— Ardoyne Republican (@RepublicanUnity) October 20, 2014
Martin Óg Meehan, son of the late Martin Meehan wrote last year about his belief of a cover-up of sexual abuse within Sinn Féin.
Briege McLaughlin was elected as a Sinn Féin councillor in Newtownabbey in 2001 and was formerly married to Martin Meehan senior. She admitted child cruelty and assault in Belfast Crown Court last year and received a suspended sentence. After her guilty plea, the seven sexual abuse charges she faced were “left on the books” and not proceeded with.
Eighteen months after the tragic death of our mother, the Meehan family threshold was crossed by our Dad’s new girlfriend, Mrs. Briege McLaughlin. She was already expecting Dad’s baby at the time. The arrival of this woman, left my siblings and I quite bemused and confused. However, my brother, sister and I agreed to make her welcome because our father deserved happiness after the untimely demise of our mother.
To the best of my knowledge, Briege couldn’t have been nicer between February and July, 1979 in our terraced Ardoyne home. We were at school most of the time and hardly had much contact with Briege, as kids we also went to bed at nights pretty early.
Almost immediately after our Dad’s arrest and incarceration in Crumlin Road Gaol, Briege began a depraved campaign of abuse against my sister Mary. The details of which are too harrowing for me to write about, as they cause me and my family so much pain. Although, they have been widely reported in the Irish media in recent days, after Briege finally admitted her guilt to a Belfast Court on Wednesday June 4, 2013.
Thirty-three years after they occurred in Northwick Drive, Mary sought medical, Social Services and school reports from the years, 1979 and 1980 concerning her after our Dad died suddenly in November, 2007. She never wanted to hurt him regarding Briege’s crimes against her and she respectfully waited until he left this world, before initiating her struggle to get justice from Briege. As everyone now knows, he was in a British Gaol at the time and Briege’s twisted crimes have absolutely no bearing nor reflection upon his memory. Kevin, Mary and I do not blame our Dad, one iota for what happened back then. He could not have possibly known his then girlfriend was a child abuser.
Briege McLaughlin (née Hogg) not only ‘fooled’ our father, she also duped her two children, the majority of Provisional Sinn Féin activists and the wider community that she was a ‘normal’ person, mother, wife and Republican. We knew the truth but didn’t inform anyone of the true nature behind her unprovoked assaults, mental torture and drunken outbursts upon our sister in our home. We know for a fact that senior members of Sinn Féin and the IRA within North Belfast covered up Briege’s campaign of terror. Over a hundred brave Ardoyne women protested outside our home about what she had subjected Mary to after she was taken and placed in a safe environment away from Briege. Sinn Féin knew many of the facts behind the protest and yet not only permitted her to join the fledgling party but gave her senior roles in it’s Comhairle Ceanntar (District Executive) in the early Eighties. They also selected her to stand in successive elections as a party candidate in Newtownabbey in 2001 and 2005. She was not suspended until I (myself) notified them that Mary had a mountain of evidence against one of its councillors. She eventually resigned from Sinn Féin in 2010.
The RUC and Social Services were also culpable in allowing Briege to viciously brutalise Mary. As we have written reports of meetings held to discuss my sister’s abuse between both agencies. However, both organisations failed her and it took a full eight months after the initial reports were made by neighbours from Northwick Drive. We, the Court, Public Prosecution Service (PPS), PSNI and a number of Belfast journalists have the names and positions of the ‘Professionals’ who utterly failed ten year-old, Mary as with Sinn Fein’s knowledge about my sister’s horrific beatings at the hands of Briege McLaughlin. Likewise, we also have in our position the names of current and former Sinn Féin members, who instead of making Briege accountable for her criminal mistreatment and cruelty of our sister, fooled the party leadership into believing that Mary’s allegations, were the claims of a disturbed woman. They also fully backed Briege’s rise within Sinn Féin that culminated in her being elected as a party representative on Newtownabbey Council in 2001. Even though, she was never an Irish Republican in the first place.
The Meehan family demand a full and public apology to Mary from Social Services, PSNI and Sinn Féin. Even though, I personally notified the party in 2008 about Mary’s willingness to have Briege charged due to the mountain of evidence in our Mary’s possession.
Without public apologies from the above organisations, my sister will not be able to fully receive justice, nor rebuild her life and that of her four children who also suffered horrible side-effects of Briege’s reign of terror on their loving mother. Mary is not only a victim of a cruel abuser, she is also the daughter of the late Martin Meehan, a Republican who’s selfless sacrifice in pursuit of an Ireland free from foreign occupation.
Earlier: Meanwhile, At Stormont
“I will show [Northern Ireland First Minister] Peter Robinson evidence that Sinn Féin and the IRA internally investigated sexual abuse perpetrated by republicans, moved these people around the country, and in doing so put children at risk.”
