Maíria Cahill case has caused ‘suffering’ for abuse survivors

Care needed not to put undue pressure on victims to come forward, One in Four says

The Maíria Cahill case has caused “intense suffering” among survivors as “memories of their own abuse are triggered”, One in Four has said.

This was the case "regardless of the context" in which their abuse happened, executive director of the abuse survivor organisation Maeve Lewis said

“It may be useful to hold an inquiry into the sexual abuse of children within the republican movement” but “ we need to be careful not to put undue pressure on other survivors to come forward if, as it appears, many of them are frightened to do so.”

Ms Cahill alleges she was raped by an IRA member in 1997 and forced to attend a republican-style court along with her alleged abuser. She also claimed child sex abusers were moved by republicans from Northern Ireland to locations south of the Border.


The Maíria Cahill case highlighted “ yet again the enormous challenges facing survivors of child sexual abuse in this country in accessing support and justice,” Ms Lewis said.

“That yet again it took the decision of a remarkable, courageous survivor to speak publicly about her ordeal to force our political leaders to confront the reality of sexual abuse in Irish society,” Ms Lewis said.

She continued: “The story unfolded in a manner with which we are now familiar: the initial denial by Sinn Féin leadership that they had previous knowledge of Maíria Cahill’s abuse, followed by the drip feed of information and then the tardy acceptance of the veracity of the survivor’s account of events.

“Maíria Cahill has described how distressing this process has been for her, but it has also caused immense suffering to other survivors of abuse, regardless of the context in which that happened. People have been phoning One in Four describing their intense suffering as memories of their own abuse are retriggered”.

It underlined “the need for each one of us to take responsibility for information that we become aware of regarding a risk to children and to pass that information to child protection services and to the gardaí,” she said.

The common theme across all the statutory reports on child abuse “and in Maíria Cahill’s account is that people knew and failed to take appropriate action, compounding the survivors’ hurt.”

It was a cycle that “will continue until we intervene decisively,” she said. The protection and well-being of children had to be prioritised in Ireland, she said.

“Despite all the handwringing at every level, we still do not have a well-resourced child protection service. Services for children who have been recently abused are almost non-existent and services for adult survivors struggle to meet the needs of people seeking help in a timely way.”

“As we approach the centenary of 1916, we will have little to celebrate if we are not cherishing the children of the State but actually accepting on-going sexual abuse. Have we learned nothing?” she said.

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry is a contributor to The Irish Times