As the bulk of media coverage since Spotlight first broadcast 12 days ago suggests, the Cahill story has not been eclipsed as such but is now accompanied by emerging narratives of an IRA having in its ranks a number of rapists and abusers, a systemic failure on the part of the Provisional Movement in the processing and management of sexual abuse allegations against its members resulting in grossly improper remedial action being taken, and ultimately a shield being erected to deflect the public gaze. While the IRA were mere apprentices compared to the sorcerers of the Catholic Church, the same institutional instinct for concealment was at play.
The indissoluble ties binding the party’s current leaders to an IRA past is the migraine pounding the head of Sinn Fein today. Shorn of such links Sinn Fein would be pretty much immune to the run of allegations. The party leader, although once found not guilty of IRA membership in a Diplock court, was a senior IRA figure at the heart of IRA policy making. It is his limpet-like attachment to power that makes the past such a weak spot in the party armour.
Currently where matters sit but do not rest, is that even if by some chance Mairia Cahill was to claim her accusations were sheer invention the genie of systemic concealment has been let out of the bottle and it will be very difficult for Sinn Fein to get it back in. In biblical fashion the Cahill experience has gone forth and multiplied.
From the swirl of claim, counter claim and smear, can be plucked an almost universal consensus that Cahill was raped. Any remaining doubts that lingered in the wake of Cahill having substantively addressed them, were dispelled by Sinn Fein endorsing her claim that she indeed was the target of a heinous assault. People like myself who had difficulty in getting our heads around why Cahill stayed around after the first assault, very much now understand that we don’t very much understand the mind of the rape victim:
When I was raped seven years ago, I lost a lot of things: my choice, my esteem and my voice. Trauma has a way of muffling our language, making it near impossible to speak during or after the event. This stunted speech, no matter how biological the response, creates intense guilt, shame and confusion in the survivor.
Why didn't I stop him? Why didn't I tell anyone? Why did I stay around afterwards like everything was normal?" These questions haunted me for years, and still do from time to time, but what has helped me heal has been getting my voice back. After three years, I am able to say now what I couldn't say then, and there is no greater power then speaking your truth.
Now it seems that Jude Collins has drawn the short straw and been assigned the Last Man Standing role, holding out publicly against Cahill without resorting to the cover of a moniker, even going as far as to disagree with Sinn Fein’s public stance in regard to her claims. The arguments of the remaining trolls are much easier to ignore because unlike Collins, they lack the pluck to stand over their claims. Despite that, Collins, no stranger to dubious logic when it comes to defending Sinn Fein, has failed to influence the debate in anything but a marginal way, managing to sound even more harsh in his judgement than Mary Kenny who in 2012 drew down serious ridicule for her comment on a clerical abuse victim that “I accept that John was a victim of an odious crime, but I want to know more about the circumstances. Much more."
So for now Sinn Fein remains on the back foot, abandoning one position after another in the hope of finding hospitable terrain in which it can dig in and hold a credible line. Even here its ability to do so is being hampered by its legions of whisper weasels hiding behind anonymity on social media sites. Applying Elbert Hubbard’s observation that if you can't answer a woman's arguments, all is not lost; you can still call her vile names, the trolls seem to have learned nothing from Mary Lou McDonald's criticism of their efforts as shameful and cruel.