Untold Trauma

Sandy Boyer (SB) and Ed Moloney (EM), author of A Secret History of the IRA,  interview Máiría Cahill (MC) via telephone from Belfast about her ordeal of and fallout from going public with allegations that was she raped as a child by a key IRA man from Belfast. Particular thanks to TPQ transcriber who despite a busy schedule unfailingly comes up with this type of valuable documentation.

WBAI 99.5FM Pacifica Radio
New York City
15 November 2014

SB:  And now we're going over to Belfast to speak to Máiría Cahill. Máiría, thank you very much for being with us.

MC:  Hi, Sandy, no problem. Thank you.

 SB:  And we're also joined on the line by Ed Moloney, he's the author of A Secret History of the IRA.

MC:  Hi, Ed.

EM:  Hi, Máiría. How are you?

MC:  I'm fine.                                                                                                         

SB:  Máiría, you've caused a huge uproar in Ireland. You've been on the front page of every newspaper. You've been on the BBC. And even there was a debate in The Dáil, the Irish Parliament, over what you said. You've talked about what happened when, at the age of sixteen, you were raped by a leading member of the IRA and everything that came after. Máiría, can you tell us your story?

MC:  Yes. Well, you're right – correct, Sandy – when I was sixteen I was sexually abused and raped for over a period of a year. I couldn't cope with what was happening to me – that man, by the way – was an IRA man.  He was the head of the punishment squad in an area in Belfast which basically shot young people and beat them to a pulp. And he self-styled himself as an alternative to the RUC and he was the public profile spokesperson for Community Restorative Justice which was a Sinn Féin endorsed project. He sat on the management committee for the West Belfast Festival along with Gerry Adams, Danny Morrison, Sue Ramsey, Siobhán O'Hanlon and was a quite a key figure I suppose within the Republican Movement. He also was living at that time with my father's sister. 

And I was staying in that house because I was working in a local, community radio station at the time initially and – I was abused there as were two other very young children.When I disclosed, I disclosed to Siobhán O'Hanlon, who people may know was Gerry Adams' personal secretary at the time, she was also my second cousin and I disclosed because I couldn't cope with what was happening to me and it was simply to have an ear to listen to try and  I suppose expunge some of the trauma I was going through at the time.  And I also told other women – one a Sinn Féin Assembly member, Sue Ramsey, although she wasn't an Assembly member at the time obviously - and other Republican women.  And again, the reason that I did tell was because I simply wanted someone to listen and I wanted to try I suppose – there are many reasons why people disclose but the main one was that I obviously needed to speak about it. 

One of those women, a number of months later, went without my knowledge to the IRA.  And the IRA waited then another number of months before they came to me and the reason being that they said they had to “morally” wait until I was eighteen before they could come and speak to me about it. And they forced an investigation into my sexual abuse which culminated after six months of repeated questioning in a confrontation, a forced confrontation, with my abuser in which they brought him into a room with me in a flat in Andersonstown in West Belfast and they allowed him to repeatedly tear strips off me and he gave me quite a hard time in that room and that caused untold trauma. 

And then there was two members brought into that a number of days later, or the next day maybe, and they were sent in with me to tell my parents that the IRA had conducted an investigation, that we weren't allowed to tell anybody, that we weren't allowed to report this man to the police, we weren't even allowed to tell people within in the wider family. And a number of months went by, two months actually, and then Sinn Féin profiled this man in their newspaper in an effort to cover-up my allegations – to make it much more difficult for me to ever speak out about it. 

He gave an interview to An Phoblacht in which he praised Community Restorative Justice and particularly the fact that the RUC were unacceptable and that they were working with domestic violence and abuse victims. 

A number of months went by another young child had come out and said that she had been abused as did another one and the IRA forced investigation number two. They, without my knowledge again, placed the man under house arrest and I subsequently found out that detail. 

The man then was given a cheque and a car and he was facilitated out by the Republican Movement  – out of the jurisdiction – because we – my father in particular - was very strong – he wanted the man handed over into RUC custody in order to try and protect other children and also so that we could also report the abuse.

