Editor's Viewpoint: Mairia Cahill let down by ineptitude of police
The Police Ombudsman has delivered a damning verdict on how the PSNI handled reports of alleged child abuse.
It was a high profile case involving Mairia Cahill, who was a member of a high profile republican family who told police she had been sexually abused by a member of the IRA in 1997-98. Two other women said they were sexually abused by this man when they were children. Mairia further told police that she had been subjected to an IRA investigation into her claims.
- Mairia Cahill: I told truth about what happened to me 20 years ago... I’m angry I’ve been let down by almost everybody in relation to my case
- Watchdog condemns PSNI over Cahill sex abuse case
Her report to police in 2010 led to several people being prosecuted but the case against the man accused of rape and those involved in the IRA investigation collapsed in 2014 when she and the other two women withdrew their evidence citing a lack of confidence in the way their complaints had been handled.
The Police Ombudsman Dr Michael Maguire has found that police failed the women. A 2015 review of the case by Sir Keir Starmer concluded that the Public Prosecution Service had also failed them.
It is known that the RUC had information in 2000 that linked a man to child sex abuse and also received intelligence that the IRA was investigating the matter.
But the RUC did not carry out even cursory investigations although it did pass on information to the PSNI in 2014. With the RUC’s own pending demise and its heavy workload of recent terrorist offences may have been some excuse for not acting on the information it had, it is scandalous that it took until 2010 when Mairia made her complaint to the PSNI before anything was done and then she continued to be let down.
It is obvious from the article she has written for this newspaper today that she found the whole experience of dealing with the police and legal system traumatic. That was on top of the suffering she had already endured at the hands of her abuser and also from the whispers within the republican community doubting her complaints.
It took real courage for someone of her background to level serious accusations against another republican and she believes Sinn Fein deliberately tried to muddy the waters. It has never admitted the alleged abuser was a member not only of the IRA but also Sinn Fein.
Chief Constable George Hamilton last night apologised unequivocally for the “hurt and distress caused” and for police failings in the investigation.
Dr Maguire says he is confident current police practices would not allow the information which the RUC had 18 years ago to go un-investigated. Mairia and others may need convincing of that.