Northern Ireland

Mary Meehan says she has hard life due to stepmother abuse

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Media captionMary Meehan said she did not know if she would ever be able to feel normal

The stepdaughter of a former Sinn Fein councillor found guilty of child cruelty has said she has had "a hard life" as a result of the abuse.

On Wednesday, Briege Meehan, from Elmfield Street in Belfast, pleaded guilty to two charges of child cruelty and assault.

Seven sexual abuse charges she faced were "left on the books" and not proceeded with.

The offences occurred between July 1979 and October 1980.

The victim of the abuse, her stepdaughter, Mary Meehan, said: "People might think I'm strong, I don't feel strong, I feel like that 10-year-old girl locked in a dog hut and nobody wanting to know.

"I don't know how I feel, I just feel numb. I don't know if I'll ever be able to feel normal, because I don't know what that feels like."

Mary said the "more serious" abuse started after Briege Meehan gave birth to her daughter and Mary's father, veteran IRA member Martin Meehan, went to prison, "but a lot of the silly things, where she'd trip me up, or nip me, or call me names, that used to go on even when daddy was there, behind his back".

She said her father had converted the attic so she could have her own room and decorated it "beautifully".

'Worst place'

But when he was jailed for IRA offences, her stepmother put a lock on the outside of it and she wasn't allowed to leave it.

"It turned from a beautiful place to be, to the worst place that anybody could ever be," Mary said.

"A lot of the time I spent there on my own, crying, begging, hurting, fear - it was the most horrible place to be.

"There was no toilet, there was only one toilet in the house, which was down the stairs from the attic, she made me urinate and both ways in a bucket."

She said also started to wet the bed, but her stepmother would not change the sheets or let her wash herself. She said there were maggots in the mattress.

"I remember one particular day going to school and I was in the line to go into the classroom and all the girls started laughing and shouting 'smell you, you smell of pee' and no-one would sit beside me," she said.

Hair cut with razor blades

When she caught nits in school, her stepmother cut her long blond hair with razor blades.

In another incident, Mary was locked in a dog-house in the yard.

"I was there for three full days in the dog-hut and it was snowing and it was freezing and all I had on me was a pair of pants and a top," she said.

"She warned me if I shouted or made a noise she'd bring me up the stairs and deal with me in the attic. After she let me out I had to go to school and I remember I had fleas jumping off me."

Image caption Briege Meehan pleaded guilty to child cruelty and assault occasioning actual bodily harm

Mary said her stepmother often told her why she was picking on her.

"She kept saying to me, 'you remind me of your mummy', who she for some reason despised, but didn't even know," she said.

Breege Meehan has only pleaded guilty to two charges of child cruelty and assault.

Social services

After neighbours and a primary school teacher started to ask questions, Mary said social services investigated.

"They knew there was stuff going on eight months prior to me being removed from her care and put onto the at risk register," she said.

"So I don't know why they could have let a child go through that, because only for my neighbours I probably would have been dead."

Mary said that as a result of the abuse she had suffered, she had smothered her own four children with love.

"I became a grandmother 17 months ago to a little granddaughter who I worship more than life itself," she said.

"My children and my granddaughter and my brothers and my sister-in-law and my dear friends - only for them I don't think I'd be here today."

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