And when he went I then met with the Army Council of the IRA – two representatives – sorry - not the entire Army Council, and that meeting was solely focused on me trying to find out where the man was – whether I was - what was happening. I was told he was probably facilitated out by the RUC and I didn't know who to believe at the time. 

And then around six weeks later I had meeting number two after registering my disgust and my frustration with those people within the IRA who made decisions and I also then subsequently met Gerry Adams for a period of six years in which we discussed my frustration and the rape abuse and the IRA investigation. And that's the very brief I suppose version of it, Sandy. But obviously it was a very difficult time for me as a sixteen, seventeen, eighteen and nineteen year old woman and child. 

SB:  Obviously.  And we're joined on the line by Ed Moloney, the author of A Secret History of the IRA, who I know has been following this case very closely. Ed, thanks for being on.

EM:  No problem, Sandy. 

SB:  And Ed, you have questions for Mairia. 

EM:  Yes. I've a couple of questions really.  One, Máiría, is this:  You've probably noticed this yourself that coming from people who are either Sinn Féin or sympathetic to Sinn Féin is this allegation that: Well, if there was really something amiss here then why on earth did Máiría Cahill drop the case or not insist that it go to full prosecution?  Now I've heard various explanations but I don't think that's a very well-known story over here in the US. Perhaps you could explain to us why did the whole case collapse? 

MC:  Oh, certainly, Ed. There were actually three cases, Ed.  There was one case – basically the defence put an application in – and this case by the way lasted for four years, so four years of absolute turmoil and I know you, Ed, that you would be aware the length of time that case went on - and that's difficult for any rape victim in any situation but certainly four years on with - there were suspicions that there was political interference. For example, Mark Durkan, who is an MP for the SDLP in the Foyle area – in the area in which I was living at the time was able to tell me that he was aware that Sinn Féin were briefing other MPs in Westminster in an effort to try and have the charges dropped. 

The former British Secretary of State, Shaun Woodward, defended one of the IRA men who stood accused and Mark Durkan on the Spotlight programme when he said that Shaun Woodward referred to Padraig Wilson as “poor Padraig” and that the charges shouldn't be brought because it could rattle the peace process effectively – I mean I'm paraphrasing what Mark said, Shaun said – and I know Shaun Woodward denies it but I mean that was the allegation that Mark has heard and I've since heard that other MPs can confirm that account.  But basically – and it is very complicated – there were then charges brought against the abuser when I made a very lengthy police statement in 2010 and the other two victims, also alleged victims, made statements.    

And the defence - subsequently there was also charges brought of IRA membership and other charges in relations to - intimidation I think was one – and arranging or addressing a meeting on behalf of the IRA were charges that were leveled against four other individuals in relation to the IRA investigation into my abuse.

And in order to bolster the case for the abuse - because part of my evidence dealt with the fact that this man was an IRA man who had asked me to move guns on behalf of the IRA and I was petrified of him - the first question that you will always be asked in court as a abuse victim is: Why did you not disclose sooner? 

And in order for me to be able to answer some of those questions the IRA evidence needed to also go in. The defence applied to split the charges and the defendants indeed and it ended up going from one trial, to two trials and then to three trials – three Diplock courts – and the abuser was separated out from the other four individuals and his membership trial was set to go first. 

And there was a potential suspect who hadn't been questioned by the PSNI and his evidence – I knew that he would probably be called as a defence witness and I was asking the police repeatedly for four years to question that man and they refused to do so. And they told me that they really didn't have anything on record against this man other than a few driving offences and I've since found out, through Spotlight actually, that that is not the case.  So I expect that to be dealt with in the PPS review and I have to be very careful about what I say. 

But basically I didn't withdraw from the first trial I actually turned up to court to give evidence in that trial and the PPS, the Public Prosecution Service here, collapsed that trial because the suspect that they refused to question did indeed turn up which meant that it weakened their prospect of conviction so the first trial was gone. 

