Northern Ireland

PPS announces review of Maíria Cahill cases

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

Three cases linked to the alleged rape of Belfast woman Maíria Cahill are to be reviewed, the PPS has announced.

Ms Cahill said she was raped as a teenager and later interrogated by the IRA about her allegations.

She later went to the police, and a case was brought against the alleged rapist and those said to have been involved in the IRA inquiry.

All charges were dropped and the accused rapist acquitted after Ms Cahill withdrew her evidence.

The cases to be reviewed involve the trial of Padraic Wilson, Briege Wright, Seamus Finucane, and Agnes McCrory, who were accused of organising Provisional IRA meetings and separate proceedings against the alleged rapist, Martin Morris.

All of them had denied the charges.

Ms Cahill waived her right to anonymity to speak to BBC Northern Ireland's Spotlight programme, broadcast last week.

She claims republicans tried to cover up her 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 Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams.

Announcing the independent review of the cases, Director of Public Prosecutions Barra McGrory, QC, said: "I have carefully considered the range of issues that have been raised following the recent edition of BBC NI's Spotlight programme A Woman Alone with the IRA.

"While it would not be appropriate for the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) to enter into a media discussion about evidential aspects of these particular cases, I consider that an independent, external scrutiny of our processes and procedures is warranted."

He added: "I consider that there are particular challenges in prosecuting complex and interlinked cases, as in this instance, involving serious sexual abuse and terrorist related charges and involving multiple complainants and multiple defendants.

"This independent review will consider all aspects of the prosecution of these cases and if there are lessons to be learned, we will do so, openly and transparently."

Following Tuesday's PPS announcement, Ms Cahill tweeted: "I welcome PPS announcement today that they will independently review handling of my court cases. Disappointing that they didn't let me know."

Sinn Féin said it welcomed the review.

"The needs of victims must always be paramount in dealing with cases of this nature. I look forward to the completion of this review," the party's Raymond McCartney said.

Traditional Unionist Voice leader Jim Allister said: "Having pressed Barra McGrory QC, at our meeting last Thursday and in conversations since, for an external review into how the PPS handled the three cases linked to Maíria Cahill, I welcome this morning's major announcement by the DPP.

"It is important that the issues of public confidence in the PPS, which arise from the collapse of these three cases, are fully addressed."

The review will be conducted by an independent legal expert, who will be announced at a later date.

The PPS co-ordinator for the independent review will be its deputy director, Pamela Atchison.

The issues around Ms Cahill's allegations were discussed at a meeting of the assembly justice committee on Tuesday.

'Slightly higher level'

Justice Minister David Ford said the Public Prosecution Service's independent review of the cases "takes this particular issue further than what has been the established practice of the PPS in recent years".

He said the decision to hold an independent review "takes it to a slightly higher level" and he thought it was "entirely appropriate" for the PPS to set up a review.

However, committee chairman Paul Givan said he thought more was needed.

"In the interests of public confidence in the administration of justice, not just of the police service, not just of the public prosecution service, but also of the police ombudsman's office, I believe that you should be seriously considering a public inquiry into how those particular agencies have handled the Maíria Cahill case," he said.

The SDLP's Patsy McGlone asked Mr Ford if he thought there had been political interference in the Cahill cases.

"As David Ford, Alliance politician, I may have an opinion on political interference. As justice minister, I need to be very careful," Mr Ford said.

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