McGuinness calls for all-island victims initiative
Martin McGuinness MLA has called for the establishment of an all-island initiative to ensure victims and survivors of abuse have access to professional support services.
Speaking in the Assembly, Mr McGuinness said;
"The DUP motion before the Assembly today and the accompanying amendment from the SDLP are not about helping or supporting victims of sexual abuse.
"Those behind this motion are solely and singularly interested in attacking Sinn Fein and are blatantly politicising this very sensitive issue in the most crass and self-serving way.
"This motion is a wholly unjustified and unfounded attack on the integrity and sincerity of one of the most dedicated and capable members of this Assembly, my friend and colleague, Junior Minister Jennifer McCann. The motion is a disgrace.
"But we have come to expect this type of gutter politics from some elements of the DUP. Gregory Campbell’s insulting comments on the Irish language yesterday - the derogatory comments of Jim Wells about the people of West Belfast are in the same vein. So we expect this type of insulting and personalised politicking from unrepentant bigots in the DUP.
"Even more disgraceful however is the collusion between the SDLP and the DUP in their combined and cowardly attack on Jennifer McCann. The SDLP have sunk to new depths in this cynical exercise. The SDLP are attempting to exploit the difficult issue of sexual abuse for the most selfish and self-serving political reasons. The SDLP amendment is a disgrace and the SDLP members who proposed this amendment should be ashamed of themselves.
"What has to be remembered is that the allegations at the centre of this debate have been tested in court and those accused acquitted.
"Members of this house are now arguing that due process should be set aside or ignored. They are doing so - not out of concern for an individual victim – but because they see her suffering as their political opportunity.
"That is a sad reflection of the priorities of some within this chamber.
"Let me be absolutely clear on this point. I have no tolerance whatsoever for abusers. And nothing but empathy and sympathy for those who have been abused.
"But there is a duty on all of us to confront the issue of sexual abuse within Irish society in a responsible way.
"And to do so in such a way that enables all victims and survivors to access the support and justice they need and are entitled to.
"That is why I am proposing the establishment of an all-island initiative, resourced by - and under the remit of - both the Irish Government and Northern Executive through the North South Ministerial Council which will ensure that victims and survivors have access to the professional support services they need and, crucially, a channel through which complaints can be made to the appropriate statutory agency or police service.
"But let me be very clear, in her contact with Mairia Cahill, 7 years after the abuse occurred, Jennifer McCann acted at all times with care and compassion in attempting to support and assist a work colleague who she believed was the victim of serious sexual abuse. Jennifer McCann did nothing wrong then or since. There is absolutely no basis or substance to any suggestion that she is in breach of the Ministerial Code.
"On the contrary, in her role as Junior Minister Jennifer has been the most effective and determined champion of victims, particularly in her work with the victims of institution historical abuse. She will continue in that important role with my total support and confidence. As long as I am deputy First Minister, Jennifer will continue to assist me as Junior Minister in the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister.