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IRA man’s widow denies sex abuse of stepdaughter

A former Sinn Fein councillor and widow of a prominent republican has denied sexually abusing her stepdaughter 30 years ago.

Briege Meehan (64) entered not guilty pleas to a total of eight charges said to have occurred between July 14, 1979 and October 31, 1980.

Standing in the dock at Belfast Crown Court in a beige coat, Meehan denied four counts of gross indecency, one of attempted gross indecency, two of indecent assault and one of child cruelty.

The offences were allegedly committed against her stepdaughter Mary Meehan over the 15-month period.

The former Newtownabbey councillor is the widow of Martin Meehan, one of the most senior IRA leaders in north Belfast.

Meehan was the first person to be convicted of membership of the Provisional IRA, and he spent 18 years in prison during the Troubles. It is understood that Meehan, who died in 2007, was behind bars at the time of the alleged abuse.

His widow, of Elmfield Street in Belfast, was suspended from her post as a councillor after the allegations were made in February 2009. She had been elected as Newtownabbey’s first Sinn Fein councillor in 2001 and re-elected in 2005.

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Meehan initially tried to ban reporting of the court proceedings against her, arguing that it could lead to bias among jurors.

Her lawyer, Mark McGarrity, claimed at the time that there had been “an inordinate amount of reporting” of the allegations.

The judge rejected the application after ruling that publicity would not lead to a risk of prejudice.

In November 2010 Mary Meehan criticised the length of time it was taking the Public Prosecution Service to decide whether to bring charges against her stepmother. Ms Meehan, who is now in her 40s, waived her right to anonymity as a victim.

Yesterday lawyers for the defence and prosecution told the court there would be numerous legal applications before the trial is heard, potentially in October.

Judge Patrick Lynch QC released Meehan on continuing bail and told her to keep in touch with her solicitors.

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