Which meant then it had a domino or knock-on effect on the evidence that could be introduced into the second trial which was the rape and abuse trial and again into the third trial of IRA membership against the other four. So I mean it is very complicated. I expect that the Public Prosecution Service review will go into that in more detail and it will probably make more sense to people. But just to be very clear about this, Ed, I never once withdrew my evidence at all. I withdrew support for the prosecution based on a number of key factors. 

And I actually have the Withdrawal Statement in front of me.  In fact, I read it out for the first time today. Part of that deals with the feelings by the PSNI witness who – for example, Gerry Adams, didn't meet the police face-to-face at all even though he was asked to give a statement. What happened was he went to his solicitor who crafted a statement for him and that was provided to the police by proxy through the solicitor that just is not good enough, Ed or Sandy, in relation to a child sexual abuse case.  And also he took months to give it as did other key Sinn Féin figures who were also named. And in my view that helped to allow the child abuser to escape a conviction in court and I think that is completely horrendous. 

EM:  I have a follow-up question from that and then another question. The follow-up is this: Who decided that this IRA membership charge – which appears to be like the weak point of the entire thing - who decided that that should go first? Was it Barra McGrory? 

MC:  It was a defence application. The defence applied to have that IRA charge heard first in court. And I have the evidence of that. I mean I have an email from the PPS detailing exactly what happened in court that day. So the defence barrister applied for it. The PPS argued against it and the judge made the final call and decision on that. 

EM:  So, it was the judge – it was the judge who ordered that?

MC:  It was the defence who applied for it, yes - and the judge agreed.   

EM:  Right, right. The second question is this and this has to do with your meeting with Gerry Adams in which he said and I'm quoting you here: 

The most disturbing thing about that conversation for me was when he said: “Well you know, Máiría, abusers can be extremely manipulative."

 And this is you again saying this:

And you know he kind of put his head on his chin and sat forward a wee bit and he said:  “Sometimes they're that manipulative that the people who have been abused actually enjoy it."

How did you interpret that remark?

MC:  On the day, Ed, I think my head was completely swimming. I remember it so vividly because it shocked me so much and I wasn't sure exactly what Gerry was getting at. I happened to be looking out the window, for example, when he started speaking on that issue and I just kind of snapped back at him and said: Well, I didn't enjoy it. 

The meetings with Gerry Adams changed, the tone of them changed from meeting to meeting and actually even within the meeting. But that particular comment sticks with me so much because I was looking at him as if to say: Did you just really say that first of all? And secondly I was completely horrified.  And then after that he kind of clawed back a bit and the end of that meeting was respectful enough but there were other things that were said, too, which I now find manipulative but at the time my head was in complete turmoil and I wasn't sure what was going on.    

He also said, for example, to me:  I love you and we love you and you need to look after yourself and was apparently sympathetic at times listen.  But you know after listening to him over the last number of weeks and some of the public statements and denials he has made and indeed the attacks on my character - he effectively called me a liar on another radio station there two days ago.  And actually that particular radio programme I passed to my solicitor because I believe it's actionable against Gerry Adams for some of the allegations which he has made and I am going to pursue that. I don't know what he meant, Ed, and I've had this question ...

EM:  ...The comment is open to the interpretation that he was saying you actually enjoyed being raped. Don't you agree that that's possible to interpret that remark ...   

MC:  ...It is certainly an interpretation. I mean the only person I suppose who can answer what he meant by that comment is Gerry Adams and he's denying that he said it in the first place so I don't know what he meant. I just know how I felt when he said it. And when he said it I was horrified because I said to him:  Well, I didn't enjoy it. and I think it's a completely horrendous thing to say to any abuse victim. 

SB:  But Máiría, when you went to Gerry Adams - you had known him as a friend of the family – was that someone you thought you might be able to confide in? 

MC:  No.  I went at his request. I didn't request the meeting. In fact, I refused it and he came back a number of minutes later and said if you're interested and I agreed then on the second time on the same night that he asked me.  I went I suppose – I really don't know - I think at that time there was just so much going on.  I had met the two Army Council representatives already, a newspaper article had been printed, the man had been placed under house arrest and then had gone and all of this happened within a period of two weeks. And I had also found out about the two other victims. 

