The Hard Shoulder
Ivan Yates speaks to sexual abuse survivor Paudie McGahon.
Where’s the audio? This programme is not available for download. To listen along as you read go to the NewsTalk Listen Back page and select the date of this interview: 20 May 2019. From the list of shows that will appear from that date click on the programme, The Hard Shoulder, and the audio player will appear at the bottom of the page. (begins time stamp ~ 1:05:13)
Ivan: It’s a great pleasure now to talk to an extraordinary man who has experienced one of life’s horrors. I’m referring to Paudie McGahon from Co. Louth. Let me just quote a particular comment of his:
I was taking on a powerful monster with limitless resources and a record of burying anyone who ever tried to expose the truth at the centre of its rotten heart. A few sad childhood rape victims could easily be swatted away and silenced.
End of quote. Those are the words of Paudie McGahon who saw his rapist convicted and sentenced for seven years for raping him and another man in a safe Republican house when they were boys. This month, an alleged IRA man, Seamus Marley, was jailed for seven years for raping two teenage boys at such a Republican safe house two decades ago. Paudie is here to tell his story and with the permission of the other victim who still wishes to remain anonymous. Paudie, welcome to the programme. Good afternoon to you. Could we start with the events? Was it 1992?
Yes, in 1992 Seamus Marley was brought to our house. He would talk the talk if you know what I’m saying. He was the son of a top IRA man in Belfast, Larry Marley, who was subsequently shot and died of his injures so at the time when Seamus first came to my home the family would have looked up to him because of his father’s past. So we had no reason not to trust him and for that reason he just became part of the household and we had no problem with that. But it was in the subsequent weeks, we would go camping and as I said in court in my testimony he molested me when I was camping and went on forward then to rape me. Now thank God the man was found guilty by a jury but on the day of sentencing we discovered, myself and the other survivor – I must say a ‘survivor’ because we are survivors now and no longer victims, we’re survivors; we came through it all – but we discovered that Seamus Marley was never exiled like it was promised to us.
Ivan: Yeah, I will come back to the three options and so on of what happen to it but I just – how long did the abuse go on for? And it happened in your home? Your home is in Dundalk is it?
Paudie: Dunleer, Co. Louth.
Ivan: Dunleer. So like would this have happen ten times? Twice?
Paudie: …Twice, yes…
Ivan: …Like was it over a period of time?
Paudie: Speaking about my own abuse it would have been over a period of a week to ten days.
Ivan: And how old were you?
Paudie: I was seventeen. I had just turned seventeen. On that particular night that we went camping, on my seventeenth birthday, we had a few too many drinks, that was the first night Seamus Marley tried to abuse me. When I realised what was going on I left the camping area and went back home. At the time, in hindsight, I thought it was just him with alcohol but then when he abused me in my own room less than two weeks after that I knew it was for real and I just left home.
Ivan: And did you tell anybody?
Paudie: I didn’t. I did not because after the initial abuse he told me out straight that if I was to ever speak to anybody about it I would be shot and found on a border road as was the way it was back in the days of The Troubles, that’s what happened to people – we called them ‘touts’.
Ivan: And when did you change your mind about that and say: Look, I just can’t keep this to myself?
Paudie: My, when did I change? I changed my mind after meeting the second survivor, and it was in 2002, and it was only during a conversation we both realised that it happened to both of us.
Ivan: Okay. Where did you both go then?
Paudie: We went down and we reported it to Pearse McGeough, the local Sinn Féin – he wasn’t a councillor at the time, he is now and he’s running again this week in the local council – so it was explained to him and after that the so called ‘kangaroo courts’ were set up. We all know about the three options…
Ivan: …Oh, no, just tell us about the…so he said: Look, I’m going to deal with this and you didn’t think of going to the police?
Paudie: We were told not to go to the police. That’s the…
Ivan: …Okay. So what happened in the kangaroo court? They came to your house did they?
Paudie: They came the first time. We explained. As victims at the time we explained exactly what happened at the hands of Marley. We were told: That’s okay, lads. We shall go and investigate this. So on the second meeting…
Ivan: …Sorry, who was this? Men, women? How many of them?
