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Mairia Cahill 'failed by Sinn Fein' and deserves a full apology, says Irish presidential hopeful Liadh Ni Riada



Sinn Fein’s Presidential Candidate Liadh Ni Riada (Niall Carson/PA)

Sinn Fein’s Presidential Candidate Liadh Ni Riada (Niall Carson/PA)

PA Wire/PA Images

Sinn Fein’s Presidential Candidate Liadh Ni Riada (Niall Carson/PA)

Sinn Fein MEP and Irish presidential candidate Liadh Ni Riada has said sexual abuse victim Mairia Cahill was “failed” by the party and deserved a apology.

Ms Riada said all she could do was offer her own apology and extend the hand of friendship. She said it was up to her party leadership to do more.

Ms Cahill claims she was sexually abused as a 16-year-old by republican Martin Morris. Mr Morris, who denied all wrongdoing, was later acquitted of rape when the case against him collapsed.

Ms Cahill has alleged the republican movement’s response to her claims was to subject her to an IRA interrogation — including forcing her to confront her alleged attacker.

“As a Sinn Fein MEP I think what happened to Mairia Cahill was unacceptable, it was wrong and I think she does deserve as much an apology that will ever go to try and undo what was done,” she said.

“You can not go back and undo something. It is awful what happened and all I can do is apologise and offer her the hand of friendship.”

Ms Ni Riada was speaking on RTE radio as part of a series of interviews with those vying for votes in the forthcoming Irish presidential election.

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SDLP councillor Ms Cahill described as “woefully inadequate” an apology from Sinn Fein president Mary Lou McDonald after a Police Ombudsman report delivered a scathing critique into police failings around Ms Cahill’s abuse.

But it also noted that Sinn Fein did not act when Ms Cahill originally made her allegations to senior party figures in 1997, instead waiting for three years to suspend her alleged attacker.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 claimed she was subjected to an IRA ‘investigation’ and forced to take part in a kangaroo court where she can face-to-face with her alleged attacker.

Ms McDonald “unreservedly apologised” for the party’s lack of proper abuse reporting procedures at the time.

Ms Cahill said she wanted an admission that the IRA carried out an investigation, that Sinn Fein covered up the abuse, and a public apology for the party’s treatment of her.

Ms Ni Riada said any apology could not go far enough.

“Yes she was let down and yes she was failed by everybody but there was no mandatory reporting at the time, that is now in place and that was a failing. I have no issue with putting the hand up on that,” she said.

“She was failed by Sinn Fein because there was no mandatory reporting at the time, the proper procedures were not in place and I hope there is now structures in place that something like this will never, ever happen again.”

It was pointed out the apology was qualified and for procedures not being in place, rather than on how Ms Cahill was treated.

Ms Ni Riada said: “It’s about making sure the proper procedures are in place, that such an event will never ever happen again and it’s about trying to find some kind of reconciliation for Mairia Cahill and some sort of justice.”

It was put to her that the best way to begin that process would be to apologise by saying “you deserve better from Sinn Fein, we are sorry, we apologise”.

The MEP said she had no issue with saying that, adding it was a matter for the Sinn Fein leadership.

In response, Ms Cahill said it was unfair for Ms Ni Riada to be put in the position and it was for Ms McDonald to answer questions.

Ms Ni Riada has also said she would meet with the Orange Order.

However, when informed the Order would not countenance meeting Sinn Fein, she said she would, as president, work to represent all the people of Ireland, and would have already resigned her party position.

On the presidential debate on Monday evening she said she would consider wearing a poppy for Armistice Day.

“As a republican woman, it’s something that I would have an internal struggle with,” she admitted.

But as a conciliatory gesture towards unionists, she believes it would show them that they have nothing to fear.

She told RTE’s Sean O Rourke that was something she had not “given a lot of thought to” but she recognised the difficulty some had with the poppy and looked to Martin McGuinness when he met the Queen and visited Flanders Fields to commemorate those killed in the World Wars.

She said, if unelected, however, she would not be wearing the poppy.

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