Máiría Cahill Stephen Nolan BBC Radio 5 Live 21 February 2020

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Stephen Nolan
BBC Radio 5 Live

Stephen Nolan speaks to former Seanad Éireann member, Máiría Cahill, who comments on recent reports that Sinn Féin is overseen by the IRA Army Council.

Where’s the Audio?  This programme is not available for download. To listen along as you read please click here. (begins time stamp ~1:43:26)

Stephen:  Meanwhile, the Sinn Féin leader in the Irish Republic, Mary Lou McDonald, says the IRA no longer exists. She has reacted to comments by the Irish Chief of Police, Drew Harris, who says the party, Sinn Féin, is overseen by the Army Council of the IRA. That’s the important part of this story. Today you’ve had the Chief of Police in Ireland saying that Sinn Féin is still overseen by the Army Council of the IRA. He told Ireland’s Virgin Radio that his view of the IRA’s rule was in line with the conclusions of other police forces and security services.


Drew Harris:   We have contributed and continue to contribute to the IRC (Independent Reporting Commission) report on status of various paramilitary groups and we would hold then with their opinion in these matters but also I’m aware of the PSNI (Police Service of Northern Ireland) and the British security services assessment and we have, we do not differ from that view.

Reporter: Would it create an issue for you then with Sinn Féin, that government with a Sinn Féin for Minister for Justice?

Drew Harris:   Well, in the end I’m a public servant. I will work with the government we have. In law, I have heavy responsibilities in terms of protecting the people of Ireland, preventing and detecting crime and we will work with whatever minister to achieve those aims.

(audio ends)

Stephen:  I’m speaking to former Irish Senator Máiría Cahill. Máiría, Good Evening to you.

Máiría:  Good Evening, Stephen.

Stephen:  So, you’ve got the Chief of Police in Ireland saying that the Army Council of the IRA still controls Sinn Féin which is trying to form a government in The South and is part of the government in Northern Ireland.


Máiría Cahill

Well yes, that’s effectively what he is saying because he has pointed to a previous statement by the previous Chief Constable in Northern Ireland, George Hamilton, who, in 2015, said that the Provisional IRA still existed and some of its members were involved in the murder of a local man, Kevin McGuigan, although it wasn’t officially sanctioned. So that’s where that original statement came from. But this statement from Drew Harris today, in response to a question, in fairness to him, has come just on the back of an election in which Sinn Féin did particularly well on and yes, government formation talks are ongoing and it is significant because of the fact that just yesterday in the Dáil Micheál Martin, the leader of Fianna Fáil, stood up and ranged off a litany of reasons why his party should not go into government with Sinn Féin and this was one of them.

Stephen:  You have the leader of Sinn Féin, the current leader of Sinn Féin, Mary Lou McDonald, saying the IRA does not exists.

The Transcripts

Máiría:  Yeah, and she may well believe that. I’m not sure that particularly very many other people do. We have reason to believe, obviously, and this is publicly documented, you know, in 2007 for example, a young man, a twenty-one year old man, was beaten death (Paul Quinn) in Co. Monaghan and at that point in time the now Finance Minster for Sinn Féin, Conor Murphy, said that he had received assurances from the IRA in the local area that they weren’t involved and that was contrary to the view of other people again. In 2013, a man, Austin Stack, was taken in the back of a blacked-out van by Gerry Adams and another Sinn Féin official to meet an IRA member who admitted in a statement that the IRA had been involved in the murder of his father, a former prison officer, Brian Stack, some thirty years earlier. And again, we had the Kevin McGuigan murder in 2015 where the Chief Constable said that some members of the IRA were involved so I mean there are public utterances in relation to that which would say or suggest that the IRA does exist in some form…

Stephen:  …Yeah, but that’s it though, isn’t it Máiría? – ‘In some form’ – because what the current assessment is of both the security forces in Northern Ireland and indeed in The South, that current security assessment is while the structures of the IRA still exist and the Army Council still has a degree of control over Sinn Féin they are on a ‘peace footing’.