Paudie: Pádraic Wilson was the main man, from Belfast, one of the top Republicans, he was the main man there so he assured us that they would go and investigate and in which they did. So a short time after we were brought back for a second meeting and there was a woman in the room, I can’t think of her name, but we were given the option of using her as a shrink and we both turned that down and then we were given the other three options. First and foremost they did say to us: We believe youse, lads. We have Mr. Marley in custody. What do you want us to do? And that is when the three options were put to us.
Ivan: Which were?
Paudie: The first one was put us into a room with him and deal with it ourselves. The second one was that they’d shoot him for us and the third one was to exile him out of the country. We went for the third one.
Ivan: Alright. And then what happened?
Paudie: We all went to the, shook hands with Pearse McGeough on the way out and he says: Now lads, fair play to youse. That’s all sorted. I told you, he said, I’d sort it out and I have sorted it out. Now youse know yourselves we don’t need to go to the Gardaí with this one. We deal with these matters internally and it’s sorted.
Ivan: Alright. And you were happy enough with that?
Paudie: Oh, yeah. Very happy with that.
Ivan: Okay, so when did you become unhappy with that? When did you realise that the culprit, Seamus Marley, had not been exiled? When did that come to your attention?
Paudie: On the day of sentencing, on the day of Seamus Marley’s sentencing, his legal team brought forward letters from people of support and one of the letters was from an institution in Dublin that looks after autistic kids and on it said he worked from 2002 til 2004 with autistic children – and not only that he worked at – he volunteered for the job. Now this is a guy that was meant to be exiled out of the country.
Ivan: No, no, no, but sorry, I thought you must have known – like the court case was only fairly recently.
Paudie: Oh yeah.
Ivan: I mean surely, surely it came to your attention that he hadn’t been exiled much earlier ’cause that was the basis on which – well, tell me: When did you say: Hold on a second. I’m not happy the way this case has been dealt with and I should go to the police. What was that moment?
Paudie: The moment was around the time Máiría Cahill, when she went public, and remember the Dáil debate about four years ago now?
Paudie: …and the fact, the very fact watching that on TV at the time, that Máiría Cahill was up in the gallery I just said: Máiría Cahill is going through exactly what I went through and it’s about time something was done about it and that’s exactly when I went and made my statement.
Ivan: So what happened then with the police? Did you find like, because obviously, you said there was a whole culture of touts, that they had their own enforcement system, their own justice system within the Republican Movement – were you not afraid when you did go to the police that you might be under threat?
Paudie: No, for one reason and one reason only: Because in this society that we live in Sinn Féin have people in every job in every position so they have their fingers in many, many pies and I’ve come across that in many situations that it’s fairly – I’ll put it to you another way, Ivan, over the last four to five years it’s very hard to trust even your most loyal people because you don’t know…
Ivan: …oh, no, but were you not afraid?
Paudie: No, no. I have nothing to be afraid of. I have done nothing wrong.
Ivan: And you found the Gardaí and everything, they quickly established the facts, they sent a file to the DPP (Director of Public Prosecutions) – you found the criminal justice system worked well?
Paudie: And that’s why I would urge other victims out there: Don’t be afraid because the Garda system is brilliant!
Ivan: Okay. Now what are you calling for now?
Paudie: I’m calling for, basically, because of the cover-up, like Pearse McGeough was so in fear that this would come out. When I used to live, I used to live out in the countryside so Pearse would make trips out there on several occasions but the first thing Pearse would do was come into the sitting room, ask myself and my wife to dismantle phones and as I said before SIM (subscriber identification module) cards were in at this time so you had to take out your battery, your SIM card – he done it, we done it and they’d be put out into a separate room so that there was no chance that anybody could be recording the conversation so – and my wife is a witness to that and will stand by that.
Ivan: Well, speaking of that there’s two points I want to put on the record: Councillor Pearse McGeough has denied that he was involved in the kangaroo court. He said that he advised you and the other victim to go to the Gardaí and last night Sinn Féin insisted that the party’s advice to the victims had been to report the abuse to the force and that is their standard advice in all circumstances.
