Belfast Telegraph

Like Mairia Cahill, we want the truth to be told, even if hearing it is painful

Rough justice: Mairia Cahill has blown the whistle on the IRA's handling of sex abuse cases
Rough justice: Mairia Cahill has blown the whistle on the IRA's handling of sex abuse cases

By Nuala McKeever

Three weeks ago I wrote about Stand Up To Cancer night on Channel 4. Some people were upset by what I wrote, asking me how I could be so cruel and thoughtless and narrow- minded to suggest that people bring cancer on themselves. I, in turn, was upset that my piece was interpreted this way.

I in no way wanted to suggest that you are to blame if you get cancer. I was objecting to the way something so complex and so wide-reaching as this disease in all its forms, was being packaged up as a suitable subject for a shiny television "event". The "Americanisation" of ill health, if you will.

I was suggesting that perhaps we ought, as a society, to look more closely at how the lifestyle choices we make contribute to our health, generally, and I was expressing concern that "bad" choices were, in the case of fundraising barbecues and coffee and cake gatherings, being actively promoted by charities purporting to want to rid us of cancer.

That is not me saying that you are to blame for getting cancer. That's me saying that as a society, we need to have serious, far-reaching conversations about how we approach disease. And we need to remember that drug companies have a vested interest in not finding cures, since the disease makes them huge profits every year.

But that's the problem with most issues. The facts are messy. They don't fit into our soundbite culture. There isn't an easy fix. We do have to follow the roots of what's happening on the surface now, to find out what's really going on.

The allegations by Mairia Cahill about being raped by an alleged IRA member and then interrogated by a "kangaroo" court, are a case in point.

One interview on Spotlight and the thread teased out is threatening to unravel the whole Sinn Fein garment.

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Life was simpler in the old days when we knew where we stood. The Catholic Church was beyond reproach, the IRA was only fighting a just war and the Social Services care homes for children were only doing a good job looking after poor wee kids.

We, in general, had nothing to do with any of it.

But then the facade started to crumble. The pillars of society weren't all quite as pillar-ly as we had believed. In fact, given just how much information has come out in the past 10 years, about the widespread sexual and physical abuse carried out by members of "respected" organisations, we could be forgiven for wondering if we were all sleepwalking for the past 60 years.

One thing underpinning and connecting the behaviour of abusers in every organisation, is the belief that somehow their position made them immune to consequences. They were too big, too powerful, too well-respected to have to fear reprisals.

Except, guess what? Turns out they aren't. Not no more. Have we, as a society, suddenly become more caring or less afraid, or both? Mairia Cahill and many others want the facts to come out.

The truth. Fear of upsetting the status quo is not as great as the unbearable burden of silence, collusion and cover-up.

Thankfully, some people have been brave enough to say, "Hold on, this is what we are supposed to believe, but this is what's really going on", knowing that they will be vilified by many for challenging society's comfortable certainties.

It's not easy to be the one to say, "Look, the Emperor has no clothes on!" The truth may not be comfortable, but without it, we have nothing worth having.

We can't be too careful over Ebola

Wouldn't it be smart to insist that anyone who's been working with Ebola patients and who returns to his or her home country, has to be quarantined for the duration of the 21 day incubation period?

Three weeks away from others would be a small price to pay to ensure that the virus doesn't get into the subways and the taxis and the bowling alleys of the world.

Not trying to scaremonger, but when someone knows there's a high chance he's caught the virus, surely he ought to be forced to be cautious.

Little to take Hart from in NI politics

Jet lag. I know it's a First World whinge to complain about the weird effects of long distance jet travel, but boy is it a strange thing.

Back from Wizard of Oz country, Kansas, but it's like I'm still there. Up at Stormont they're getting on like the Tin Man, "If I only had a Hart ..." - and then they get one, Gary, and it's still not enough to get them all in a room together.

This doesn't feel like I'm suffering from a six hour time difference, feels more like I've gone back six years. Or 16. Or 60.

Belfast Telegraph


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