Máiría:  Yes, well it says they’re not on a war footing but what it did also point to was that there were units that were still there to gather intelligence and raise funds. And I think it really does send shock waves through anyone in terms of looking to build a proper democracy in Ireland and that is the whole point about the discussions around Sinn Féin in government. I mean, can you imagine if this was in England? – and I’m not suggesting in any way that this would be the case – but can you imagine if this assessment was made by the Chief of Police in England about the Labour Party or the Conservative Party which effectively stated that a very small group of people who had been members of an Army Council, a paramilitary council, were directing an over-arching strategy in relation to a political party? I mean, there would be absolute outrage and some people in Ireland seem to expect people to turn a blind eye to this…

Stephen:  …and yet the reality – let me just call this as it is, Máiría – here we are on a network radio station that broadcasts throughout the UK, England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, and the reality is people in England, Scotland and Wales, the vast majority of them, will be shrugging their shoulders to this saying: Why are they doing that story? They won’t really care about this story. And this story is that an organisation which has tried to bomb 10 Downing Street, that fired rockets into 10 Downing Street, which strapped bombs around human beings and turned them into human bombs, the current assessment of the security forces in Northern Ireland and the Irish government is that the IRA still has a degree of control over Sinn Féin who are trying to form a government in The South and are in the government in part of the UK, namely Northern Ireland. Now why would people throughout the rest of the UK not be more interested in that story?

Máiría:  Well some people may not be interested, Stephen, but I’d hazard a guess that the victims of the IRA and other paramilitary outfits in England will be such as those who were affected by the Birmingham or Guildford pub bombings, for example. You know, those people will be deeply concerned around issues like that and indeed have campaigned for truth and justice for their loved ones for quite some time. You know, but my own assessment of this, I mean I believe that people, if they are committed entirely to peaceful means, should actually play a proper role and its much more welcomed than people who were involved in the IRA in the past or in political life or trying to at least to make their society better but where I differ from other people’s assessment, such as Sinn Féin’s in this, we still are in a situation here where the IRA have failed to take proper responsibility for the deep, deep hurt that they have caused to victims, both living and the relatives of those who have been killed. You know, we have people – I mean recently I mentioned the Paul Quinn case earlier – last week and the week before this case came to prominence again in the local media and the response from Sinn Féin was, shall we say, less than adequate in relation to that family. And the Quinn Family have been going through deep distress for the last thirteen years in order to try and get a smear lifted against their son.

So if those people who were involved in the IRA took proper responsibility and recognised that there was deep hurt caused and disbanded their organisation I think the Irish people would be having a different conversation in relation to this but it is hugely significant today – the statement from the Garda Commissioner, Drew Harris.

Stephen:  Máiría Cahill, thank you very much indeed.
(ends time stamp ~1:50:59)

Máiría Cahill The Michael Reade Show LMFM Radio 28 March 2019

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The Michael Reade Show
LMFM Radio
Co. Louth

Michael Reade speaks to Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) councillor and sexual abuse victims campaigner, Máiría Cahill, via telephone about the guilty verdict yesterday in Dublin concerning paedophile rape involving an alleged IRA member.
(begins time stamp ~26:47)

Michael:  Now a forty-five year old man who was alleged to have been a member of the IRA was found guilty yesterday at the central criminal court of raping two teenaged boys at a Republican safe house in Co. Louth in the early 1990’s and in 2001. We’re joined by Máiría Cahill to talk about this. Good Morning to you, Máiría, and thanks for joining us. I understand you’ve been speaking to the two men who were teenagers at the time they were raped by this man.


Máiría Cahill

Good Morning, Michael. How are you? First of all, apologies to you and your listeners, I have a bit of a virus so I’m hoping my voice holds out. But yes, I have spoken throughout the case over the last number of years, yesterday and again this morning, with the victims and I have a message from one of them. He says he would like to thank everybody in the local area and also wider afield who have supported them in their search for justice and he’s deeply appreciative of that.

And I just want to pay tribute to both of them for their incredible bravery in not only coming forward in the first place but also in seeing this case through to conclusion and you know they have got a result now and I know that they’re hopeful that sentencing will bring some measure of closure for them but I think coming forward in the climate that they did to take that case, which has been ongoing for quite some time, a number of years, and standing up – I mean, I know that they suffered from intimidation in their local area, from smears and attacks verbally, from attempts to, I suppose, try and put them under pressure and they saw the case through – and they went on the witness stand, they were put through a trial by the perpetrator and you know, I just want to say to both of them that they are two very brave individuals and that their actions in standing up will hopefully help other people to come forward.

