Belfast Telegraph

Deafening silence on Mairia Cahill case

By Henry McDonald

Mairia Cahill has been found not just to have been a victim of the IRA's code of "omerta" - of keeping embarrassing things out of the public glare; the damning report by Kier Starmer, former head of the Crown Prosecution Service and human rights lawyer, also found serious failings in the way her court cases were handled. Without question she was let down by the State.

While Starmer's report suggested there was no covert conspiracy to undermine the two cases in relation to her allegations of rape and then being subjected to an IRA kangaroo court, the former UK Director of Public Prosecutions identified serious systematic faults that made it inevitable she and the other two victims - known only as 'AA' and 'BB' - would lose faith in the judicial process.

In tandem with the ongoing Cahill case, there appears to be a parallel code of silence that seems to have afflicted an array of human rights, women's rights, feminist and civil liberties groups on either side of the border.

Few - if any - have raised their voices to support the west Belfast woman in her struggle for justice and her courage in speaking out about not only the alleged rape, but also the IRA's attempts to cover it up. These organisations might point out that, unlike the State, the IRA is a non-State - albeit with political allies who do exercise some power in a regional parliament and hope to wield even more State power if elected to a "real" government in 2016 in the Republic.

They forget, of course, that, as far back as the early 1990s, Amnesty International, for instance, changed its policy of human rights defending to include acts of torture and killing by non-State armed groups as well as governments, both democratic and despotic, around the world.

The Cahill scandal is a clear case of a rape victim who has been abused by a non-State armed group as well as being treated disgracefully by the State.

Moreover, if Cahill had been the victim of, say, a clerical member of the Catholic Church, every feminist campaigner would have been howling to high heaven about the controversy and demanding that the institution which hid her abuser face justice.

Henry McDonald is a writer and commentator

Belfast Telegraph

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