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Mairia Cahill scandal hurting Sinn Fein and Gerry Adams, opinion poll reveals

By Noel McAdam

Fallout from the Mairia Cahill sex allegations scandal appears to be affecting Sinn Fein, according to a new in opinion poll.

While the party has appeared unassailable over the two months since the Belfast woman's claims against Gerry Adams and the Sinn Fein leadership, a new poll yesterday showed that just over half (52%) in the Republic believe the party's reputation has been damaged.

A clear majority (61%) also do not believe Mr Adams' insistence that he does not know the identities of IRA sex offenders moved from Northern Ireland into the Republic.

And even among people questioned who said they are supporters of Sinn Fein, less than half (49%) believe Mr Adams on this issue, according to the Sunday Independent/Millward Brown poll.

The political ripples continue to reverberate from Ms Cahill's claims that she was raped and subjected to an investigation by the Provisional IRA.

The speaker of the Dail, Sean Barrett, has accused Sinn Fein of using its confidence motion against him as a "pawn to deflect attention" from the Cahill affair.

But Mr Adams in response accused Mr Barrett of "highly prejudicial" comments, and of allowing Sinn Fein TDs "to be abused in the most disgraceful manner".

"Sinn Fein will not accept a situation where our TDs are subjected to second-class treatment in the Dail, or where those who elected us are given second-class treatment," he added.

Voter doubts about SF after the Cahill controversy was also reflected in its falling ratings compared significantly to Independents/Others in the period the poll was taken - from December 8 to last Thursday.

If replicated in a general election, the poll would mean Fine Gael would lose 40 seats and Fianna Fail would struggle to win more than 26.

There were conflicting signals from other polls in the Sunday Press, however. A 10-year tracking poll in the Sunday Business Post showed Sinn Fein as the best supported party (24 %) while both Fine Gael (21%) and Labour (6%) were at their lowest.

And asked if they trusted Fine Gael and Labour to manage the public finances, only one third of those questioned agreed.

In the Sunday Times also, Mr Adams' party climbed by three points to 22% - its highest rating in the 'Behaviour and Attitudes' poll since 2011.

In contrast, Fine Gael was down by one point to 24% and Labour dropped four points to register just 5%.

Story so far

Belfast woman Mairia Cahill claimed she was raped as a teenager by a suspected IRA man, and that the IRA later helped to cover it up. Five people who were prosecuted as a result of her claims were later acquitted, after she withdrew her evidence.

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