Michael: Yeah, well, you know better than most what it means to come forward as somebody whose been the victim of a sexual assault let alone to have been raped, let alone to have been raped as a teenager. These particular people were very young, one of them was just thirteen or fourteen, the second guy I think was seventeen so we’re into the realm of paedophilia. And we’re also, then, talking about the fear that people may feel from members of the IRA – something that you can certainly testify to, Máiría Cahill. We’re not allowed to name the two men because of legal reasons but you know who they are, as you say you’ve been speaking to them, a lot of people know who they are and you contend that Gerry Adams knows who they are.

Máiría:   Absolutely. There’s no shadow of a doubt and he will also be aware of the perpetrator’s identity. And I do want to make this point because people know how Sinn Féin have reacted on this issue over the last number of years. I think their actions, the party as a whole, have been despicable in the way, the corporate way, in which they tried initially when I went public in 2014, to try and smear me in an effort to damp this issue down and that they were unable to do that. Mostly again, if have to thank the members of the wider public who saw through the attempts to fire smoke balls all over the place and to try and stop victims from speaking. Gerry Adams has been active on Twitter last night, he’s the TD for the Louth constituency, this case happened in his current constituency and he will be aware of the identities of those people involved in that trial. He hasn’t condemned the actions of the perpetrator in this case. He hasn’t sent solidarity to the victims. And I think it is incumbent upon him as a public representative, first and foremost, to do that and to also call on other victims to come forward to report their abuse and to reassure them that when they do that they will not be smeared, that attacks will not be directed towards them and that victims will be given every support conceivable to allow them to take their cases through the court because that is the arena in which cases like this should be dealt with.

Michael:  Okay. And we’ve heard, I don’t want to link this to any other story that we’ve spoken about on the programme previously because they are legal restrictions but we’ve heard of similar stories of sexual assaults in IRA safe houses and that there were a lot of people involved obviously in organising these safe house and setting them up and the same people becoming aware of allegations that were being made, members of Sinn Féin, some members of Sinn Féin and the IRA on occasion, and people out in the community for that matter. Are there questions, as far as you understand it – again I’m not relating it to stories we’ve heard previously – but are there questions as far as you understand it in relations to this story specifically for people who were not brought before the court?

Máiría:   Well yes, and again I want to be very careful about the legalities and sensitivities in relations to that. In relation to the wider issue I suppose, which takes it off this particular case, I think that in any case where there are allegations that a Republican has abused people in a safe house and if there were any actions, or inactions, by other people that absolutely those people have questions to answer. And I don’t think that in the general issue that those questions have been answered sufficiently. I think we have seen denial after denial actually in relation to a lot of it and a lot of adults have responsibility here in relation to this issue. There are a lot of people across the country who have been involved in similar situations I suppose, and that is the mildest form that I could put on it, and in the aftermath of these cases who have said things publicly or who have denied things in an effort to try and, I suppose, paint victims as liars and absolutely those people have questions to answer but they also have responsibility and if they had a measure of conscience around them they would take responsibility for those actions.

Michael: Responsibility and action I gather as well as the person who led the Republican Movement through this time period and the sitting TD for the constituency where this happened. Are there questions for Gerry Adams now in terms of what action should be taken?

Máiría:  There will always be questions for Gerry Adams as far as I’m concerned and I base that on my own personal experience once I went public and people will be aware so I’m not going to rehash my case or link it to this in any way but I know that my case had an effect on other people in relation to people coming forward to try and get help, to get support. I still have people coming through to me with allegations of cases and all of those allegations have been passed to either the Gardaí or the PSNI (Police Service of Northern Ireland) or in some instances, both. Gerry Adams will always, as far as I’m concerned, have questions to answer. He has, again in my opinion, failed to take proper responsibility or to be absolutely candid in relation to his knowledge on the issue. For example, when I went public on the 14th of October 2014, you will remember that the Sinn Féin party as a whole online, offline and on the public airwaves really went on the offensive and at a point when I was probably at my most vulnerable in the public domain and, you know, they effectively tried to call me a liar. And a week later Gerry Adams wrote a blog where he admitted that the IRA had, in his opinion, dealt with, he said they had expelled or shot sex offenders. Clearly in this case there is no allegation, as far as I’m aware, that either that man was expelled or shot so there is another example of a case which doesn’t tie-in with what Gerry Adams had written in his blog. But there were other quotes from people, like Mary Lou McDonald for example, while she said that people who abused children could not call themselves as Republican she also, and quote for quote, on radio said:

