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All-island probe into IRA sex abuse scandal ruled out

By Niall O'Connor

Published 19/01/2016

Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald
Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald

Irish Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald has all but ruled out setting up a cross-border inquiry into the IRA sex abuse scandal.

News that such an inquiry would run into serious "legal obstacles" and that separate investigations in each jurisdiction are more likely has been criticised by Irish senator Mairia Cahill.

There are ongoing PSNI investigations into cases linked to allegations made by the west Belfast woman, who was raped by a suspected senior IRA figure. And in the Republic Garda are investigating claims of sex abuse by more than 30 alleged IRA members.

Ms Fitzgerald said both governments will work to achieve the "highest level of cooperation" possible in relation to investigating the movement of IRA sex abusers into the Republic.

"Quite what form that (co-operation) can take remains to be seen but clearly there are legal obstacles. But you could have parallel processes that meet at a certain point in terms of information sharing. I think there are possibilities," she added.

But Ms Cahill said an inquiry with powers to compel witnesses should be pursued.

"What is most important is the current protection of children across the island, which is why I have continued to work with the relevant authorities on the issue to identify suspected IRA abusers who were moved across the jurisdictions where they continued to have access to children.

"There are legal difficulties with a cross-border inquiry, and it is still at a very early stage in terms of disclosure. I am in favour of a scoping exercise initially, then graduating to a body with the powers to compel witnesses."

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