Featuring in the Belfast Telegraph Mairia Cahill writes:
I told truth about what happened to me 20 years ago... I’m angry I’ve been let down by almost everybody in relation to my case
It’s 20 years since I was sexually abused — more than half my lifetime. I struggle sometimes to remember what life was like before.
Memories before the abuse are not eradicated, but rather they got shoved into a compartment, while other more vivid memories, the sort that no-one should ever have to remember, are indelibly etched.
The forced IRA investigation and my subsequent dealings with Sinn Fein are also forensically attached to my mind.
I made a police complaint about my abuse in 2010 — eight years ago — and little did I know just how much my fears that I would never get justice through the criminal justice system would be realised.
My court cases collapsed — through no fault of my own.
Don’t believe me?
Just look at the quote from the then director of the Public Prosecution Service, Barra McGrory in the aftermath of the Starmer Report into the PPS handling of my cases in May 2015: “I wish to make clear that no fault or blame attaches to Mairia Cahill. The PPS let you down, and for that I am sorry.”
And still Sinn Fein and their legion of online crackpots peddled the lie that I was responsible.
Some party reps went further and in a very public flogging called into question my credibility in relation to an IRA-forced investigation into my sexual abuse.
They either stated it didn’t happen, or that they didn’t know if it happened, or worse still that somehow all the IRA were doing was trying to help. Because that’s what you do when you want to help a traumatised victim of abuse — you send an uninvited illegal organisation to act unwanted judge and jury and put her in a room with her abuser to read their body language to see who is telling the truth.
Confused? Me also.
At no point in the last four years since I went public did Sinn Fein admit that my abuser, as well as being an IRA man, was also a Sinn Fein party member.
Nowhere did it state that senior Sinn Fein members were aware from 1997 and 1998 that I was being abused by this man, but that they didn’t ‘suspend’ him from the party until 2000.
Think about that for a second. Sinn Fein repeatedly stated that it has never been involved in a cover-up of abuse.
Not only did they not tell the public that they allowed a child sex abuser to remain in the party for three years after becoming aware — but they didn’t even admit that he was a member of their party. If that isn’t cover up, then, well...
Four years ago I made a Police Ombudsman complaint in relation to the PSNI conduct in my case.
Two days ago I sat in Dr Michael Maguire’s office and received a 65-page conclusion letter detailing findings.
To say that I was shocked and stunned is an understatement.
I threw up in the toilet once the conclusions started to sink in. To all of those people who tried to cast aspersions on my truthfulness regarding an IRA investigation into my abuse, they need to look no further than the finding that contemporaneous intelligence received by police over a number of months in 2000 — before it hit the public domain — informing them that not only was my abuser abusing children, but that “the IRA were investigating it”.
That is quite simply staggering.
It gets worse.
Specific officers were made aware of intelligence at that time. But the Police Ombudsman concludes that no action was taken.
Had it been it would have saved me further trauma of some of that IRA investigation.
More appallingly, it means that the abuser’s name was not entered into the National Criminal Intelligence System, or the Police National Database. It is reasonable to conclude that a failure to do so means that other children may have been put at risk.
There were other failings identified by the Ombudsman.
Four officers were subject of recommendations for disciplinary sanctions — three received them. One retired before they could be imposed.
There were also seven policy recommendations made to police. It is unclear if these have been implemented.
The hope is that no-one will ever have to go through this again. Part of an organisation taking responsibility for its failings means that introspection is a necessity.
The Ombudsman notes that the PSNI did not undertake a serious case review in the aftermath of my cases collapsing — which is really quite incredible given the high profile nature. An explanation and apology from the Chief Constable is overdue.
There are other aspects of this disclosure letter regarding other suspects and witnesses, and in regards to Sinn Fein which I have not put into the public domain. I have agreed to sit down with my lawyers to digest it properly, and will do so over the coming weeks.
For now, I am angry that I have been let down by almost everybody in relation to my case.
Firstly, by the republican community, which failed to take responsibility for its actions.
The Sinn Fein president, Mary Lou McDonald, needs to step up to the plate.
For the last four years I have been kicked about the public arena like a football by her party’s failure to admit the truth, inviting people to think that I was lying.
Sinn Fein, who are normally fond of waving Ombudsman’s reports about, should accept that intelligence provided proves the IRA investigation and Sinn Fein actions with respect to my abuser. They should also apologise for their shameful treatment of sexual abuse victims.
It’s a side point, but the party is profiling Padraic Wilson, one of the IRA men who was involved in the IRA investigation into my abuse, in a Gerry Adams cook book of all things, which the party intends to sell. They should reflect on my call to withdraw this from sale.
Failure to do so will send a public two-fingers up to me and to other abuse victims who they have spectacularly failed. For a party who says the interests of abuse victims are paramount, they have a funny way of showing it.
Secondly, it’s clear now from two independent reports that I was let down by both the police and the PPS. It has been incredibly difficult.
It is fair to say that there were police and prosecutors who treated me well, and who I believe wanted to see this case through to a satisfactory conclusion. There is no closure obtainable from the fact however, that if people had done their jobs a little bit better that it could have made the difference in successfully prosecuting the people who traumatised you. I hope that all those who have been involved reflect on this.
In order to restore confidence for rape victims, people need to know that when they report abuse, the very best service possible will be given to them.
I would hope that lessons are learned quickly so that no other person has the experience I had.
I have done my best.
Firstly, I am still here, even though at times it really has seemed like there would be no light at the end of the tunnel.
From the dark days of abuse 20 years ago to the traumatic ones at the hands of the IRA, to the stressful and frustrating ones ensconced in a criminal justice process that didn’t deliver justice — one thing has remained constant and this has now been confirmed by material in the Ombudsman’s report: I told the truth about what happened to me, against all odds I will continue to do so until all of those responsible for the hurt caused to me, and to others, take responsibility.