The Breakfast Show
BBC Radio Foyle
Seán O’Halloran is in studio this morning with Máiría Cahill and speaks to her about the Police Ombudsman report, released yesterday, on her abuse case and about how Sinn Féin denied the cover-up of that abuse. (begins time stamp ~ 1:38:45)
Where’s the audio? It is not available for download. To listen along as you read please click here.
Seán: Máiría Cahill has rejected an apology from the Sinn Féin President, Mary Lou McDonald, after she expressed regret for how the party had handled her allegation of rape. Ms Cahill alleges she was raped as a teenager by an IRA man and that Sinn Féin and the IRA tried to cover it up. The apology came yesterday after a report by the Police Ombudsman criticised police investigations into the case. Máiría Cahill also met the Chief Constable, George Hamilton, and accepted his apology for the police failures in that case. We’ll speak to Máiría Cahill now. Good Morning.
Máiría: Good Morning.
Seán: Thanks for being with us, first of all. I wonder, could I ask, why you’ve rejected Mary Lou McDonald’s apology and what does she need to say – what needs to be good enough for you?
Well I’ve written to her this morning in the form of an email to tell her why, as if she didn’t already know, I mean, first of all she has apologised that procedures were not in place. She hasn’t apologised for her party’s actions.
She hasn’t apologised for the fact that there was an IRA investigation into my abuse. She hasn’t apologised for the fact that I was brought into a room to face my abuser. She hasn’t apologised for the fact that senior Sinn Féin party figures were aware from 1997 that I was being abused and while that abuse was ongoing and yet the Sinn Féin party did nothing in terms of suspension of that man until 2000. They could have spared hurt to other children had they done so.
And she hasn’t apologised for her and her party’s actions when I went public in 2014 because they allowed the general public to believe that I was lying about some aspects of this. And I wasn’t lying. And that’s what Mary Lou McDonald needs to do. She needs to stop this cover, wide-scale cover-up, by Sinn Féin in relation to their actions not just in my case but in other cases of abuse. And had it not been for this Ombudsman’s report turning up intelligence from 2000 that shadow still would have been cast over me and Sinn Féin still would have allowed you to think that a sexual abuse victim was lying in the public arena and I think that’s despicable and I would have much welcomed a proper apology yesterday from Mary Lou McDonald. I didn’t get it. I think she should do the decent thing now and give one.
Seán: And that – I mean it sounds like, very much, a lot of the hurt for you is about Sinn Féin’s response at the time and, as you say, for painting you as a liar. The police themselves knew, we now know due to the Ombudsman’s report, that they had information on allegations of abuse ten years before you made it known. Is that the difference here? That although both made mistakes that Sinn Féin, in your eyes, painted you as a liar?
Máiría: Well there are two aspects of it: Like the fact that it wasn’t just police that had it. Special Branch had it also in 2000 as did Social Services and we have been failed by everybody as far as I am concerned. But in relation to taking responsibility: George Hamilton met me face-to-face yesterday and he took responsibility for his organisation – hands up, in its entirety – accepted the Ombudsman report and also accepts, by the way, that I was telling the truth. And I presume that George Hamilton has been able to review the intelligence that exists and that the Ombudsman had access to. Mary Lou McDonald has not apologised in her entirety, sorry in its entirety, for her party’s actions in relation to not just what happened to us at the time but what happened to me whenever I went public in 2014. Look, they stood on the records of two parliaments and lied to the Irish public and they put me under severe pressure and I have been traumatised not just from the abuse, not just from the IRA investigation – further traumatised by a collapse in the court processes – then to find out that you were let down by the statutory agencies and the icing on the cake, really, is when you do pluck up the courage to go public in relation to it one of the most powerful political machines on this island sought to clamp down and to shut me down. And had it not been for the Sir Keir Starmer report and the Ombudman’s report, two independent reports, you know – they may well have buried me a long time ago in relation to this issue.
Seán: Well just to remind listeners because we did ask to speak Sinn Féin on the programme but Mary Lou McDonald said yesterday:
I have no doubt that the three women at the heart of this report have been through an ordeal. I want to commend their bravery, in particular the bravery of Máiría Cahill, for waiving her anonymity. Sinn Féin has robust procedures in place for mandatory reporting of abuse. I deeply regret that these procedures were not in place at the time of Máiría Cahill’s disclosure. For this I unreservedly apologise.
I wonder if your strong feelings towards Sinn Féin – will an apology from Mary Lou McDonald, will an apology from Sinn Féin as a party – will that ever hold water for you?
Máiría: I think it’s a very important step that they need to take and, you know – it’s hard enough to talk about your sexual abuse and you’ll forgive me, I am quite emotional today around a number of aspects of this and because there is other information coming in but in relation to it: Look, the first step is admitting responsibility. They have never provided closure to me. In fact, they haven’t even – I don’t think they have grasped the gravity of this in terms of – this is not a legacy issue, by the way, although some people have tried to paint it as – this happened in the years ’97 to 2000. The intelligence was received two years after the Good Friday Agreement. I went public in 2014 and made a police complaint in 2010 and even at the point when I made the police complaint Sinn Féin, in relation to potential witnesses in this case, didn’t behave in a manner in which I believe they should have behaved. So I just think their behaviour in this has been appalling. They should provide closure to me as a victim and to other victims out there. And that apology yesterday isn’t worth the paper that it’s written on because if you go back to 2014 you can drag up any one of their quotes in relation to it. I was accused of making ‘scurrilous allegations’. Politicians were accused of making political capital out of this. Sinn Féin said very robustly: We have never been involved in a cover-up of abuse – and now this report proves, without a shadow of a doubt, that they were lying to the Irish public on the issue in 2014. And to expect me to have to jump through the hoops in order to try and drag an apology, a proper apology, out of them kicking and screaming, is just simply not good enough.
Seán: You have remained very composed since this came to light some time ago. I imagine yesterday was a very emotional day for you. Do you think, is it your belief, that Social Services also have a role to play here?
Máiría: They do. And I phoned them out of courtesy during the week to let them know that this was going to break and their response was to phone me back to thank me for my call. That is simply not good enough. I want to meet with them as a matter of urgency. I want them to undertake a review. And I want them to tell people exactly what their actions were in relation to this. I have information in this Ombudsman report which states that they received information through an anonymous tip-off in September 2000 and they closed the case in November 2000. Now, I also have sort of an explanation as to why that would be so but I think Social Services owe it to me to conduct a proper review of this issue.
Seán: Máiría Cahill, thank you very much, indeed, for joining us on the programme. (ends time stamp ~ 1:46:06)