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Assembly debate not about needs of victims - Ní Chuilín

4 November, 2014 - by Carál Ní Chuilín

Sinn Féin MLA Carál Ní Chuilín has said tonight's debate on the BBC Spotlight motion in the Assembly was not about the needs of victims but political point scoring. 

As someone who has dealt with and supported victims of domestic and sexual abuse, including women prisoners sexually assaulted by prison officers in Armagh and Maghaberry Prisons during the 1980s and early ‘90s, I’m saddened that today’s motion and amendment have little to do with helping or supporting victims. 

Rather the other parties in this house have chosen to politicise the serious issue of sexual abuse and indulge themselves in a bout of political point-scoring. None of this has anything to do with meeting the needs of victims.

All the evidence and research into sexual abusers shows clearly that abusers come from all walks of life, from all backgrounds and from all classes.

This motion however, seeks to turn all that evidence on its head and instead focus solely on one group of people. This motion demeans the suffering and the pain of all those who have been abused, it fails the victims.   

Mr Deputy Speaker, part of this motion is targeted at Jennifer McCann who did all she could to assist a vulnerable young woman who disclosed to her in confidence that she had been sexually abused seven years previously. 

The producers of the Spotlight programme which triggered the trial by media of the Mairia Cahill case deemed the outcome of judicial processes as inconvenient facts in their attempt to get a headline-grabbing programme. 

Due process was ignored, key facts were omitted to suit the bias of Spotlight’s conclusions in a bid to get better ratings.    

It’s one thing for a TV show driving a coach and horses through the law and the right to a fair trial in open court. 

But it’s another altogether for the members of this house to set aside every semblance of fairness and process and attempting to adjudicate on this case.

 So I must ask the members of this house do they continue to support due process? 

Do they have confidence in the PSNI?

Do they have confidence in the PPS?

Do they have confidence in the courts? 

Or is guilt or innocence to be determined by Spotlight, by this chamber? They can’t have it both ways. They either support due process or they don’t.

These same members unlike Jennifer McCann have offered no practical help to Mairia Cahill or other victims other than to use their distress to score points in the media.   

And I would like to remind the members that the issue we debate today is not simply a legacy issue. 

According to figures issued by Niacro, 173 alleged sex offenders were referred between 2006 and 2012 for resettlement. Many of them were under threat from the same loyalist paramilitaries the unionist parties are cosying up to in a pan-unionist front in their bid to force a loyalist march though a nationalist area. 

If the proposers of the motion and amendment were really serious about tackling abuse within our society then we would have a motion and an amendment dealing with all abuse no matter what the source.

The answer for victims and the wider public is obvious; some people in this chamber want to indulge in party political point scoring and they do not care if that inflicts more hurt on victims. And I have to say that the SDLP’s support for this DUP attack and for their amendment is shameful and disgraceful.

Let me finish by saying to anyone out there who has been the victim of abuse, come forward and report it.  If you need help and support then there are many organisations who have the skills and training to assist you.  As for my Party, we will support you in any way that we can.

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