IRA leader facing child sex abuse charges ‘vanished’

The suspect being sought by Garda is reportedly a senior ex-IRA figure originally from Belfast.

Sinn Fein has remained silent after being pressed to call on a senior ex-IRA man to give himself up to face child sex abuse charges in Dublin.

The Belfast native, now 68, was reportedly a senior IRA figure in the south who fled to Spain in 1996.

However he was extradited to Dublin in 2016 to face charges that he had sexually abused a girl four times in the early 1990s.

Despite garda objections he was granted bail but disappeared a year later, two days before his trial in June 2017.

The suspect cannot be named in order to protect the alleged victim’s identity.

Belfast woman Mairia Cahill was one of three women who told the PSNI they had been sexually abused by an IRA man. The PSNI and Sinn Fein later apologised over how they responded to the women’s claims.

Yesterday she pressed Sinn Fein to publicly call for the latest suspect to give himself up.

“It is highly unusual that a person who skips bail cannot be found by Gardai, and that no trace of them exists,” she said. “Three possibilities have to be examined. Either he has been helped by republicans, by the state, or something sinister has happened to him.”

She added: “It is vitally important that the leaders of Sinn Fein explicitly call on this man to give himself up. They have so far remained silent.

“The Republican movement has a network like no other... they have a duty to pass on every scrap of information they have to ensure that no stone is left unturned in finding this man.”

Sinn Fein failed to offer any response to her request.

The Garda said: “A court order is in existentce issued by the Circuit Court on the 26th June 2019, which is a matter of public record.

“This matter remains before the courts and An Garda Síochána is not going to comment further on the conduct of any individual investigation.”

Irish state broadcaster RTÉ reported that Gardai had been unable to publicise the disappearance of the sex abuse suspect in 2017 due to the nature of the case, and that despite an alert through Interpol, his location remains unknown.

The broadcaster reported that the case is separate to a wider investigation, which has been ongoing, into allegations of sexual abuse against a number of IRA members.

The BBC reported that the case only came to light two years after his disappearance due to media enquiries, and that he has fled abroad.

The case is the latest in a growing number of allegations that some IRA members were involved in serious sexual abuse during the years of the Troubles or subsequently.

In 2014 southern terror victims demanded an Irish government statement after claims by former Irish justice minister Michael McDowell that a blind eye was turned to IRA fugitives.

At that time Austin Stack said he would vigorously pursue the matter. His father Brian Stack was a senior Irish prison officer murdered by the IRA in 1983.

Mr Stack had said gardai had been annoyed when a long-standing arrest warrant for the alleged former head of the IRA in the south was cancelled, after an application by the Director of Public Prosecutions to the Special Criminal Court in 2006.

The Stack family told the News Letter yesterday that they later pressed a range of senior government and justice figures on the matter, but that they had all said either that they were not aware of such an instruction or that such an instruction did not exist. However the family said yesterday that it nonetheless believes “unwritten guarantees” have been given.

The Irish Department of Justice yesterday declined to offer any comment.

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