Mairia Cahill (above) this afternoon
Earlier: Police, Judge And Executioner
(Stephen Kilkenny/Photocall Ireland)
“The recent allegations made by Maíria Cahill are of serious concern to myself and Sinn Féin. While I refute completely Maíria’s allegations against myself and Sinn Féin it does raise the significant issue of how allegations of abuse had been handled in the past by republicans.
….After the pogroms of 1969, Internment in 1971 and Bloody Sunday in 1972 the vast majority of nationalists withdrew any consent to be governed from the Northern state, it’s institutions and agencies.
The conflict itself caused widespread hurt and suffering, but so too did the absence of the structures and institutions which are the norm in peaceful, democratic societies. These citizens never had a policing service. Policing and the Legal process were subverted to the primary objective of defeating republicanism at all costs. The RUC was a quasi-military arm of the state which acted against nationalists and republicans as if we were the enemy.
In many cases the absence of a civic police service also disconnected alienated communities from the support of social services. These communities policed themselves. The vast majority of people were law abiding and decent. Strong and empowered and progressive communities emerged. New and innovative restorative justice systems were developed as part of this collective experience. But there was also, particularly in the first two decades of the conflict a more brutal form of rough justice.
Some journalists and political opponents of Sinn Féin continue to perpetuate a particular myth about life in nationalist areas of the North during the conflict. They portray republicans as having oppressed republican/nationalist communities through political control and vigilantism. This was never the case. The IRA could never have sustained itself without popular support and Sinn Féin would not have developed as we have unless we had the support of the people.
The reality of course is that a professional, accountable and impartial policing service was absent and unattainable in a society that was manifestly unjust. In many republican areas the community put pressure on the IRA – which sprang from and was sustained by the community – to fill this policing vacuum.
The IRA itself often viewed this role as a major distraction from its central function. It suspected that the RUC indulged criminals in order to tie down IRA resources and demoralise the nationalist community.
IRA ‘policing’ was most evident in those areas where it had strongest support. The bulk of this activity involved mediation between those in dispute, and went unreported.
However, the IRA often punished petty criminals, car thieves, burglars and drug dealers. The IRA, inevitably also made mistakes.
Despite the high standards and decency of the vast majority of IRA volunteers, IRA personnel were singularly ill-equipped to deal with these matters. This included very sensitive areas such as responding to demands to take action against rapists and child abusers. The IRA on occasion shot alleged sex offenders or expelled them.
While this may have been expedient at the time it was not appropriate. Victims were left without the necessary social service support and abusers without supervision. It ultimately failed victims and the community alike. That is a matter of profound regret for me, and many other republicans.
But these actions were of their time and reflected not only a community at war but also an attitude within Ireland which did not then understand or know as we now do, how deeply embedded abuse is in our society.
For decades the institutions of both states including successive governments, the RUC, An Garda Siochana, the courts, social services, churches and others did not deal with these matters properly.
Many senior republicans, including me, had major issues with the IRA acting as a policing agency. Martin McGuinness and I are on the public record speaking out against punishment shootings since the 1980s.
This facet of IRA activity was gradually discontinued over a long period as republican activism evolved despite sizeable and understandable opposition in some communities, which were contending with a Loyalist murder campaign alongside British military aggression and ingrained disadvantage and discrimination. They had little patience for anti-social behaviour, drug pushers, death drivers or sexual abusers.
Despite the alienation from the RUC it was the accepted de facto practice that they dealt with traffic accidents, car insurance and such matters. Incidents of rape were also reported to them in some cases and no thinking person would have made a case against that. But many victims or families of victims were reluctant to bring cases of child abuse forward. This was part of the larger problem all society and particularly victims faced at that time. But where a case emerged there was the added problem for some about reporting this to the RUC. They wanted the community or the IRA to take actions.
As society became better informed as to the issue and handling of abuse, republicans began to develop victim centred approaches, ensuring that victims received the necessary supports, counselling and advice.
As Sinn Féin developed our constituency services we also developed our policies in relation to abuse.
I advocated that we direct victims to the Social Services if they did not want to go to the RUC, in the knowledge that the Social Services could go to the RUC. In other words Republicans including the IRA, could not deal with these issues. Sinn Féin would direct people to counselling services and advise victims of legacy issues but we also told everyone that we would report all cases in which children could be at risk to the Social Services or the HSE.
Following the IRA cessation in 1994 and the developing peace process legacy cases of abuse emerged. Many of these are in the public domain. Some involved republicans. My father was an abuser. Some also may have involved IRA volunteers. Those who wish to have these cases dealt with have that right.
The recent publicity surrounding the case of Maíria Cahill has brought this particular issue to the fore in public consciousness. Maíria alleges she was raped, and that the IRA conducted an investigation into this. The IRA has long since left the scene so there is no corporate way of verifying this but it must be pointed out that this allegation was subject to a police investigation, charges were brought against some republicans who strenuously denied Maíria’s allegations. They insist they tried to help her. They were all acquitted by the court.
