Sinn Féin - On Your Side

Adams proposes all-island process to deal with issue of abuse

12 November, 2014 - by Gerry Adams TD


Sinn Féin Leader Gerry Adams TD has urged the Government to back Sinn Fein proposlas for an all-Ireland process to deal with the issue of sexual abuse. Mr Adams made his remarks in the Dail today during a debate around allegations made by Mairia Cahill.

Mr Adams again strongly rejected accusations that Sinn Fein was involved in a cover-up around the allegations made by Mairia Cahill and acussed the Taoiseach Enda Kenny, the Fianna Fáil Leader Mícheal Martin of cynical political opportunism.

Gerry Adams said:

“The recent public discussion around allegations made by Maíria Cahill has brought very sharply into public focus the fact that in a society, and at a time in the North, where large sections of the population did not trust or engage with the RUC, victims of abuse were failed.
He said there is an onus on everyone to support the victims of abuse:

“Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, last week wrote to First Minister, Peter Robinson and to yourself Taoiseach, to propose the establishment – through the North South Ministerial Council - of an all-island process to deal with the issue of support mechanisms for those who were victims of sexual abuse during the conflict.

“The objective would be to ensure greater access to counselling and other supports for victims and to facilitate victims and survivors in accessing the justice system and making official complaints.

“It would empower all victims and survivors of abuse to fully avail of existing services to get the justice they need and deserve. This needs to be a priority cross-border initiative, under the remit of the Irish Government and Northern Executive.

“Sinn Féin and I fully endorse the proposal by Martin McGuinness. The priority must be to ensure victims and survivors have access to professional services, including counselling and therapy and a channel through which complaints can be made to the appropriate statutory agency or police service.

“This initiative should be fully resourced by the Executive and the Irish Government. Such an initiative will support victims of abuse in all communities. The anonymity and confidentiality of victims and survivors who may not wish to be identified must be acknowledged and protected.

“That is why I believe there is an urgent need for an-all island victim-centred process to ensure greater access to counselling and other supports for those who were victims of sexual abuse who could not access justice during the conflict.

“There is also a need to facilitate victims and survivors to access the justice system and, if they wish, to make official complaints.I believe consideration should also be given to dedicated ‘hot lines’ North and South to facilitate victims and survivors who wish to come forward.

“Survivors must be empowered to access these services and all parties should do everything possible to ensure those survivors who want to come forward feel safe in doing so. Any survivor who comes forward to Sinn Féin will be immediately supported in accessing appropriate support services and the authorities.

“I have called on former IRA volunteers who have any information on the expulsion of abusers to bring that information forward to the appropriate authorities or agencies which deal with sexual abuse cases. We are calling for all of those with information to come forward. Yet Fianna Fail, Fine Geal and Labour have claimed that Sinn Féin is engaged in a cover-up.

“Sinn Féin has not been involved in any cover-up of abuse; we have sought to provide clear support and advice to victims and those at risk, and we have urged anyone with information in respect of abuse to bring it to the appropriate authorities.

“The past few weeks has seen a barrage of malicious accusations made against republicans. A media-driven agenda encouraged by the political opponents of Sinn Fein acting as cheer leaders, judge and jury. There is one accusation that most, including myself, accept - Maíria Cahill was the victim of sexual abuse. I believe her.

“There are a number of elements to this case. At its core there is a young woman making an allegation of rape and sexual abuse. Maíria, like all victims and survivors deserves our support to bring the abuser to justice.

“The other elements include an accusation that the IRA investigated the allegation of rape. This has morphed into accusations of a cover-up by Sinn Féin and from that into the charge that we facilitated sex abusers. I reject these charges. They are not true.

“Amid the tsunami of accusations, especially by the Independent Group of newspapers and from the political establishment here, the alleged abuser, the alleged rapist, Mairia’s uncle, seems to have been forgotten entirely.

“I have tried to deal with all these matters as they have been presented to me. On the one hand, with compassion and understanding for Maíria. On the other hand, robustly and honestly defending myself and Sinn Féin.

“Let me say clearly if Sinn Féin or I were at fault I would accept and acknowledge that. But the republicans who played any part in speaking to Maíria Cahill including myself, state with conviction that our concern was for her welfare.

“Mairia was advised to seek counselling and go to the RUC. She was an adult at that time and refused to go to the police. That was her right. She did go to the police in 2010.

“Following an investigation by the PSNI and a high profile court case, those accused were acquitted. The recent BBC Spotlight programme subverted due process in favour of ‘trial by media’ of Padraic Wilson, Seamus Finucane, Briege Wright, Maura McCrory, Sue Ramsey and Jennifer McCann.

“These are all decent people and upstanding Irish citizens, like the late Siobhan O’Hanlon and others. They have been smeared in a despicable way and the court acquittals of four of these have been either ignored or devalued by the media and by people in this chamber.

“The recent publications of letters from Mairia Cahill to Briege Wright demonstrate very clearly that Briege had only sought to help and support Mairia and that Mairia valued this.”

He said the Taoiseach and Fianna Fáil Leader had no interest in due process or in truth when it came to attacking him personally or Sinn Féin generally. Innuendo, insinuation, distortions and untruths are their preferred weapons of choice.

“At the whim of the Fianna Fail Leader and Taoiseach, there is now a five-hour debate around what are described as ‘Statements on the allegations regarding sexual abuse by members of the Provisional Republican Movement’.”

Mr Adams said he hoped today’s debate would set a precedent for regular debates on the North;

“I have been waiting for months for the Taoiseach to bring forward a motion he promised on British Army killings of citizens in Ballymurphy.

“I should point out that despite the contrived outrage and theatrics of Teachta Mícheál Martin in this chamber, a number of Fianna Fail TDs have approached me privately to say how uncomfortable they have felt about their leader’s behaviour.

“On October 22nd you Taoiseach, according to renowned Human Rights lawyer Peter Madden, “set aside the judicial process and ignored the findings of a Court of Law”. You brought your office and the Dail into disrepute.”

He said that for Fine Gael, Fianna Fail and Labour politicians to feign surprise or express bogus outrage at IRA actions, years after they occurred, exposed their lack of sincerity.

“After decades of abandoning people in the North, today their worry is electoral. Their real focus is on the likely outcome of the next General election.”

Mr Adams said Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and Labour TDs were in no position to adopt a holier-than-thou attitude to abuse as they has been in Government during the systematic and institutional abuse of tens of thousands of children and women over decades and during the cover up of that abuse.

He said that since the Fine Gael/Labour Government assumed office in 2011, funding for Rape Crisis Centres, Women’s Aid refuges and other support groups have been slashed and that hundreds of women and children cannot access refuges because of lack of funding.

The Fine Gael/Labour government promised in the Programme for Government that it would introduce consolidated domestic violence legislation to protect victims but almost four years after they were elected it hasn’t happened. Most significantly, he said, the Government has failed to sign up to the European Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence.

He said there was a need to resolve this matter through the relevant authorities North and South and that this should have been option for all cases in the past.

Mr Adams said:

“I made an appeal for information two weeks ago. Since that appeal I have now received information from a republican source in relations to these matters. It came to me anonymously and while I cannot vouch for it, neither do I doubt its authenticity. However that is not a judgement for me. So I have passed this information to An Garda Siochána.

“I want to appeal again to anyone with any information to come forward to the appropriate agencies. If and when I receive other information I will also give this to the Gardaí.

The Sinn Féin Leader said he wished Mairia Cahill well and hoped she would have happiness and completeness in her life, that she would get justice and that her alleged abuser would be brought to justice.

He added:

“I also hope that the Government acts on the proposals Sinn Fein has brought forward. These issues are bigger than party politics or the next election. I am sure all of the TD’s in this chamber love and cherish their families, and will do everything possible to protect their children.

“That is the instinct of the vast majority of us. It is the same for Sinn Féin members, Sinn Féin representatives and Sinn Fein voters. All of us will be judged not by what we say in this particular debate, but what we do now and into the future to protect children and the rights of women.”

ENDS

Full text of Deputy Adams’ address follows:


Taoiseach I have listened to the contributions to date on this matter.

I am conscious that there are many victims of abuse across Ireland listening to this debate.
One in four Irish people haves suffered abuse

Many have never disclosed their abuse to anyone.

I hope that this debate encourages victims of abuse to come forward.

To take the first step in recovery, to disclose their abuse to a friend, to a family member, to a councillor or to the Gardai. Many were failed by the state.

The recent public discussion around allegations made by Maíria Cahill has brought very sharply into public focus the fact that at a time in the North, where large sections of the population did not trust or engage with the RUC, victims of abuse were also failed.

A spokesperson for the Belfast Rape Crisis Collectives said in 1984:

“There are strong and obvious reasons why many women who are raped in the North do not go to the RUC to make a complaint. It must be stressed that, even aside from the facts of the war, and the fact that the legal system has been discredited on many fronts...”

In this climate of fear and alienation many in the nationalist community turned to the IRA to enforce a policing role it was ill-equipped to perform.

Others felt unable to seek support or justice from any channel.

IRA Volunteers were ordinary men and women.

They had no training in dealing with criminality – no resources – legal or judicial or penal to help respond to or investigate allegations of anti-social behaviour, car theft, robbery, death-riding, sexual abuse and rape, or any criminal actions that a normal police service deals with every day.

When other warning or appeals or community interventions failed the IRA punished offenders. This is a matter of public record

Some criminals, including sex abusers were shot or expelled.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that some went to Britain.

Many were re-settled by Northern Ireland Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders and this continues to this day.

The NIACRO project was supported by the Probations Service and other statutory bodies, was publicly funded and resourced and gave evidence in Westminster.

What is clear is that whatever the motivation of those involved, the actions of the IRA were inadequate and inappropriate in seeking to tackle criminality.

We cannot change that.

I have acknowledged the failure of the IRA to deal properly with these difficult issues. And for that I have apologised.

In my view, as Úachtarán Shinn Féin, it is right and proper to face up to mistakes or failures, particularly as part of the need to ensure that these mistakes are not repeated.

The end result of all of this is that some survivors of abuse did not get the support they needed nor the justice they deserved.

They were failed by the state, by the RUC, by social services and in some cases by republicans.

There is very clearly, a need for society to deal, with this issue.

We need to address the failures of the past in the here and now.

We must ensure that victims are supported, the community safeguarded and abusers dealt with through the legal process.

Sinn Féin has sought to deal with the issue in a victim centred way.

There is an onus on us all to support the victims of abuse.

As you acknowledge Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, last week wrote to First Minister, Peter Robinson and to yourself Taoiseach, to propose the establishment – through the North South Ministerial Council - of an all-island process to deal with the issue of support mechanisms for those who were victims of sexual abuse during the conflict.

The objective would be to ensure greater access to counselling and other supports for victims and to facilitate victims and survivors in accessing the justice system and making official complaints.

It would empower all victims and survivors of abuse to fully avail of existing services to get the justice they need and deserve.

This needs to be a priority cross-border initiative, under the remit of the Irish Government and Northern Executive with whatever powers are required to encourage people to come forward.

Sinn Féin and I fully endorse the proposal by Martin McGuinness.

The priority must be to ensure victims and survivors have:

• Professional services, including counselling and therapy
• A channel through which complaints can be made to the appropriate statutory agency or police service.

The anonymity and confidentiality of victims and survivors who may not wish to be identified must be acknowledged and protected.

This initiative should be fully resourced by the Executive and the Irish Government.

That is why I believe there is an urgent need for an-all island victim-centred process to ensure greater access to counselling and other supports for those who were victims of sexual abuse who could not access justice, or were failed or let down during the conflict.

There is also a need to facilitate victims and survivors to access the justice system and, if they wish, to make official complaints.

I believe consideration should also be given to dedicated ‘hot lines’ North and South to facilitate victims and survivors who wish to come forward.

Survivors must be empowered to access these services and all parties should do everything possible to ensure those survivors who want to come forward feel safe in doing so.

Any survivor who comes forward to Sinn Féin will be immediately supported in accessing appropriate support services and the authorities.

I have called on former IRA volunteers who have any information on the expulsion of abusers to bring that information forward to the appropriate authorities or agencies which deal with sexual abuse cases.

We are calling for all of those with information to come forward. Yet Fianna Fail, Fine Gael and Labour have claimed that Sinn Féin is engaged in a cover-up.

I have worked with the Gardai and the PSNI in relations to criminality including abuse and I will continue to do so.

We have not been involved in any cover-up of abuse; we have sought to provide clear support and advice to victims and those at risk, and we have urged anyone with information in respect of abuse to bring it forward.

The past few weeks has seen a barrage of malicious allegations made against republicans.

There is one accusation that most, including myself, accept - Maíria Cahill was the victim of sexual abuse.

I believe her.

There are a number of elements to this case.

But at its core there is a young woman making an allegation of rape and sexual abuse.
Maíria, like all victims and survivors deserves our support to bring the abuser to justice.

The other elements include an allegation that the IRA investigated the allegation of rape.
This has now morphed into accusations of a cover-up by Sinn Féin and from that into the charge that we facilitate sex abusers. I reject these charges. They are not true.

Amid the tsunami of accusations, especially by the Independent Group of newspapers and from the political establishment here, the alleged abuser, the alleged rapist, Mairia’s uncle, seems to have been forgotten about.

The person who was charged with the abuse is not mentioned.

I have tried to deal with all these matters as they have been presented to me.

On the one hand, with compassion and understanding for Maíria.

On the other hand, robustly and honestly defending myself and Sinn Féin.

Let me say clearly if Sinn Féin or I was at fault I would accept and acknowledge that.

But the republicans who played any part in speaking to Maíria Cahill including myself, state with conviction that our concern was for her welfare.

Mairia was advised to seek counselling and to go to the RUC.

Mairia was an adult at that time and refused to go to the police. That was her right.
She did go to the police in 2010.

Following an investigation by the PSNI and a high profile court case, those accused were acquitted.

The recent BBC Spotlight programme subsequently subverted due process in favour of ‘trial by media’ of Padraic Wilson, Seamus Finucane, Briege Wright, Maura McCrory, Sue Ramsey and Jennifer McCann.

These are all decent people and upstanding Irish citizens, like the late Siobhan O’Hanlon, Maíria’s cousin and others. They have been smeared in a despicable way and the court acquittals of four of these have been either ignored or devalued by the media and by reps in this chamber here again today.

The recent publications of letters from Mairia Cahill to Briege Wright demonstrates very clearly that Briege only sought to help and support Mairia.

In 2005 Mairia said of Briege

‘You mean the world to me, you are kind, compassionate, committed, and above all, you gave me an ear when I needed it’

Not my words, but those of Maíria Cahill.

The recent political attacks on Jennifer McCann – an outstanding Minister, who has worked tirelessly for the rights of women and children have been a disgrace.
The claim that Sinn Féin members were involved in a cover-up because they did not disclosed to the police against Mairia’s wishes.

However there was also other in the media, in political parties including the leader of the Ulster Unionist Party Mike Nesbitt, who respected Mairia’s wishes and did not inform the police.

Are these people now to be included in the definition of cover-up by republicans and call for inquiries.

