

It comes after it was reported that there had been a 61% rise in sexual crimes here in six years.

Ms Cahill has publicly accused the IRA of covering up her rape and then organising a "kangaroo court" in which she was forced to meet her attacker, a former member of the terror group.

Ms Cahill said: "They're the wrong party to be bringing that motion.

"I said at the time when I went public in 2014 they could never speak credibly on the issue of sexual abuse ever again. I still stand by that point because they have admitted now that IRA members were abusing victims and they were traumatised again by investigating them."

She said that she remains angry that after two years "they're still to acknowledge what happened to me" and claimed she had been subject to constant online abuse, as had fellow victim Paudie McGahon, who was sexually abused by an IRA member at the age of 17. Mr McGahon has also said he was subjected to an IRA 'kangaroo court' in 2002 after a Sinn Fein representative was told of the allegations.

"It has been traumatic to listen to people like Jennifer McCann and Pat Sheehan who would have had acute knowledge of my situation," she said.

"For them to call for support for victims of abuse - while still not acknowledging their own ill treatment of those who did come forward and those victims who are still too frightened to speak out - I think that it shows they're not serious about tackling this issue."

During the Assembly debate, Ms McCann was challenged by UUP MLA Doug Beattie and the TUV leader Jim Allister.

"A culture of silence often attends in the aftermath of these horrendous crimes," said Mr Allister. "Indeed, is the member a fit person to make this proposal since, in 2005, she was advised by Mairia Cahill of the allegation of rape against her and she did not report it to the police?"

Ms McCann replied: "My response to that is well documented in the Chamber and outside it. It is disgraceful that the Member would use a debate like this."

Pat Sheehan added: "You are a disgrace. You will use anything or anybody."

Mr Beattie welcomed the motion but said "Sinn Fein's words do not match its actions".

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