Sinn Fein's Mary Lou McDonald insists she would have told gardaí of IRA rape allegations
Deputy leader says she was not told of Paudie McGahon's claims, placing herself at odds with Gerry Adams
Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald has said she would have referred Paudie McGahon's rape allegations to Gardaí if she knew about them.
Placing herself at odds with her leader, Gerry Adams, and former Louth TD Arthur Morgan - who knew of the claims back in 2009, but did not tell authorities - Ms McDonald said she would have done "what needs to be done".
It also places her at odds with Sinn Féin councillor Pearse McGeough, who knew of the allegations as far back as 2002, and who was involved in organising the IRA kangaroo court, as testified to by Mr McGahon.
Mr Adams and Mr Morgan confirmed on Wednesday that they were made aware of Mr McGahon's claims six years ago, but neither of them informed Gardaí of those allegations. Mr McGahon claims that he was raped by an IRA figure in the 1990s when he was a 17-year-old.
Ms McDonald yesterday said that party guidelines at the time meant that, as chairwoman of the party she was not required to be made aware of the allegations.
She said that, back then, the party rules said the chairwoman would only be told if the allegations related to a party member.
"Was I made aware of this allegation? I wasn't and the reason I wasn't because the rules and regulations did not require that I would be," she said.
"Let me reassure you, had I been made aware of these matters and if at any stage I am made aware of any endangerment to any child, I do what needs to be done," she added.
Despite Mr Morgan not making her aware of the allegations in 2009 as party chairman, she said he had acted correctly.
"The regulations - and the way in which the party operated - did not require him to do so," she said.
"Arthur gave him the advice to go to the authorities. It was the correct advice, albeit belated," she added.
"And when it is an adult, you have to respect the fact you are dealing with an adult, respect their wishes. You also have to urge them in the strongest possible terms to go to the authorities. Arthur did all of those things," she added.
She said the party updated its practice in line with HSE guidelines in 2010.
Ms McDonald said she took offence at any suggestion that she would have casually dismissed any allegation of child abuse or sexual violence made known to her.
"I take offence to any suggestion that I would be so indifferent or simply bat away any allegation of abuse or rape of any human being," she said.
"At any stage in my private or political life, where I have come across any instance of child welfare, child abuse or sexual violence, I have always fully complied with the law of the land and reported it. That is my instinct. I am deeply sensitive to these issues, profoundly sensitive to these issues," she added.
During heated exchanges in the Dáil at Leaders' Questions she said: "In my estimation, anybody who rapes a child forfeits the right to describe themselves as a republican."
"Anybody within Sinn Féin or anybody anywhere else who has information on these issues or on any child who may be in danger or at risk has, since 2012, a positive legal obligation to bring that information forward. That is the law of the land."
Belfast Telegraph Digital