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Slurs about family won't silence me, says IRA accuser Mairia Cahill

By Claire Williamson

A woman who claimed the republican movement was involved in a cover-up of sexual abuse has said she is "hurt" at allegations her great-uncle - a former leader of the IRA - was a paedophile.

Mairia Cahill told a BBC programme that republicans had responded to her allegations of rape by an IRA member by interrogating her and imposing a code of silence to protect the movement.

Her alleged abuser denied the claims and was later acquitted by a court. Yesterday Ms Cahill met with the First Minister Peter Robinson at Stormont.

Speaking before the meeting, she said she wanted the DUP leader to offer more support to victims of abuse.

Ms Cahill, who is the grand-niece of former IRA leader Joe Cahill, also rejected claims made in a daily newspaper that her great-uncle had been blackmailed into working for British intelligence after he was photographed abusing a 14-year-old girl.

She said: "I find it very hurtful, if you are trying to keep someone quiet or make them go away and it's politically uncomfortable for a party, the one thing that you would bring in to the public domain is in relation to a family member."

Ms Cahill said the meeting had an "extremely positive outcome".

She said: "Peter Robinson has agreed today that he will look at the issue urgently in terms of being able to provide support for those victims

"I'm glad that help is finally going to take place and there is recognition there for hidden victims of the conflict."

Mr Robinson, in a statement, said Ms Cahill has been treated almost like a "criminal".

He said: "No one should underestimate how difficult it is to speak about these issues. Since making her statement to the media she has been contacted by others who have suffered a similar nightmare.

"I want to create the circumstances where no one feels afraid to come forward and speak about the wrongs that have been committed towards them."

On Sunday night in a blog post, Gerry Adams, who has denied any suggestion he was involved in a cover-up, said the IRA had now left the stage so there was "no corporate way of verifying" Ms Cahill's allegations about how the organisation handled her case.

Irish Taoiseach Enda Kenny hit out at the blog, calling it an attempt to "discredit a young woman who is telling a story from the inside".

In response, Mr Adams said: "The Taoiseach is entirely wrong and his remarks are mischievous and clearly politically motivated. The blog was a sincere effort to deal directly with the issue of how allegations of abuse had been handled in the past by republicans."

Meanwhile, the Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness urged anyone who had been the victim of abuse to report it to the authorities. He said: "I would urge anyone who has any information whatsoever about abuse to bring it forward so that cases can be properly investigated and victims properly supported."

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