Review over IRA sex abuse claims


Published: Tuesday 21st October 2014 by The News Editor

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Three criminal cases linked to the alleged rape of a Belfast woman who insists the republican movement covered up her claims are to be independently reviewed, the Public Prosecution Service has announced.

Mairia Cahill, 33, has alleged she was raped by a suspected IRA member when she was a teenager in 1997.

She has further claimed that the IRA conducted its own inquiry into her account, subjecting her to interrogation and forcing her to confront her alleged attacker.

The man she accused of rape was later acquitted of criminal charges in court after Ms Cahill withdrew her evidence. Charges were dropped against those allegedly involved in the IRA’s internal inquiry.

Ms Cahill’s story was highlighted in a BBC Spotlight documentary last week.

Northern Ireland director of public prosecutions Barra McGrory announced that he was establishing an independent review of the “prosecutorial systems and processes” in relation to the three interlinked cases involving sex abuse and terrorist related charges.

Mr McGrory said an independent legal expert would be appointed in due course to oversee the exercise.

“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,” he said.

“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.

“It is of concern to the PPS to maintain public confidence in our services and in the wider criminal justice system. We understand how difficult it can be for victims and witnesses to come forward, particularly in cases involving sexual abuse offences and we will do all in our power to ensure that they and the wider public can feel confident in the independent role of the PPS.

“The PPS takes all of its decisions independently, applying the Test for Prosecution without fear or favour. 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.”

Ms Cahill is from a well-known republican family in west Belfast.

Her late great uncle, Joe Cahill, was a founding member of the Provisional IRA.

Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams, who has denied any suggestion he was involved in a cover up of her case, has admitted that the IRA on occasion had shot alleged sex abusers, insisting that its members were “singularly ill-equipped to deal with these matters”.

Mr Adams has said the IRA had now left the stage so there was “no corporate way of verifying” Ms Cahill’s allegations about how the organisation handled her case.

Ms Cahill has accused Sinn Fein of treating her in a “despicable and reprehensible” manner and has called on Mr Adams to quit.

Published: Tuesday 21st October 2014 by The News Editor

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