Mary Lou McDonald says Sinn Fein records not available on Mairia Cahill's alleged abuser
Mary Lou McDonald said she does not know if the man accused of sexually abusing Mairia Cahill was a Sinn Fein member as the party’s “record keeping was not as it is now 20 years ago”.
In a bizarre response to RUC intelligence claims that Martin Morris was suspended from Sinn Féin because he was suspected of abusing children, Ms McDonald said she could not discuss the claims because she was not a “spook” or a “spy”.
However, Ms McDonald said there was “no cover up in Sinn Fein” in relation to allegations that Ms Cahill was sexually abused by Mr Morris in the late nineties.
A Police Ombudsman of Northern Ireland report was extremely critical of the PSNI’s handling of the case against Mr Morris which ultimately collapsed. Mr Morris has denied the allegation that he abused Ms Cahill.
In a letter to Ms Cahill, the Ombudsman said RUC intelligence files show police in Northern Ireland received information in 2000 which suggested Mr Morris was suspended from Sinn Fein because he was “suspected of abusing certain children”.
Asked about the RUC intelligence on Mr Morris, Ms McDonald first said: “I am advised there is no evidence or record of him being a member of Sinn Fein.”
However, she added: “He was, of course, a former prisoner, he was a person who was very active on the ground so I can’t discount that he may have been a member. Our record keeping was not as it is now 20 years ago and there is no record of any suspension of him.”
Ms McDonald said Sinn Féin does not keep any records of members who may be involved in criminality.
“It would not be appropriate for any political organisation or any GAA or sporting organisation. It would not be appropriate to hold records like that,” she said.
When asked to respond to the suggestion in the RUC intelligence that Mr Morris was suspended from Sinn Féin over child sex abuse concerns, the Sinn Féin leader said: “Of course I’m not in a position to answer to answer that.”
“I’m not a spook, I’m not a spy, I’m not a police officer, I’m the leader of a political party and I have responsibility of course to ensure that our processes and procedures are as they must be,” she added.
Ms McDonald said she has never been “disrespectful” to Ms Cahill and said any one who was “aggressive” or “dismissive” towards the Belfast woman should “reflect on their own actions”.
“I don’t support anybody behaving in a disrespectful manner to Mairia Cahill or for that matter anybody else,” she added.
The Sinn Fein leader said she had “upmost sympathy and compassion” for Ms Cahill
“I do regret that when Mairia spoke to people in confidence, and I have no doubt in good faith, that at the time we didn’t have the kind of rigorous procedures that we have now that would have left no margin of judgement, error or anything else in terms of reporting. That’s the great beauty of mandatory reporting. It’s very very clear to people that they have to do,” she added.