Paudie: No. That was never the situation because Sinn Féin’s county councillor, Pearse McGeough – if that was his advice why would he need kangaroo court? Why would he need myself and the other…
Ivan: …Well he denies he was involved in them.
Paudie: Well he can deny it all he wants. I know it. My wife knows it. The other survivor knows it.
Ivan: And is there, is there… But Paudie, is – you know, there’s local and European elections on Friday, you know, a lot of people are saying when the government announced broadband or this or that – they’d say: Ah well, there’s an election coming up. Is there a political element to what you’re saying?
Paudie: No. As a matter of fact I would still count myself a Republican and you might find that hypocritical – I was born and bred in it but this has absolutely nothing to do with politics. It’s got to do with the fact that Seamus Marley was never exiled out of the country and the second fact being is that Sinn Féin knew of that and he was working with autistic children and all over the world he was teaching English to children across Madrid, Thailand, China. He went all around the world teaching young children and the Sinn Féin party and the old IRA had full knowledge that he was not exiled in 2002.
Ivan: So you believe there are other victims out there who haven’t come forward.
Paudie: Oh, I do, yes, I do. I believe there’s many more victims that would probably sit back and say: God! I’m afraid to go forward. Well, I urge them: It’s not. Do not be afraid. Show them up for what they are – they’re bully boys!
Ivan: You spoke of being a victim and now a survivor. You’re married. Do you have children or a family of your own?
Ivan: Just tell me what scars this whole saga has had on you personally and your family.
Paudie: Well, people wouldn’t see me at home in my own background. They didn’t see the breakdowns, the mental torture I had, the tears – I’ve shed so many tears. I shed tears the day of the guilty verdict. Now my tears are all dried up. I’m shedding no more tears for that man. That man is in jail now. I have the mental scars, I have the physical scars but I fought on. And I won. And that is better than winning anything. It’s better than winning Lotto and I beat the man, I beat the system. I beat their system.
Ivan: And tell us something about the problems you’ve experienced with alcohol, sleepless nights.
Paudie: Well lookit, if, lookit when you can’t sleep at night, you’re at home – and you’ll have a few beers just to make you sleep at night. But that’s all gone now. I have slept so well. I have just had the best time and I don’t mean that in a funny way. I am more relaxed. I actually, I walked into a local supermarket yesterday and I met an old friend of mine from twenty years ago and it was just amasing. He said: God lad, don’t you look well and I says, Well lookit I’ve been going – No, he says, I seen you over the last couple of years. You were wretched looking, but he says, you’ve actually put on weight and you look well, and he said, I commend you for that.
Ivan: Are you bitter?
Paudie: I’m not – I’m bitter with Sinn Féin for coming out and keep giving us the same old rigmarole: We told Paudie McGahon and the other survivor to go to the Gardaí. Never did it happen – never has it happened – and they can put out whatever they want. And like Mary Lou McDonald can make any speech she wants – but she’s not the real leader, she never was and she never will be. Gerry runs the party but the same old mantra goes with Sinn Féin: Deny, deny, deny.
Ivan: Finally, and I want to thank you for joining us, if someone is listening to this who has a resonance and an echo in their own experience – it might be someone politically involved, it could be clerical, it could be an incestuous family case and in terms of the way you’ve pulled yourself around, leaving aside the politics at this – what advice would you give them?
Paudie: I would say to them: Look at yourself, this is a very simple project to do. Look at yourself in the mirror and say: What way will I be in a year or two years? Will I keep letting, from all parts of society – this sexual abuse – will this eat me up and eat me up and eat me up? Or will I go forward and have the courage? And I promise all the potential victims out there – you will find the strength, deep down, and when you walk out of that court room you will feel as if you’re a new person, especially like when I got the guilty verdicts and I looked round – the emotion in the court room! I seen three jury members crying ’cause they could see the emotion that was involved in the family. It can be done. And it has been done. I have done it. And I encourage anybody that has been abused in any way, shape or form: Do not be afraid. Your family is going to rally round you.
Ivan: Paudie McGahon, thank you for joining us on The Hard Shoulder.
Paudie: No bother. Thank you. (ends time stamp ~ 1:22:07)