The Taoiseach and the Fianna Fáil Leader and elements of the media have sought to liken the alleged approach of republicans to this case with that of the Catholic hierarchy, accusing Sinn Féin of a cover-up and of moving the abuser about.

No evidence whatsoever has been produced to corroborate these claims.

And they are untrue.

I am sorry to say that the Taoiseach, the Fianna Fáil Leader and others have no interest in due process or in truth when it comes to attacking me personally or Sinn Féin generally.

The Labour leader today added to that and insulted the whole community of West Belfast. A community that I was proud to represent.

Innuendo, insinuation, distortions and untruths are their preferred weapons of choice.

At the whim of the Fianna Fail Leader and Taoiseach, there is now a five-hour debate around what are described as ‘Statements on the allegations regarding sexual abuse by members of the Provisional Republican Movement’.

I hope this sets a precedent for regular debates on the North. I have been waiting for months for the Taoiseach to honour his commitment to bring forward a motion he promised on British Army killings of citizens in Ballymurphy

I should point out that despite the contrived outrage and theatrics of Fianna Fail leader in this chamber, a number of members of his party have approached me privately to say how uncomfortable they have felt about their leader’s behaviour.

October 22nd you Taoiseach, according to renowned Human Rights lawyer Peter Madden, “set aside the judicial process and ignored the findings of a Court of Law”.

Today Teachta Regina Doherty has repeated that approach a million fold again today.

You brought your office and the Dail into disrepute. Your attitude that day is in marked contrast to your refusal to deal with legitimate questions as to how your government Minister dealt with the whistle-blowers file on allegations of tax avoidance by senior Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and PD politicians. In this instance you quite rightly refused to prejudge.

But you have again today prejudged this case

Recently we have had miles of column inches and comment directed at how the IRA dealt with offenders in the community. This was known.

It is also a fact that during decades of conflict, countless newspaper articles, radio and televisions reports and investigative documentaries regularly reported on this aspect of the conflict.

Martin McGuinness and myself are both on public record in the 1980s calling for an end to IRA punishments.

For Fine Gael, Fianna Fail and Labour politicians to feign surprise or express bogus outrage at these actions, years after they occurred, exposes your lack of honesty or sincerity.

After decades of abandoning people in the North, today your worry is electoralism.

Their real focus of all of this is on the likely outcome of the next General election.

As well as listening to what the Government has to say on this matter, let us also look at what they have done on these issues.

In his eagerness to exploit this issue for party political ends and to seek to smear me and Sinn Féin, the Taoiseach claims that sex offenders were moved to Dublin, Donegal and Louth.

I have no knowledge of these claims.

Has the Taoiseach given whatever information he has on this to the Gardaí?

Anyone with any information about sexual abuse has a duty and responsibility to go forward to the authorities.

Has Teachta Martin?

Sinn Féin is committed to addressing all of the legacy issues arising from the conflict in the north.

The government is obliged to deal with these issues under the Good Friday and St. Andrews Agreements in agreed and appropriate way.

Any measure which would bring truth and closure to victims of abuse should be welcomed by me.

But as we seek to address this difficult issue we must not lose sight of the fact that there is an unprecedented level of duplicity in the attitude of Fianna Fáil and leader.

A succession of damning reports, including the Ryan Commission, the Ferns Inquiry, the Cloyne Report, the Murphy Report and the scandal of the Magdalene Laundries and the Bethany Home all exposed the extent to which the Catholic Hierarchy and the Irish state and successive governments made up of Fine Gael, Fianna Fail and Labour, were involved in the systematic and institutional abuse of tens of thousands of children over decades or the cover up of this abuse.

It happened on your watch.

It was also a Fianna Fail Minister who did a deal with 18 Irish religious orders involved in child sexual abuse scandals which severely limited their compensation liability to the victims of abuse.

Sinn Fein, in particular Teachta Aengus Ó Snodaigh has campaigned for many years for an all-Ireland sex offenders register.

