Northern Ireland

IRA sex abuse allegations: Cross-border inquiry not ruled out

David Ford
Image caption Northern Ireland Justice Minister David Ford is concerned that the relevant organisation in each jurisdiction must be allowed to carry out their duties without impediment

The justice departments in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland are discussing the scope of any cross-border inquiry into IRA sex abuse.

Northern Ireland Justice Minister David Ford has not ruled out the possibility of a cross-border inquiry.

However, his department said the timing of any such inquiry must not compromise current investigations.

It said officials had been asked to scope various aspects of any inquiry.

The Department of Justice in the Republic of Ireland has confirmed that Irish police are currently investigating information relating to the IRA's movement of sex abusers that they have received from "a number of people in recent weeks".

It said those investigations are at an early stage but "that they are a priority given the child protection concerns and the seriousness of the alleged offences involved".

In Northern Ireland, an independent review has been launched into three prosecution cases linked to the allegations of Máiria Cahill, the west Belfast woman who claims she was raped by an IRA member.


Stormont's justice committee has also agreed to hold an inquiry into public confidence in the criminal justice system over the handling of alleged sexual abuse by republicans.

It is also expected to take several months.

A Department of Justice Northern Ireland spokesperson told BBC Northern Ireland that Mr Ford has on a number of occasions, discussed the Maíria Cahill case with his counterpart in the Republic of Ireland Frances Fitzgerald.

"Officials in Northern Ireland and Ireland have been asked to scope the legal, procedural and constitutional aspects of any cross-border inquiry into paramilitary sexual exploitation," it added

"Both ministers will discuss the results of this work in the near future."

The department spokesperson said the "outcome of on-going inquiries by the Police Ombudsman and the NI Director of Public Prosecutions into the Maíria Cahill case and associated police investigations will also help to inform the way forward".

Image copyright PA
Image caption The Republic of Ireland Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald has had a number of discussions with Mr Ford

"David Ford has not ruled out the possibility of a cross-border inquiry, but has said that he is concerned to ensure that the relevant organisation in each jurisdiction must be allowed to carry out their duties without impediment," they added.

"The timing of any inquiry must not compromise the investigations currently under way".


A Department of Justice Republic of Ireland spokesperson said Frances Fitzgerald had discussed the relevant issues with Mr Ford on a number of occasions to date, both in meetings and by telephone.

"The ministers are anxious to ensure that the issues arising are fully addressed and they are looking closely at the best way in which that can be done," the spokesperson said.

"The minister is briefed on this issue on an ongoing basis."

They said the ministers "have tasked the relevant officials in their departments to examine the legal and practical issues that might arise which relate to the issue of establishing forms of inquiry".

"The officials are currently carrying out detailed, joint work in this regard and they will report on developments to ministers in the near future," the spokesperson added.

"This process of examination is being done against the background of the various investigations, north and south, that are under way into aspects of this issue."

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