My main concern, and you can see that from the Army Council letter, was for the protection of other children. You know I was so disturbed that this man had gone and nobody knew where he was and I was also telling the IRA - you're collectively planting the seed that it's okay for that man to do what he did to me and effectively accused them of shielding a child rapist. You know, it was a very difficult time. 

And also I had a fairly respectful I suppose relationship with Gerry Adams. You know I worked in an office – actually two offices away from him at that point. You know I come from Republicans. My extended family are Republicans obviously – people will know of Joe Cahill and they know of Siobhán O'Hanlon and Siobhán also was Gerry's personal secretary and it was probably a natural thing to do when you feel that you have been wronged by the IRA to meet the leader of that movement and that man, Gerry Adams, apologised on behalf of the Republican Movement for what happened to me.  
But he's since come out and completely denied my account and has tried to trash me through the media in a very public way and he has caused, again, untold trauma and I think at this point his behaviour has been disgraceful and I have have said today and yesterday I think somebody needs to take him away and get him some help. 

EM:  A couple of more questions, Máiría.  First of all, where do you think Marty Morris is now? (the alleged rapist).  And secondly, what can you tell us about these alleged abusers who people are saying have been smuggle across the border and have been relocated rather like the same fashion that the Catholic Church sent abusing priests into different dioceses and parishes. What about Morris?  Where is he now?  And then what happened to all these people ....  

MC:  I don't know where he is now, Ed.  I do know that when he was arrested he was arrested from London and indeed his bail address was given as living in London.  And I know his relative, his brother actually, was also put out of the country by the IRA for having a similar allegation leveled against him by another individual some years previously to him. And he turned up in London so I imagine that he's probably still in England but again that's the point – we don't know. 

There ares no cheques and balances on that man and that is horrendous for me to think about because I know how much damage he caused to me when he was abusing me and I would like to think that the media coverage over the last while will make him think twice before he lies another finger on a child again.  

Secondly, in relation to the – you're very right – I do think there are striking similarities between the Catholic Church cover-up of abuse and that in which the IRA and Sinn Féin have covered it up. But the difference with this is if you swap the crosiers of the Catholic Church for guns you have an added element to it in that the victims are much more frightened I think to come forward in that situation although I understand some of them have done so since the BBC Spotlight programme aired and I welcome that. 

I do know I'm going back to the Garda this week. I note that Regina Doherty – I don't want to put an exact figure on it because it changes all the time quite frankly and information is still coming through - but it's so important to get that information to law enforcement and to the child protective agencies here because that's the only way we're going to try and ensure that other children are protected. But Regina Dohery, who's a TD for Fine Gael, stood up during that debate and said that she information on eight alleged perpetrators – names - and she was passing those to the Garda and she did that yesterday. 

I can tell you that the figure that I have at this point is close and in and around  four times the figure that Regina Doherty gave during that debate – and her figure was eight so that will give you a roundabout figure as to the information that I have at the minute to pass that information forward as more information come to me I will continue to do so. 

SB:  Máiría, it wasn't until this year that you went totally public with this on BBC Spotlight. Why weren't you able to do it sooner?  

MC:  Well, I did. In 2010 I actually gave an interview although I hadn't fully waived my anonymity but I did allowed my surname to be used and I gave that interview to Suzanne Breen from The Sunday Tribune who initially covered the story.    

And then I found myself in the (inaudible) process so I gave the police interview.  The reason that I went public first of all in The Tribune was to insure that I was afforded some degree of public protection so then I went to give the evidence to the police in 2010 and that was a real fear for me. And I then obviously gave a statement to the PSNI in The North and there followed four years of a very lengthy, protracted court process. And obviously I couldn't speak during the court process because: a) there was a reporting restriction in place in relation to the abuse trial to protect other victims and then there was a reporting restriction, which was placed against my wishes on the IRA trial, and I wanted that reporting restriction lifted because I didn't want to be giving evidence in secrecy which would have left me open to the whispering campaigns that were starting to surface that I was some sort of informer which is absolutely not the case.

