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Why I will complain to Assembly over MLA's tweet about my IRA rape

By Mairia Cahill

Published 31/08/2015

Mairia Cahill
Mairia Cahill
Tweets sent between Mairia and Sinn Fein MLA Phil Flanagan
Tweets sent between Mairia and Sinn Fein MLA Phil Flanagan

If anyone is in any doubt about how Sinn Fein treats rape victims who have gone public with their story in relation to republican sexual abuse, look no further than Phil Flanagan MLA.

Yesterday, I wrote an article for the Sunday Independent, which carried multiple quotes of denials of IRA activity by Sinn Fein, exposing their duplicity.

I then suggested that due to the fact no one can trust anything Sinn Fein says, that perhaps a public inquiry into their links with the IRA would be warranted, where Gerry Adams and others could be cross-examined and evidence and intelligence compelled.

The journalist Malachi O'Doherty linked to the article, to which Phil Flanagan quoted and responded: "Some irony in @mairiac31 arguing that a cross examination in court is needed to get to the truth…"

I, like others, was appalled at this crass remark, and I challenged Phil, adding that I would be reporting him to Assembly Standards and referred him to the Starmer report.

His response fell far below the levels of acceptability for an elected representative: "Good for you. Sure write about it in next week's Sindo [Sunday Independent] too sure."

I thought it was sick to blame, however subtly, a victim of rape for the collapse of her court cases, and I told him so.

What sort of message does it send out to other victims of abuse, who, for whatever reason, either don't report, or whose cases collapse regularly? That it's their fault? That they should take their oil, and the blame also? It was a disgraceful tweet, and people were rightly appalled.

It's not the first time Phil Flanagan has had to apologise for his tweets either. If he can't behave as an elected representative (and more importantly a human being) should on social media, then perhaps it is not the forum for him.

Perhaps Flanagan missed the Sir Keir Starmer report into why my cases against a man accused of 22 counts of childhood sexual abuse and four other people accused of IRA membership collapsed. Perhaps the line from DPP Barra McGrory: "One issue I'd like to make clear at the very outset is that no blame in relation to the collapse of these cases attached to Mairia Cahill…" escaped him.

It is inexcusable if it did, considering not only his position as an MLA, but also as a member of Sinn Fein.

I contacted the Sinn Fein press office for a reply, which they have ignored at the time of writing.

Flanagan attracted criticism from various quarters on Twitter, most notably Ireland's Minister for Equality, Aodhan O'Riordain.

Privately, I was contacted by those who work with vulnerable rape victims to express their disgust.

It was only after all this, that Flanagan half saw sense.

"I'm sorry if my tweet earlier caused any upset or offence. This was not my intention and I apologise for it," he tweeted.

It was notable that he apologised generally to everyone else except me - until I pulled him up on it and he tweeted the same directly to me.

The use of the word "if" is telling. He clearly knew it had caused offence to me, from my response to him, and his use of the phrase "good for you", showed that he clearly not only tweeted with intent, but was content to stand over it until he was forced into a situation where an apology was forthcoming.

Not content with that being the end of the matter, Phil then for whatever reason saw fit to tweet about his apology, stating: "single transferable denial speech".

Phil obviously thinks it's funny to mock a rape victim in public using a deeply hurtful issue to do so.

It's the second time a Sinn Fein public representative has had to apologise on this issue.

In March, after myself and another abuse victim Paudie McGahon took part in a BBC NI Spotlight documentary, Francie Molloy tweeted: "Another load of rubbish on Spotlight tonight".

But after public pressure he was forced to say: "I apologise for any offence my post caused to Paudie McGahon or any victim of abuse."

Paudie McGahon just this week told how he has been subjected to taunts and insults in his home town since he went public.

I have had the same, and a barrage of insults on social media, one notably saying: "I think Mairia Cahill deserved to be raped."

Comments like Phil Flanagan's are not only distasteful and unhelpful, but they have the potential to scare off victims in coming forward with their abuse, because they will see how others are being treated when they do. And I am not standing for that.

The best thing to do every time a comment from whatever quarter is directed at a victim of abuse is to stand with them, and highlight the moronic behaviour.

You would think, that rather than an Assembly member joining in, they'd be doing their utmost to stand against it.

The fact that some don't, speaks volumes.

Belfast Telegraph

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