Maíria has also accused Sinn Féin and me of engaging in a cover up. That is untrue. When I learned of the allegation that Maíria was the victim of rape I asked her grand-uncle Joe Cahill, a senior and widely respected republican, to advise her to go to the RUC. He did this but Maíria did not want to do so at that time.
When Maíria subsequently did go to the police, I co-operated with the police investigation.
Any of the other Sinn Féin representatives named by Maíria have assured me that they at all times sought to support and help her. They advised on counselling, on speaking to her own family or approaching social services or the police. The people she spoke to are decent, thoughtful citizens and compassionate people. There was absolutely no cover up by Sinn Féin at any level.
Sinn Féin has robust party guidelines and processes on the issues of child protection, allegations of sexual abuse and/or sexual harassment, which were adopted by An Ard Chomhairle in 2006 in line with changes to the law.
Sinn Féin adopted New Child Protection Guidelines in 2010, which were produced in consultation with the HSE and Social Services and the PSNI.
Maíria has said that there are other victims who are living in fear, and perpetrators at large who are a danger to children at this time, as a result of how republicans dealt with these issues in the past.
No one should be living in fear and no child should be at risk.
Anyone who has any information whatsoever about any child abuse should come forward to the authorities North or South and they will have the full support of Sinn Féin in so doing.
That includes Maíria Cahill, who says that there are perpetrators at large who are a danger to children at this time. Whatever information she has on this she should give to the appropriate authority.
Healing and rebuilding a society still emerging from conflict demands that many difficult issues will need to be faced up to and dealt with as a necessary part of putting the past behind us.
That will require a huge amount of courage, compassion and humility across our society.
How Republicans dealt with the issue of child abuse should be one of these issues, if that is what victims want. Sinn Féin will accept our responsibility in contributing to the resolution of these wrongs. We are committed to creating a society which is no longer bedevilled or haunted by the legacy of any harm or injustices. Sexual abuse is a challenge which still challenges all sections of modern Irish society.
Looking after all victims and their families is a significant and important part of building a peaceful and just society. And victims include a wider category than those killed or injured as a result of armed actions by any of the protagonists.
It includes those who were brutalised or had their lives limited or adversely affected by growing up in a society scarred by war and the absence of agreed, stable, democratic structures and institutions.
It also includes those badly served or mistreated by the forces of the State and those badly served or mistreated by non-State actors and armed groups, including the IRA.
Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams
BBC Spotlight last night broadcast an hour-long edition about Maíria Cahill (above, pictured with Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams) and her claims of sexual abuse and rape against an alleged IRA member and an alleged subsequent coverup by Sinn Féin.
Spotlight is repeated tonight on BBC Two NI at 11:20pm.
Maíria Cahill ‘told Gerry Adams’ of IRA rape claim (Jennifer O’Leary, BBC NI)
Previously: Staying In Tomorrow Night?
Just informed that I’m not allowed back into the Dáil chamber till tomorrow
— Mary Lou McDonald (@MaryLouMcDonald) October 14, 2014
Sinn Féin staged a walkout this evening after Ceann Comhairle Sean Barrett was accused of bias by Deputy Mary Lou McDonald.
Deputy McDonald refused to withdraw a remark about the Ceann Comhairle “being deliberately disruptive” and making a “biased intervention“.
It was like 1922 all over again.
Back home in plenty of time for Spotlight on BBC One tonight.
— The Irish Times (@IrishTimes) October 9, 2014
Sinn Féin is neck-and-neck with Fine Gael in popular support for the first time, according to the latest Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI poll.
The poll also shows that Labour has benefited from a modest bounce since the summer Cabinet reshuffle with new Tánaiste Joan Burton now the most popular party leader.
And it appears that the controversy over John McNulty’s Seanad nomination has had no impact on Fine Gael support since the last poll in May.
Enda to grow beard and tweet about teddy bears in desperate bid to win back voters.
A Sinn Féin promo for the party’s alternative budget launched by Gerry Adams and Pearse Doherty (top) at the Davenport Hotel, Dublin earlier.
Nice sad music, in fairness.
Mr Kenny launched a scathing attack on Sinn Fein’s economic plans after receiving the party’s pre-budget submission. He said the party’s tax proposals would “close down the country” and result in a 73pc cumulative tax rate.
The Taoiseach said the party’s proposals to abolish water charges leaves a €500m black hole in Sinn Fein’s budget strategy.
(Leon Farrell/Photocall Ireland)
On this day in 1984, the Irish Navy intercepted the fishing trawler ‘Marita Ann’ off the Kerry coast as it attempted to import seven tonnes of weapons, which included 163 firearms [91 rifles, mostly Armalites and 3 Browning .50 heavy machine guns], and 71,000 rounds of ammunition.
The Sinn Féin TD for North Kerry Martin Ferris was one of five men arrested on the trawler. He was sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment.
The Marita Ann was later bought by Barney McKenna of The Dubliners who renamed it ‘Daragh Liam’ and fished out of Howth.
Watch the RTÉ News report here.