Aengus has raised the issue in this chamber many times with various Ministers. This is still outstanding

The Taoiseach has said that this government has done more for women and children than any other.

When it comes to supporting the victims of domestic violence and of rape this government has an appalling record.

Since the Fine Gael/Labour Government assumed office in 2011, funding for Rape Crisis Centres, Women’s Aid refuges and other support groups have been slashed.

SafeIreland and other agencies providing support for women’s group have consistently highlighted the fact that each year hundreds of women and children cannot access refuges because of lack of funding.

The Fine Gael/Labour government promised in the Programme for Government that it would introduce consolidated domestic violence legislation to protect victims.

Almost four years after they were elected it hasn’t happened.

Most significantly the Government has failed to sign up to the European Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence.

I have raised these issues here many times.

Recently the figures from the Child and Family Agency reveal a major shortfall in the numbers of social workers with responsibility for caring for children.

This represents a failure on the part of Government to fulfil its commitment and responsibility.

The publication two years ago of the report by the Independent Child Death Review Group was a chilling indictment of child protection systems that repeatedly failed to save children from abuse and in some cases death.

Page after page of the report recorded the lives and deaths of one young person after another and with each conclusion it is clear that the child protection system failed time after time. And this was under your watch Taoiseach.

The ICDRG report provided a disturbing and harrowing insight into the systemic failure of the Irish state’s child protection systems between 2000 and 2010.

It is also a damning reflection on previous governments which failed to use the wealth of the boom years of the Celtic Tiger to invest in child protection services and strategies.

The responsibility for these failures rests with those parties and in particular the Fianna Fáil leadership.

You failed victims.

While we cannot change the past, we have the responsibility to redress it.

As I said at the beginning of my remarks, there is a need to resolve this matter through the relevant authorities North and South. And this should have been option for all cases in the past.

I did make an appeal for information two weeks ago. Since that appeal I have received information from a republican source in relations to these matters.

It came to me anonymously and while I cannot vouch for it, neither do I doubt its authenticity.

However that is not a judgement for me. So I have passed this information to An Garda Siochána.

I want to appeal again to anyone with any information to come forward to the appropriate agencies.

If and when I receive other information I will also give this to the Gardaí.

The Irish and British Governments and all political parties have a responsibility to address this legacy.

And victims and survivors have a right to truth and justice.

There is a need to establish a genuine Truth Recovery process.

Other post-conflict societies have successfully used such processes to deal with these issues.

The Haass proposals provide a viable mechanism for this to happen.

There is a responsibility on all of us, but especially the Irish Government, to agree and advance these proposals.

Victims and survivors include those who were subject to sexual abuse, threat and exploitation, whether by individuals who were members of state forces or of non-state combatant groups, including the IRA or by other individuals.


Survivors of sexual abuse and rape deserve acknowledgement, support and justice. Perpetrators of abuse need to be subject to the law and brought before the courts.

I wish Mairia Cahill well and hope she has happiness and completeness in her life. That she gets justice and that her alleged abuser is brought to justice.

I also hope that the Government acts on the proposals Sinn Fein has brought forward. The Taoiseach has said that he welcomed the proposals from Martin McGuinness. These issues are bigger than party politics or the next election.

I am sure all of the TD’s in this chamber love and cherish their families, and will do everything possible to protect their children.

That is the instinct of the vast majority of humanity.

Well it is the same for Sinn Féin members, Sinn Féin representatives and Sinn Fein voters.

Let me say, on behalf of my family, I take grave offense to many of the comments relating to my family. The taunts and comments have traumatic to my family.

I have been told not to take these comments personally. That despite what is said in here, to take no notice. That is not good enough. They have highly offensive.

All of us will be judged not by what we say in this particular debate, but what we do now and into the future to protect children and the rights of women.

Download Sinn Féin's Alternative Budget 2020 below

Sinn Fein Alternative Budget 2020

Policies