Belfast Telegraph

PSNI chief says sorry to Cahill for failings in abuse probe

By David Young

PSNI Chief Constable George Hamilton yesterday apologised personally to IRA sex abuse victim Mairia Cahill over police handling of her case.

He praised her "courage and resilience" and admitted that she had been failed by the police who investigated her allegations of rape.

As well as delivering a scathing critique of PSNI and RUC failings, Police Ombudsman Dr Michael Maguire noted that Sinn Fein did not act when Ms Cahill originally made her allegations to senior party figures in 1997, instead waiting for three years to suspend her alleged attacker.

Ms Cahill also criticised Sinn Fein, accusing the party of engaging in a cover-up and waging a campaign to question her integrity ever since she waived her right to anonymity.

She has previously alleged the republican movement's response to her abuse claims was to subject her to an IRA interrogation.

Ms Cahill, a grand-niece of prominent Belfast republican Joe Cahill, claimed she was sexually abused as a 16-year-old by Martin Morris.

As well as Ms Cahill, there were two other alleged victims in the case.

Mr Morris, who denied all wrongdoing, was later acquitted of rape and IRA membership when the case against him collapsed in 2014 after the women withdrew their evidence.

Dr Maguire blamed the RUC and the PSNI for a litany of failings linked to the cases.

After yesterday's meeting, the Chief Constable said: "I met Mairia Cahill today and apologised personally to her for our failures.

"We talked about how the RUC did not investigate intelligence that they held in 2000.

"We also discussed how the PSNI did not effectively investigate the allegations of three victims, one of whom was Mairia, from 2010.

"These shortcomings contributed to a failure in the prosecution and had massive negative impact on Mairia and the other victims.

"I was struck by Mairia's courage and resilience.

"I was also struck by the fact that she shouldn't have had to display that much resilience, had Mairia and the other victims been better supported by the police service and by the wider criminal justice system."

Last night Ms Cahill said she had accepted the Chief Constable's apology.

She also agreed to meet him in the future to "use my experience to ensure that no one ever has to go through this again".

Describing the PSNI meeting as "positive enough", she added: "I didn't pull any punches.

"I was very direct with them, because I wanted to make sure that they got the message.

"And I think the message has been received loud and clear."

But the west Belfast woman, who is now an SDLP councillor in Lisburn and Castlereagh, was unimpressed by Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald's apology over her party's actions before and after she went public about her sex abuse.

Mrs McDonald said Sinn Fein now had "robust procedures in place" for mandatory reporting of abuse allegations.

"I deeply regret that these procedures were not in place at the time of Mairia Cahill's disclosure," she said.

"For this I unreservedly apologise.

"I wish Mairia Cahill every best wish for the future."

But Ms Cahill described the Sinn Fein leader's words as "woefully inadequate".

"Her own behaviour and her party's behaviour when I went public will be indelibly etched on the mind of the Irish public," she said.

"They allowed people to believe that I was lying about my experiences.

"They refused to accept or admit that there was an IRA investigation, and they never once disclosed that Martin Morris was in Sinn Fein.

"She did not admit that the information about my abuse was received by senior Sinn Fein members in 1997-1998, and they did nothing about it for years."

She added: "Mary Lou's apology is not worth the paper that it's written on until she admits to people that I was telling the truth."

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