Northern Ireland

Sinn Féin offers to meet Maíria Cahill over rape claims

Maíria Cahill
Image caption Maíria Cahill waived her right to anonymity to speak to the BBC's Spotlight programme

A west Belfast woman who claims republicans were involved in a cover-up of sexual abuse has said she is willing to meet Sinn Féin but only if the party admits she is telling the truth.

Maíria Cahill has said she was raped by a suspected IRA member and interrogated about it by the IRA.

The man she accused, Martin Morris, has consistently denied her claims and was acquitted of all charges.

Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams said he was available to talk to her.

"Notwithstanding the clear differences between us about what conversations we had, I am happy to meet with Maíria Cahill if she so wishes and if it is of any help to her," he said.

Image caption Mairia Cahill detailed several meetings she said she had with Gerry Adams about her abuse allegations

The Belfast woman is a member of one of the republican movement's best-known families.

Her great uncle, Joe Cahill, was one of the founders of the Provisional IRA and was a long-time associate of Mr Adams.

Earlier on Thursday, Sinn Féin MLA Jennifer McCann also said she would be willing to meet Ms Cahill.

The West Belfast assembly member, who worked with Ms Cahill in 2005 and knew about the abuse allegation, said: "I have no problems whatsoever if Maíria wants to meet with me today or any time in the near future."

'Support'

Ms McCann said: "She disclosed to me about her abuse and, at that stage, I said she should go and talk to a counsellor because I was very much aware that the counsellor's responsibility would be to go to the police and report it to social services.

"I did my best to support and help Maíria through that time and I know other people did their best to help and support her through that time."

Ms Cahill waived her right to anonymity to speak to BBC Northern Ireland's Spotlight programme, broadcast on Tuesday night.

She said that in 1997, when she was 16, she was subjected to a year-long cycle of sexual abuse, including rape, by a man who was believed to be a member of the IRA.

Ms Cahill described how the IRA questioned her repeatedly, often several nights a week, for months about the abuse allegations, before summoning her to a meeting with her alleged abuser in early 2000.

She also complained about how the police later dealt with the case.

'Horrified'

Mr Adams issued a fresh statement on Thursday in which he said he was "horrified at the allegation" that he would have made the comments attributed to him by Ms Cahill in the programme.

"I would never make such remarks to anyone, much less an alleged victim of abuse," he said.

The Sinn Féin president added: "The allegation of an IRA investigation was subject to a police investigation and court case. Charges were brought against four people and all four were acquitted.

"However, if there was an IRA investigation, as Maíria has alleged, then that was totally wrong."

'Forensic memory'

Speaking on Thursday following a meeting in Dublin with opposition Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin, Ms Cahill said: "I am quite happy to come face to face with Gerry Adams in front of the media, and go back through six years of meetings with him, from 2000 until 2006, and cover all the issues.

"I have a forensic memory in relation to this because I was traumatised at the time - one of the things about trauma is that people remember in minute detail what happened to them."

Ulster Unionist leader Mike Nesbitt wants the issue to be discussed at the Stormont talks.

"I have promised Maíria Cahill I will raise her allegations of sexual abuse and intimidation by members of the IRA," he said.

Image caption Joe Cahill was one of the founders of the Provisional IRA

Justice Minister David Ford said her concerns were "matters for agencies like the Police Ombudsman to investigate".

"It does appear that certain people have been seeking to defend institutions over a variety of issues of abuse," he said.

"We've seen that alleged against government agencies, we've seen it alleged against the Catholic Church, we're now seeing it alleged against Sinn Féin.

"There are real issues of concern there but the first concern for me is to ensure that we establish what was done by the agencies which investigated Maíria Cahill's case and that is the role for the Ombudsman, not for me."

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