So I wanted things done in an very open way. And I felt also it was important to use my voice to lift the lid on this issue because Sinn Féin up until the Spotlight programme aired were still denying it. I mean (inaudible) Pearse Doherty was still saying  “unfounded and untrue”.  

We now have half the truth dragged kicking and screaming out of Sinn Féin only because I've gone public and repeatedly said and explained this issue. And that has brought other victims forward since so I don't regret for a minute doing it but I mean that's the reason it took so long to do it was because I was in a protracted legal process. 

SB:  Ed, did you have ...?  

EM:  I think we're all wondering Máiría, this story has lasted for like a month - it's been I'm sure an ordeal for you. It's not pleasant to be on the receiving end of the sort of attacks that you have been receiving and I'm just wondering if you think it was all worthwhile now that it's sort of at this point a month on. What's your view on that? 

MC:  Oh, absolutely.  Absolutely. I mean I don't regret for a minute waiving my anonymity. As I said I wanted to do it because for years I was banging me head on a brick wall, Ed, trying to get people to take notice of this issue and I knew it was potentially a hugely devastating issue and I wish that Sinn Féin had taken responsibility for it sooner.   

It has been an ordeal and at this point I am I am completely exhausted. I have been I suppose been re-traumatised over and over and over again in the last four weeks.  I've had all manner of lies and attacks spread about me, my character – you know - on one occasion my mother's doorbell was rung at five o'clock in the morning. I have to be very careful now about my security and my solicitor is in liaison with the police in The North in relation to that. 

So I mean the benefits of it – it's also left me hugely in debt because I had to instruct the solicitor to get proper legal representation for myself for the court case.  I'm homeless as a result of it.  You know it hasn't been easy but I never for one minute would regret doing it because as I said it shone a spotlight onto the issue of the movement of potentially very dangerous individuals who already had a propensity for violence who now potentially have access to other children. 

And Sinn Féin knows this information because they conducted an internal review into the matter and they are still claiming there is no cover-up. 

And what I'm repeatedly saying to people is: The fact that they haven't brought that information forward means (inaudible) just stop re-traumatising me and every other victim out there.  Because every time an attack is leveled my way other victims are seeing it.  And I had a young man on the phone this morning who has been in a similar situation to myself who just cannot believe the amount (inaudible) out there amongst him and other people and and I'm calling on Sinn Féin to do the right thing on this issue.  And again, I kind of feel like I'm banging my head off a brick wall at this point because I note today again that Gerry Adams stood in The Dáil a number of days ago, last Wednesday, no more than a couple of hundred feet away from me and he told everyone in that Dáil using his parliamentary privilege that he had passed information that he had to the Garda. And I then found out the next day that Gerry Adams actually didn't meet the Garda at all. He actually passed the information to the Child Protection Officer within Sinn Féin. Now that tells me he has learned absolutely nothing in the last four weeks in relation to how serious this issue is. 

And also he stood in The Dáil and he complained about people raising the fact that for years he believed his brother to be a child abuser and yet he was content in the knowledge that Liam Adams was working in youth clubs with children both in Louth and in Belfast in his own constituencies and he did absolutely nothing to stop that.  But yet he stands in The Dáil and tells the parties that they're leveling personal attacks at him and it's re-traumatising – you know it's a traumatic issue for him and his family and tell me the one person who he didn't mention in that whole debate was actually the person who was alleged to be abused by her father and that person was Áine Adams. And I think that Gerry probably needs to take stock, stop thinking of himself as a victim and realise the real victims are the people who have had abuse perpetrated upon them.   

SB:  Alright, Máiría, Ed - we are out of time. Máiría, thank you very much for doing this. I know this is your first US interview and we're very grateful. Ed, thank you very much for your help. 

EM:  No problem. (ends time stamp ~ 54:45)

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