I believe that the people who volunteered for the IRA were decent – yes, I do.

Now, can you imagine what that is like as a sex abuse victim at the other end of the airwaves listening to a statement like that and how that would make you feel if you had suffered abuse at the hands of an IRA member? It’s incredibly hurtful.

But it also has an effect, I suppose, when quite a lot of people are saying things like that from within the Sinn Féin party where victims lose hope – you know, where they don’t believe that their voice is going to be heard – and in this case these two boys, and that’s why I’m saying they have been incredibly brave, both of them have seen this through to the end, both of them have got guilty verdicts and I really hope the sentence brings them closure on the 29th but I also hope that the Sinn Féin party gives them closure in relation to all of this through absolute condemnation of the actions that were perpetrated upon them in the round by this Republican and other people on the periphery…

Michael:  …But both of these children, Máiría Cahill, woke up on different occasions to a paedophile assaulting them and raping them and the, part of the defence, it seems was that at some stage, this man says he was having a relationship with one of these people.

Source: Irish Independent

The two men have obviously been vindicated. Are you concerned that these allegations were known to other people, known to members of Sinn Féin, and they asked that question because it was an IRA safe house, and those allegations were not passed onto the authorities as we’ve heard, alleged, in other stories?

Máiría:  Well look, again I am treading the bounds of legality here. Let me say that here if that is the case, if – and again, it is very, it would be incredible to think that people were not aware of allegations of this nature prior to this court case coming and prior to this case actually running – that people may well have been aware of these allegations and those people have to answer for their action, or inaction, on this case. But let me tell you in the round from my own experience that the – you know, when I went public I was deluged with people coming forward with snippets of information about a range of different cases and I passed, I think around (aside by Máiría). You know, I was deluged with people coming forward with information and again that information was passed to the Gardaí and we are talking about a significant number of alleged people, alleged perpetrators of abuse, who had perpetrated quite heinous actions on children and the thread that linked all of those cases, or the majority of them anyway, was that they did them as Republicans who felt that they could get away with those acts because they felt, in my opinion, that they had cover to do so, that the name of the IRA would mean that people would be too frightened to come forward. And certainly in my own case, you know my own abuser, was an IRA man and that was a significant factor in why his victims did not report him sooner.

You know, and then we have the added element of the Sinn Féin party and their actions when people did come forward and it wasn’t easy to stand up and be counted and to use my voice. Certainly, I know it wasn’t easy for these two individuals to take their case forward because there was an added element there where people, in an effort in my opinion again, to protect the Republican Movement as a whole, rather than taking responsibility for the issue and trying to bring other victims forward in a climate where they would feel comfortable to do so they upped the ante. They went on the offensive. And they tried to silence people and I think that is absolutely despicable.

Michael:  Okay. Well listen, thank you for talking to us today and it’s nice to speak to you again and, indeed, for joining us on the programme.

Máiría:  Thank you Michael. And can I say just one final thing?

Michael:  Very briefly.

Máiría:   Because the one thing that was very important for victims like me was people like yourself and other radio stations and TV stations covering this issue because if you hadn’t given those victims a voice then it would have been very, very difficult for other people to come forward. And the last message that I want to send: That if anybody is sitting on the other end of this radio station who has been in a similar situation to myself or these two men who haven’t come forward to get help that they should do so and that they should feel comfortable to do so. And I certainly will make it my business to make sure that those people are given every support available to them.

Michael:  Máiría Cahill, thank you very much indeed for talking to us today.

Máiría:   Thank you. (ends time stamp ~ 39:59)