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McCann describes DUP Spotlight motion as shameful

4 November, 2014 - by Jennifer McCann

Sinn Féin MLA Jennifer McCann has outlined the practical help she gave Mairia Cahill following Mairia's disclosure that she was a victim of abuse. 

Speaking in the Assembly, the West Belfast MLA said;

"I am very aware before I make any contribution to this debate that there is currently an on going review into this case and that in recent days 2 more victims have released a public statement in which they have expressed concern about how the case has become politicised. I certainly don't want to say anything that will cause further distress to any of the victims.

"That said, I feel very strongly that my credibility  not only as junior minister but also in a personal sense as a woman and particularly as a mother is under attack through this disgraceful motion, and what members in this chamber have said both during this debate and over the past few weeks.

 "I want to totally refute any inference in either the motion  or what has been said  that I did anything improper in the actions I took in relation to this case. I would not cover up or protect anyone who has been accused of rape or sexual abuse.  

"Mairia Cahill was a young woman of 23 or 24 years of age when she disclosed to me that she had been raped when she was 16 years old. She told me this in 2005 some six to seven years after the abuse took place.   

"At the time she had just recently started work in the local Community Forum where I worked as a community worker. 

"She disclosed this information to me in confidence as a work colleague and I sought to help her in whatever way I could at that time.

"It was clear to me that she was quite distressed. And I was very concerned about her safety and her well being as she appeared to me to be very vulnerable.  I advised Mairia that she should seek the help of a counsellor and I spoke directly to a close family member of hers to tell them of my concerns and also advised that they should get help for her.

"I was aware that her family and others, who were much closer to her than I was, were already aware of it years before Mairia told me.  So I totally reject the allegations levelled against me that I acted in any improper way at the time.

"At no time did she indicate to me that she wanted me to report this and I did what I would do for anyone in those circumstances and what I felt she needed at the time and advised her to seek counselling.

"I can even remember one night, she was particularly distressed and on her own. I advised her not to stay on her own because I was very concerned that she seemed particularly vulnerable. 

"That night I invited her to stay at my home and in fact took my young child out of her own bed to give Mairia her room so that she would not be left on her own. 

"I have to say when I first saw this motion I was extremely upset that something I did to try and help and support someone was being used to try and say I covered up or protected someone who was responsible for sexual abuse.  That is not and never has been the case.

"At no time since 2005 has Mairia, or her solicitor or legal team or indeed the police ever approach me or asked me to make a statement on this issue.  

"Mairia herself didn't report it until 2010.  And when I contacted them the police themselves have told my solicitor I’m not required to make a statement on this case.  So there is absolutely no impropriety in my actions.  

"I have worked for many years with victims of abuse and domestic violence and I have accompanied them myself to the Police and other statutory bodies for help when they have made that choice to do so. I would have taken the same course of action without hesitation had Mairia asked me to do. 

"The other political parties in this chamber were very quick to come here today with their accusations and finger pointing, and most people listening would I believe question your motives and like myself see this motion as an opportunity to use this issue for party politicking.

"I want to finish by saying this all the victims in this case including Maria are entitled to justice, and I hope that the review will enable them to get that justice and closure that they seek. 

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