| 12.7°C Belfast

Cross-border abuse probe re-floated


Mairia Cahill's allegations put the spotlight on the IRA's handling of sex abuse cases

Mairia Cahill's allegations put the spotlight on the IRA's handling of sex abuse cases

Mairia Cahill's allegations put the spotlight on the IRA's handling of sex abuse cases

The Irish Government is to ask Stormont's Justice Minister to reconsider his decision to rule out any imminent cross-border inquiry into IRA sex abuse, the Taoiseach has said.

David Ford said such a probe would not be possible while official investigations into related issues in Northern Ireland were still on-going.

Mr Ford made his position clear in regard to a potential all-Ireland probe during discussions with his Dublin counterpart Frances Fitzgerald on the Mairia Cahill controversy.

Attending a British Irish Council meeting on the Isle of Man, Taoiseach Enda Kenny revealed he had asked Ms Fitzgerald to go back to Mr Ford to ask him to consider whether a "dual" process could be set up to enable separate probes to happen at the same time.

He also said he wanted any cross border inquiry to have powers to compel witnesses to give evidence.

Now 33, Ms Cahill alleged she was raped by a suspected IRA member when she was a teenager in 1997.

She has further claimed that the IRA conducted its own inquiry into her account, subjecting her to interrogation and forcing her to confront her alleged attacker.

The man she accused of rape was later acquitted of criminal charges in court after Ms Cahill withdrew her evidence and charges were dropped against those allegedly involved in the IRA's internal inquiry.

The controversy has shone a light on how the IRA dealt with alleged sex abusers during a time when co-operation with the police in republican communities in Northern Ireland was extremely limited.

Claims the IRA moved some abusers south of the border have proved highly inflammatory in the Dail.

Mr Kenny said: "The central issue remains: did the IRA decide after kangaroos court to move people who were guilty of sexual abuse, serious sexual abuse, into the Republic?"

He added: "I have asked the Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald to go again to speak to Minister Ford to see whether it is possible to construct a situation where we might be able to have a dual system of examination of allegations and follow through where a compellability to attend would apply.

"There is no point in setting up some sort of commission, some sort of inquiry, some sort of analysis if it runs into the sand three weeks later so we will follow that through."

In Northern Ireland an independent review has been launched into three prosecution cases linked to Ms Cahill's allegations, to be headed up by human rights lawyer Sir Keir Starmer, a former director of public prosecutions for England and Wales.

It is not expected to be completed until at least next spring.

Also, Stormont's Justice Committee has agreed to hold an inquiry into public confidence in the criminal justice system over the handling of alleged sexual abuse by republicans.

It is also expected to take several months.

When previously asked about the potential of a cross-border inquiry, Mr Ford said he would not "cut across" other inquiries related to the Cahill controversy.

Earlier this month, Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness, Northern Ireland's Deputy First Minister, suggested a cross-border "process to deal with the issue of support for those who were victims of sexual abuse during the conflict".

In a letter to First Minister Peter Robinson and Mr Kenny, he said the process could be set up through the North South Ministerial Council.

At the close of the BIC meeting in Douglas today, Mr McGuinness was asked whether he wanted to apologise to Ms Cahill for her treatment by the IRA.

He replied: "The IRA are gone, I can't speak on behalf of an organisation that doesn't exist any more."

In response to Mr Kenny's comments today, Mr Ford said: "I have had initial discussions with Minister for Justice and Equality Frances Fitzgerald on the need for those with information about abuse to come forward. This will allow thorough investigations to be carried out and to protect anyone who may be at risk, while giving victims the support they need.

"We must ensure the already close co-operation between the justice agencies north and south continues and the potential for a joint inquiry, the timing of it, the need for legislation and other matters will have to be fully considered in the days and weeks ahead."