Gerry Adams has delivered a strong response to criticism levelled against him and the republican movement at large over the handling of sex abuse.
In a statement on Saturday afternoon, delivered at the Balmoral Hotel in south-west Belfast, the Sinn Fein leader responded to the swelling controversy sparked by Mairia Cahill, a former party member who alleged that she had been raped by an IRA man.
In remarks responding directly to a claim made by Taoiseach Enda Kenny in the Dail last week, Mr Adams said Sinn Fein’s approach to sex abuse allegations had been in “stark contrast” to that of the Irish state and the Catholic hierarchy.
On Wednesday, Mr Kenny had told the Irish Parliament that IRA men had been exiled south of the border after being accused of serious sex crimes, and drew parallels between the actions of the church and Sinn Fein representatives.
Mr Adams said yesterday: “A cursory examination of the facts gives the lie to that ridiculous assertion.
“The Church hierarchy and the State presided over institutional abuse for decades. It was a systemic and deliberate practice.
“In stark contrast Sinn Fein has encouraged victims to speak out.”
It had been claimed by Ms Cahill, who was the subject of a BBC documentary, that an internal IRA investigation was set up over claims she was abused by an alleged IRA man when she was 16.
It was further claimed these investigators had interrogated her and forced her to meet her attacker.
Charges were dropped against those supposedly involved in this internal IRA probe. Also, the man who had been accused of rape was acquitted.
Mr Adams acknowledged last week that the IRA had felt itself ill-prepared to deal with sex abuse claims in the communities in which it operated, and apologised to those the IRA may have let down over such issues.
He has strongly denied being part of any “cover up” over Ms Cahill’s claims and has offered to meet her face-to-face.
Mr Adams continued in his statement: “All the Sinn Fein members who spoke to Mairia Cahill acted in good faith to support her.
“They advised her to speak to her family, to seek counselling or to approach social services.
“Her uncle Joe Cahill [a prominent IRA man] at my request asked her to go to the RUC.
“Now even Joe is shamefully depicted as a sex abuser by some of the media. This has been deeply hurtful to his wife Annie, their children and grandchildren.
“Whose agenda is served by this despicable rubbish?”
He added that the Taoiseach and others have ignored the fact the IRA men said to have been involved in the allegations had been acquitted.
The leader of southern republican party Fianna Fail, Michael Martin, has also been critical of Mr Adams’ handling of the affair.
He said in a statement on Saturday: “All other institutions have been held accountable for their actions. Sinn Fein and the IRA must be subject to these same rules.
“There are reports that perpetrators of these heinous crimes were shot and/or expelled from the north.
“Where were they sent? Are they now living in the Republic? Are they being monitored? Were their crimes reported to the authorities?”
Mr Adams, in the latter part of his speech on Saturday, said: “The Taoiseach has claimed that sexual abusers were ‘moved’ – his words, not mine – to ‘Dublin, Donegal, Louth’
“The Taoiseach has repeatedly claimed that he has knowledge of alleged child abusers from the north but living in the south.
“He says that others have given him information identifying these alleged child abusers. He has raised alarm and concern on this issue.
“Has the Taoiseach gone to the Gardaí with this information? Has he insisted that those who gave him this information go to the Gardaí?
“If not why not?”
He added; “I have no knowledge of the claims that the Taoiseach is making.”